After my freshman year at Georgia Tech, I was determined to get a job in the Electronics industry to give me the background to be a better Engineer. I started out as an Electronics Assembler in the Baltimore area. That way, I could commute from home and bank my whole salary (little did I know that I would need it later for my school expenses). The company I selected built just about anything, but they specialized in test systems for aircraft (Flight Line or Depot) and avionics systems.
We had a good crew. Everyone was pleasant to the young Engineer (although there were a few hold-outs) and we got a lot of work done. I did Mil-spec soldering of wire harnesses, mechanical assembly, wire-wrap, pin crimping, and connector pin insertion. There were a few tries at getting me to requisition a wire stretcher from the tool crib, but since I had been working with electronics since I was 8, they couldn’t catch me with that gag.
One difficulty I had was that I would finish a task too quickly and would then go chase down the foreman to see what he wanted me to do next. He finally tasked one of the ladies on the assembly line to work with me. I could get her work and mine done in record time and then she could spend some time with me to ensure that I would do a quality job.
This worked for the rest of the summer until the foreman found a special project for me. It would require all my talents as a mechanical and electronics assembler as well as my analytic skills as a budding Engineer. Also, I would have to fix this system all by myself: the project was way behind schedule and over budget, and Management was tired of Engineering and Manufacturing blaming each other and "just wanted it DONE."
The system that I needed to fix was a Training Simulator for a Missile Fire Control System. It consisted of a Instructor Console cabinet (5 feet wide), with keyboards and monitor, housing the Minicomputer that provided stimulus and monitoring for the simulation system. It also included 10-15 Student Console cabinets (2 feet wide) that housed some driver circuitry and the actual Fire Control System panels that were used on the real shipboard missile system.
The problems were related to the design of the Student Console wire harnesses. They were too long to fit in the cabinets, the bend radius of the wire bundle was such that it would not bend into the tight space, and the service loop of the harness would not allow the rear cabinet door to shut. Since all of the signals were discrete wires and twisted/shielded pair (no Ethernet and fiber in those days), the wire bundles were about 3 inches in diameter in some places.
I took one harness and cut it down to size. There was little room for service loops, so I left "just a bit." In some cases, I cut almost 15 feet of wire out of the harness. I crimped pins on them and put them in connectors, ensuring that everything fit in its final configuration. I then removed all of the connector bodies and carefully re-measured all of the cable breakouts, transferring the updates to the wire harness drawing, making sure to note the +/- ˝ inch tolerance on the dimensions. Then I cut and re-terminated all of the other harnesses, pinned them, and installed them. It was a tough, three-week job, but it was done.
Management was happy…happy enough to offer me a job if I should return the following year. I DID take them up on the offer!!!
The title "Wire we fixing this?" reminds me of the cable manufacturer guy who told his wife he had to work late, then went on a binge and staggered home in the wee hours. His wife demanded to know "Wire you insulate?"
Anyone who has had to debug even worse problems cause by a sloppy repair job (solder bridges, cold solder joints) can really appreciate the work of a skilled de-solderer (without pcb damage) and re-solderer.
Been there on both sides. My last position our solder person was moved to another area and I was told I had to solder myself - no microscope, useless worn out soldering tips, and no serviceable scope probes.
I very quickly informed the manager that I was not about to attempt soldering of fine pitch ICs without a microscope and proper soldering tools. I no longer work there...
OK, so the humble wireman (or often today, the surface-mount/BGA rework tech, or name your equivalent) doesn't get much kudos for his job. But anyone who has seen this kind of work being done on their behalf, or indeed been rescued by someone rewiring a complex loom to fix a software I/O issue (seen that happen), will recognize your efforts with respect.
What other ancillary roles don't get get enough recognition?
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.