When I was a young teenager in England in the early 1970s, I used to read a monthly electronics hobbyist magazine called Practical Electronics.
When I say “read” I really mean “devour!” When the time was coming close for a new issue to hit the stands, I would visit the newsagent every day after school pleading “Has it arrived yet?” As soon as the magazine did arrive I read it cover to cover, and then I jumped on a bus to visit my local electronics store to purchase the components required to build one of that month’s projects (my favorite series was called “Take Twenty” in which each project had fewer than 20 components and cost less than 20 shillings).
Many of the projects in those days employed 7400-series TTL integrated circuits. This family of components contained hundreds of devices that provided everything from basic logic gates and flip-flops to more sophisticated elements like counters and decoders and even simple Arithmetic Logic Units (ALUs).
This was, to a large extent, how I learned the fundamentals of digital electronics. Also, because this is what I was learning with, it made perfect sense to me that you could have a silicon chip containing four 2-input NAND gates (the 7400) or four 2-input NOR gates (the 7402).
Time passed (as is its wont) and I met older engineers who had grown up creating digital logic circuits using discrete transistors resistors, and capacitors. It amazed me that many of these folks simply couldn’t wrap their brains around the use of digital integrated circuits. (And don’t even get me started talking about the analog-digital divide.)
Over the years I’ve come to see this many times. I’ve met guys who grew up working with vacuum tubes who couldn’t make the transition to semiconductors – they found the high-tension supplies associated with the tubes easier to understand than the low-voltage power supplies used by transistors. I’ve also met folks who understood the use of basic digital chips but who couldn’t get to grips with the concept of simple 8-bit microprocessors. And there are folks who were experts with 8-bit microprocessors and assembly language who find themselves overwhelmed by 32-bit and 64-bit processors and high-level programming languages.
I must admit that I’ve started to wonder if this will one day happen to me – is there some new technology on the horizon that will leave me baffled and bewildered…
Click Here to see other articles in this "How it was..." series...
Editor's Note: It would be great if – in addition to commenting on my articles – you took the time to write down short stories of your own. I can help in the copy editing department, so you don’t need to worry about being “word perfect”. All you have to do is to email your offering to me at max@CliveMaxfield.com with “How it was” in the subject line.
I can post your article as “anonymous” if you wish. On the other hand, what would be really cool would be if you wanted to add a few words about yourself – and maybe even provide a couple of “Then and Now” pictures – for example:
On the left we see me as a young sprog – I was still a student at this time, poised on the brink of leaping into my first position at International Computers Limited (ICL). On the right we see me as I am today – a much older and sadder man, beaten down by the pressures of work and bowed by the awesome responsibilities I bear (grin).
If you found this article to be of interest, visit EDA Designline
where – in addition to blogs on all sorts of "stuff" – you will find the latest and greatest design, technology, product, and news articles with regard to all aspects of Electronic Design Automation (EDA).
Also, you can obtain a highlights update delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for the EDA Designline weekly newsletter – just Click Here
to request this newsletter using the Manage Newsletters tab (if you aren't already a member you'll be asked to register, but it's free and painless so don't let that stop you [grin]).