Confessions of a Technology Addict (Part One)

Politically Correct my Butt!

While this is no surprise to my friends and family, it probably is to my blogging world, and my many author friends.  I built my first oscilloscope from a Heath Kit at 12 years old, by Myself.  I entered it into my (Roehm) Junior High’s Science fair in my first year at that school (that outfit shall forever hold an honored place in MY Hall of Shame).  They said that my Dad built it. 

My Parents and my Dad were absolutely wonderful, and from the time I was tall enough to stand on a milk carton to reach the top of his workbench, he let me watch what he was doing (and breathe in the lead fumes – Oops).  After he was sure that I wouldn’t solder my fingers, he let me do (electronic) things.  I had the misfortune of being the son of the man that sold the PA Systems into the Berea Ohio School System

Well, I struggled, and I learned, and I read the Encyclopaedia Britannica, cover to cover.  I followed the Heath Kit instructions and when I turned it on, it worked (after WE calibrated it).  Well, when this 12 pound metal box came into the school; with poster boards detailing the build process (and even pictures of me doing the work), they would not believe that I did the work!  WOW!  I was shattered; No matter that my parents, and my neighbors, went to the Principal (whose name I immediately banished from my memory) and pled my case – the answer was NO (and consider yourself lucky that we even let you enter it all ).  Alas to no avail. 

At the time I had a mental age of over 17 years of age.  My teachers didn’t know what to make of me so they squashed the creativity out of me.  That lasted until I took the Scholastic Aptitude tests.  No Virginia, I had to take it TWICE because they thought this precocious 11-year-old cheated!  How do you cheat on an aptitude test?  I never cheated in my life; I didn’t have to!  The second test (age 12) moved the old mental age past 18 and I LOVED IT!

Along comes the second and last year in good old Roehm, and along came the Science Fair.  I was ready for them.  Dad drove me to the Cleveland Public Library, the ‘fountain of knowledge’ where we lived in 1957!  My intention this year was to take out a book on how to build a Geiger counter – from a schematic!  My Dad played a small part in a monumental effort that took place in the early 1940’s, and ended World War II.  As a result, he had no hair on his legs, and I had an intense interest in radiation.

Home we went, I copied out the parts list, and Dad and I determined what could be purchased from Radio Shack and what needed his help.  I earned money cutting lawns and had a paper route, in a rather ‘comfortable’ neighborhood; I paid my own way.  Well, the ‘hard to find items’ were a (the right) buzzer to raise the battery voltage high enough to excite the Geiger tube, the Geiger tube itself, and a radiation source.  We poured through catalogs, found the required pieces parts, and sent off my money.

By the time these items arrived, I had the aluminum box built along with a Bakelite circuit board.  In goes the buzzer and my Dad told me to touch the outputs of the (connected to the battery) buzzer while it buzzed.  That short lesson told all I needed to know about buzzers enabling higher voltage.  For the radiation source we had to use a radium watch but even at that low radiation my little Geiger counter buzzed (audibly), and the meter swung to the left.  We were in Business.

Of course we documented as we went and took photos of me doing strange things for a Junior high student.  We had even announced our intentions to the Principal Who Shall Remain Nameless.  We showed him the book, showed him the schematic, showed him the raw parts, and let it be understood that we were not to be denied. I wrote a report on radiation that couldn’t be beat!  I wrapped the book in a cover made from a blueprint that my Dad saved from his work in the 1940’s.  It was Brilliant!  And denied we were. 

The winner did an Ant Farm; I told my science teacher and the Principal that this sniveling little pretender didn’t do the work – The ANTS DID!

Well I’ve run long and I’ll close this out this post and write tomorrow’s post now in MS Word.

Bitterly Repressed, Cliff


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