Category Archives: communications equipment

Before Zeroes And Ones, There Were Dots And Dashes

Ah hah, modern-day kids probably have not a  morsel of an idea what Morse Code — or telegraph — is.

I learned about this invention by Samuel Morse, from my primary school history textbooks.  I quickly fell in love with it, and could even memorize the codes for all the 26 alphabets + 10 digits.  Alas, now due to very Successful Ageing, I can remember only “SOS”.

Morse Code represented the very beginnings of digital electronics – though at that time no one had fully grasped the potential and implications.

The ill-fated Titanic had also been equipped with wireless telegraph.  After striking the iceberg, the distress signal of “CQD – Come Quick Danger” was sent out.  In Morse Code:- [−●−●] [−−●−] [−●●]. 

Later, the international community simplified the distress signal to “SOS”, which was much easier to remember, especially in panicky situations.

Thus, with much genuine remorse, it became:- [●●●] [−−−] [●●●]

Wont To, Or Won’t, Cry For Thee Motorola

[..It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange…When I try to explain how I feel..]

35 years (a/o 2019) have passed since I quit Motorola, Penang, and went south, in search of greener pastures on a Little Red Dot.  Memories – both heart-warming and heart-breaking – came flooding in, as I looked at this old photograph.

Motorola was then the world’s leading portable communications equipment maker, which made it a hotly sought-after employer. We employees used to stride in pride in our distinctive batik-style uniforms even after work, in town! 

This was my first place of work and also the place where I met my GF who is now my wife.  We had some pretty awesome workplace interactions during the 5 years’ vocational sojurn.

Alas, Motorola today is a faint shadow of its former giant self – as a result of an over-confident leadership that rested too long on its laurels.  So sad indeed.

Honey, They Shrunk The Connectors

Opening up my cache of computer cables that I have hoarded, I was awed by the miniaturization process that had taken place over the last 4 decades.   Not quite dramatic as per the 1989 movie where the kids got shrunk, but still it was amazing.

When I first joined the rat race in 1979, all PCs were desktop and printers were dot matrix – connected via a Centronics (printer end) and a DSUB25 connector (PC end).

These also had a set of 9-pin RS232 connector each.  The serial data transfer via these 9-pin ones was supposedly much slower than the 8-bit parallel mode of the former two.

Then in the late 1990s, the USB was introduced, with very substantial shrinkage in connector size.  Thereafter, came the mini-USB connector, and then the micro-USB connector.  All these may vanish altogether one day.

“Walk The Talk”

Here I don’t mean that mantra which all politicians, from aspiring wannabes to seasoned veterans, chant feverishly in order to look legit. (But most end up just talking).

Rather, it is about a team of talented engineers at Motorola Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Penang.   There, circa 1980~84, they developed the first “designed & built in Malaysia” two-way radio, aka, Walkie-Talkie.  The product was launched in 2 tiers, a Low-Tier model HT90 and a High-Tier model HT440.  Both series were identical except for the outer case.  The HT440 had a two-tone casing.

Daily, the R&D engineers would walk up and down, testing out the prototypes by talking (and listening).   Kudos !  Malaysia pasti boleh.  Penang lagi boleh.

Oh, where was I ?  

As a process engineer and NPR coordinator, I provided manufacturing support to the program — cari makan lah !

Beauty And The Brick

In 1984 the once-almighty Motorola launched the world’s first cellular mobile phone, the DynaTAC-8000X.   It was huge by today’s standards and aptly named “the brick phone”.    Some sources said the price then was US$3,995 which would be like US$9,000 today.

To many, it became a status symbol – announcing to the world “I have arrived”.  We had a senior neighbour in our apartment block, whose son bought one for him.  Everyday, he would be seen at the void deck stone table, with The Brick exhibited prominently, attracting the covetous gaze of passers-by.  It added a lot life to his years.

Fast forward 20 years to 2004 – when big M introduced the world’s sleekest and most glamorous flip phone, called Razr V3.    Thanks to the exponential rate of advances in micro-electronics.   It was such an aesthetic and ecstatic fusion of form, and function and visual appeal that I ended up buying 2 of them.