JeffL: I don't think I ever read Radio Electronics, but publications like that and the one that Max outlined in his story are nothing short of inspirational. Yes, the Internet enables sharing of almost all the world's information, but somehow holding a periodical in your hands tells you these are fresh new ideas that you should consider before the next issue arrives. We'll never know how many new ideas they inspired, and I don't mean to romanticize the question, but the Internet is a very cold medium compared to those publications. We're losing more than an engineering guidebook, we're losing the art of telling stories through engineering.
The title "Lindsay Publications" (with the name figuring promininently in the company title) just happened to remind me of another publisher who was a master in his own right, who was in fact the holder of 80 patents himself. Does anyone remember the reason that the prize for science fiction writing is known as the "Hugo"? Why it's in honor of Hugo Gernsback of course, who in addition to being one of the very first authors in the genre, was probably best known as the publisher of many technical magazines. I remember when I was growing up I used to look forward to reading Radio Electronics magazine every month (I believe when I first started reading it the name was Electronics World but I could be confusing it with another title), that magazine was published all the way until 2003. The man died way back in 1967 so just by the longevity of that title alone you can see that his accomplishments lasted way beyond his lifespan. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that his influence on the technical magazine industry would be comparable to say Ted Turner's influence on cable television. You can learn a bit more about his accomplishments here:
While it's inevitable that we lose people like this, I too am concerned that we are losing not just command of, but also respect for, the fundamentals. When I see articles with titles like "what the C language is actually useful for" I have to shake my head in amazement, I could see that happening maybe in 2113 but not in 2013! Maybe I've become a "fuddy-duddy" and don't know it...
How to go about designing a new Arithmetic Processing Unit without previous training in concepts of long mutliplication and division? How to spot a CAD bug without some basics of mechanical design in the head? This gets really scary as one considers the compilers' bugs (found few of them myself ...)...
I've run across an article or two lately about hobbyists building their own vacuum tubes. I also recall reading about someone home etching primitive ICs, so there are a few folks hanging on to some of these old secrets, but beyond that, I think we do lose a lot.
My kids can't even write in cursive. They happen to have some basic survival skills like map & compass & such from scouting, but many people I know likely couldn't survive more than a night or two in the wilderness.
How many people could get around without GPS, maps or roads? Basic navigation without those tools was once a necessary life skill, but has been all but lost.
@Adam-Taylor I can't imagine losing the Internet for a few months, I don't know what to do when it's down for a few hours! A few years back, I was trying to fly out of the Newark, New Jersey airport and all online systems went down. It was total mayhem, as you might imagine!
For the last couple of years I've been becoming more and more involved with online forums regarding vacuum tubes. One of the things that has become abundantly clear; there is a tremendous amount of information that will forever be lost because the guys that know the stuff, how to put this gently; are dying off. I have a good collection of "tube" books" (ever increasing) and much of the information the "old timers" have can't be found in a single one of them. When they die, the information is gone. If I were a rich man, I'd travel the world and collect this information (as best as one could, I suspect one could do this "forever") into a compendeum. I'm not, so the best one can do is ask questions and collect as much of this information as possible.