Growing up in silicon valley

lion-mclionheadlion mclionhead wrote 01/03/2018 at 21:46 • 3 min read • Like

A scratch pad of random notes to be updated.

Silicon Valley is everywhere during the booms & nowhere during the busts.

The very 1st memories of electronics projects were audio projects, manely a well loved crystal radio done on springy kit which was then left 90% unused. Spent many nights listening to KNBR 68 on that kit, although we lived next to the KGO 810 transmitter. 68 had the music.  It was the 1st inspiration to make a hifi receiver from scratch.  How much more could be involved besides a crystal radio?

The other early project was an LED blinker.  It came together by randomly patching one of those kits.  It was amazing to see an inanimate bunch of wires seeming to make decisions on its own.  It only worked briefly & I could never get it to work again.  In old age, it appears it might have been a multivibrator.

Many areas have come & gone, but audio is still a theraputic & rewarding area.  It's an attempt to trick one of the most sensitive inputs of the human body into thinking a human or an instrument exists which doesn't.  No matter how good electronics get, it's still real hard to trick the human body into thinking something is really there, but that is the ultimate goal of many areas.

As a kid, it's very important to have a mentor, be exposed but not forced into electronics, & not pursue something you hate because it pays more.  The internet is not a convincing alternative to a human mentor, because we had magazines in the old days & they weren't very effective.  Media is driven by the economy & the economy is pretty bad at predicting what people need, in the short term.  A mentor can tell what you need, rather than what the price of Enron or Juicero stock says the world needs.

Science shows on KQED were another source of inspiration, but they must have done a lousy job, because perpetual motion machines & anti gravity machines were a fascination for a long time.  Quad copters, LED displays were another fascination, but after the early electronics kits, they remaned conceptual rather than built.  It wouldn't be possible to economically build a quad copter or an LED display for many more decades.  Thus began a lifelong desire for stuff that the economy couldn't provide until after many fits & starts by people with more money than brains, only to finally produce a commercially viable product long after I had moved on.

The 1st computer was a Commodore 64 which arrived at age 9.  The electronics hobby manely disappeared for another 10 years.  The 1st programs were character graphics animations using just print & it was quite an obsession.  Programming graphics & sound in 6502 assembly was an utter fascination for a few years, but didn't produce anything practical.  We had a Logo interpreter, but its terrible slowness & limited capabilities killed it.  Programming eventually lost its luster after age 13.

Living in silicon valley didn't encourage engineering as a career.  The industry had severe downturns, was entirely men, & required extremely high grades to get into.  My grades & math skills were not good enough to attempt any kind of engineering degree.  Eventually, that boom/bust cycle expanded to the entire economy.  It ended up easier to get jobs in engineering than my degree.  While an ivy league engineering degree did prove essential for getting into large companies, it was still possible to get into mom & pop startups.