When I was a kid, the most exciting Christmas gift my parents got me was a green Honda QA50 mini-bike. Until I was upgraded to a cooler Honda Z50 a few years later, I rode the hell out of that little thing. Even stripped a great deal of skin off my 9-year-old body the first day riding– then got right back on, to my mother’s horror, and kept going.
But the most useful present was a Science Fair 100-in-1 electronics kit.
You can see it on the right side of this 1972 advertisement from Radio Shack. It was a board loaded with electronics, including a meter and speaker, and used pre-cut wires and spring terminals to virtually assemble all sorts of cool projects. I annoyed my family by creating a household radio station, harassed the pets with a sound synthesizer, and amused myself endlessly with a lot of trial-and-error spaghetti wirings before I really understood what was going on. But in the process of doing so, and by scribbling notes all over the big manual’s pages, I developed the knowledge of electronics that eventually helped land my first professional job (with Texas Instruments) and cultivated a deep love for tinkering that has never died. Continue reading