I'm with you there Rick! One of my favorite rants-um, I mean "topics" is the disappearence of the "real" engineers. I too started by building my own stuff when I was a "kid"; p-p wiring, etching my own boards (layed out with tape and donuts). Kits, "repurposed" stuff. My first "computer" was hand wired and programmed by flipping switches. When I started my "professional career" I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of working with guys that were REAL Engineers (they were always 10-15 years within retirement). These were the guys that regardless of their "discipline" would tackle anything; EE's that built hot-rods, ME's that were into shortwave radio and had 60 foot antenna's in their backyards. They were "thinkers and do'ers". You could ask them something and if they didn't know they could at least point you in the right direction. Guys that paid attention in Physics class and could recite equations off the top of their heads. If you could get them talking they had great stories of one problem or another and how they tackled and fixed them. Not now (now I'll sound "old"). Now we have "engineers" (small e) that can't solder (I myself am proud to say that years back I passed HP's soldering exam for mil-spec hand soldering- you "used" to put this on your resume!), can't spec, don't read data sheets, build stuff that ON PAPER won't work, build everything from "demo" and "eval" boards - I could go on and on. If you talk to them about component level trouble-shooting their eyes glass over... it really is a sad state of affairs.
Last year I tried to start an "electronics club" locally. After four months there were three, yes 3 people that showed interest...
And don't get me started on e-waste and the "no lead" thing... lookup "tin whiskers" if you want to get a good picture of where we're headed on e-waste...
And also a cheer to Mike for keeping yet another 20 or so lbs of e-Waste from landfill, in defiance to what the TV place was recommending.
I think there's a particular stripe that runs through the boomer generation of engineers that I don't see anymore. We see something electronic broken and our minds immediately race with quick diagnosis and potential repair approach. This calling orginates from back before the birth of the PC, in budding young (future) electronic designers eagerly building Archer kits and projects featured in electronics hobby magazines of the time. I recall literally dozens of electronic hobby component shops around the city through the 70's. Nowadays, I count perhaps 2 or 3, serving a population that is about 4 times what it was back then. I visit one regularly when I'm visiting relatives (I live in a different city now), and can't help but notice that most of the other patrons are middle-aged men such as myself. 3 decades ago, this place would have been overrun by guys in their teens and early 20's (counting myself among them), eagerly searching the rows of shelves with parts lists in hand.
I'm sure Mike has similar memories and a background that allowed him to confidently crack open an "unrepairable" device, and succeed. Power to ya Mike! We are a fast disappearing breed!
Almost the same thing happened to me.
I had been on the lookout for a second music synthesizer of the type I had (for back up as well as use in a second location). After scouring the usual internet sites for used synths, I came up empty at a price range I was willing to pay. So I just cast a broad net (no pun intended) to see if anyone out on the web had it. Sure enough, someone was offering to sell it at effectively $100 plus shipping, way below "used retail". The catch was that there was an audio problem they had not been able to resolve. Long story short...I bought it as I do have some experience in audio electronics and figured I could fix it.
Got the unit...opened it up, and NO bulging capacitors, no burn marks...etc....nothing obvious to indicate a problem in the audio circuitry except that it didn't work. There was a lot of SMD components so I didn't want to fool around with them until I had a better clue as to the issue.
Once more to the net to look for similar complaints and solutions. Again, long story short...other owners had found repeated problems with 2 under-rated SMD resistors in the output amplifiers stages which failed 'open'. I replaced those and we were off to the races again. Good as new. While under the hood, I also replaced the headphone jack which had been damaged by leaving the plug in place while moving the synth, effectively leveraging the plug so as to crack the jack completely.
Total cost to me for a synth worth about $2K was about $150, with $3+tax being for parts.