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.
Going through some old albums, I came across this photograph which showed a digital clock that I hand-crafted circa 1980, and a second one in the process of being built-up.
The first model was made for my own use, while the second model was made as a gift to my GF (now wife) in 1981.
The casings were hand-sawn from pieces of 3mm thick plywood, which was then carefully glued together and finally finished with wood-grain patterned PVC lamination. A piece of brushed aluminium fascia nicely adorned the front in both cases.
At the heart of the clock was an IC from National Semiconductor, while the 7-segment LEDs were from HP. The buzzers were salvaged from some pager rejects in the factory where I was working.
Those were the days when we were brimming with youthful energy, passion and creativity.
In the world of electronics, the 555 Timer IC surely ranks as one of the Greatest Simple Ideas that works wonder. Designed by one Hans R. Camenzind in 1971, and introduced by Signetics in 1972, it is estimated that over a billion pieces of this unassuming integrated circuit device are still being made each year. Whoosh! That is one old-timer whose popularity has not waned with age.
In the years that followed almost every semiconductor company worth its silicon had a 555 in its product line-up.
With fond memories I recall how, after bumping into a specimen in 1980, I became wildly fascinated by the myriad of applications achievable using this 8-pin IC. Flashing lights, dimmers, buzzers, etc, etc. It was the era of fun for me.
Who would have thought that a simple Square Waveform could be harnessed to do so many tricks?