The Evolution of Electronics
If you read my previous article “Bringing Old-Style Electronics Back” you will note the reflection on old style values we place on modern electronics – gone are the days of just using a soldering iron and general sucker to remove components or conduct a repair using a few simple components. We no longer see tags or wire wrapping – we look on in awe at surface mount and the immense sophistication of modern ICs and microcontrollers and data processing chips. Yet the end result is the same – a working slab of solder, components and electron flow until we get to how fast things happen! We focus on the end user in this article and not industry.
In Memory of our Elders – True Craftsmen
I am going to write this article in memory of my late father whom passed away in November 2010. No, nothing sentimental. You see, the old chap had a great sense of humour and was an astute man, like his father, a plumber with a very technical mind. We are after all focusing on our technical ability which we all should have in various degrees – some just master it better than others, some earlier, some later. His dream was to build a talking clock. The problem was that in those days this would have been quite an achievement – it was on the cusp of switching over to our digital age and sadly many of our older experimenters couldn’t get their heads around it. A talking clock is something that is now old hat. In fact we synchronise automatically with atomic clocks in this digital age and to make things even easier it’s not even done manually.
The problem with latter day experimentation was the ‘how to’ principle. Anything that could be designed we thought had been designed – until the microcontroller. In the 60s this was out of reach for most electronic buffs. Even in the 70s certain components were costly but with the evolution of electronics in the digital field this changed and changed very, very quickly. Now what we could not achieve easily or cheaply is at our fingertips and a few dollars in your pocket.
They say the information from a computer is only as good as the information put into it. I’ll add to this by saying the computer is only as good as what we do with it.They also say that if you don’t know, ‘Google it’!
Boxing and Computers: Punching and Data Input
Most of us office workers punch in data and extract the same data in the form of reports and charts. We use a computer to store data, change data and extract data. A good programmer designing a database ensures that the GUI (user interface) is user friendly. He also ensures that there is error trapping so the user (and the programmer) knows whether the input is invalid or not e.g. character into numerical fields, he ensures there is an audit, he ensures that tables are properly indexed and retrieving data is fast, reports are accurate and can be exported into many different usable formats. There’s possibly 30 or more definites and non-negotiables to good database design. This is all done by the programmer. He follows a set of rules as defined by the programmer’s bible. Millions of people use databases every day without thinking about either what they are doing or why they are doing it. It’s just there and they are doing it. Programs (and now apps) have become part of our life. There is an untapped part to this which should make us wonder. What else can the computer do?