hilarious title

On a private mailing list, a novelist asks for suggestions: what technological hobbies might a bright teenager have, in Oakland circa 1975? Chemistry sets were mentioned, among other things.

I may have had a chemistry set at age 8 or so; memory is spotty. A few years later we got an electronics kit, consisting of a collection of elements in Lego-like blocks. There was a booklet, starting with easy things like a light switch and an electromagnetic telegraph relay. (Maybe I thought the latter was easy because Dad and I had made one, about the same time as the possible chem kit).

Then on the next page was an oscillator or something. No explanation of why it was an oscillator. I thought, well, if I can’t see for myself why it’s an oscillator, evidently I’m not cut out for this stuff; so I quietly abandoned it.

My adolescence in a nutshell.

Of course it never occurred to me that perhaps there was no explanation because I was not expected to understand an explanation; I was expected to treat the oscillator as a black box. (Not that I had the concept of “black box”, either!)

Oh well.

4 thoughts on “hilarious title

  1. Anton Post author

    My mental image of the kit is associated with a room in the yellow house. It was just about when we moved there that my depression started to manifest.

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  2. Dave

    I was lucky to have had a Fischertechnik Elektromechanik set from around that time period.
    http://www.fischertechnik-museum.ch/museum/displayimage.php?album=57&pos=10
    It was difficult to play with it and not set up oscillators: wire up the relays in the lower right corner just so, and they would click away madly for all they were worth; or set up the photocell so it turned the light off (and then back on, etc.)
    I think I even built an oscillator out of the thermocouple, and discovered it had a much longer time constant…

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  3. Dave

    …and if you’d made a mechanical one with sufficient Q, it would have been possible to demonstrate the earth’s rotation: “e pur si muove”.

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