I work in an environment where production runs are very short, usually only a few copies of any design. A common problem in troubleshooting is that we are lulled into believing that the written schematic is an accurate representation of the system. For the prototype or first article the thing to remember is: "It ain't necessarily wired the way we think it is." This is also true for EMC problems, which don't show up in the circuit diagram.
"... I honestly wonder how technically oriented kids learn anything today, given that not much stuff is repairable or even analyzable anymore."
Someone gave me an old Dynaco transistor stereo preamp/amp recently, it sort of worked, but needed some simple repairs to be useful. I didn't feel like fixing it, so gave it to a local audio repair shop--with the suggestion to give it to a kid who could have some easy success and perhaps catch the "fix it" bug. For those not familiar with the brand, Dynaco sold kit and assembled versions, the kit manuals are still available to help a novice get started.
Beth Stackpole mentions all of our great design tools -- which made me think about the very FEW tools we have to support routine troubleshooting. Is there a business opportunity for someone there? (Microsoft makes a valiant effort to provide troubleshooters for it's products -- but I find they usually just add to my level of frustration!) Here's one vote for a "Troubleshooting App" based on a "troubleshooting science."
I don't mean to be glib, but I honestly wonder how technically oriented kids learn anything today, given that not much stuff is repairable or even analyzable anymore. When I (we; you and me both, Chuck) were young, we could tinker around with the innards of a TV or radio (often at risk of electrical shock) and learn important stuff before we even reached engineering school (which incidentally never taught me to read schematics; I learned that on my own long before, from electronics magazines).
I suppose that the lesson here is not to ignore the obvious, but I have to admit that I could have looked at that TV for a month and never have thought of the "non-magnetized magnet." Maybe that's why the author still got the job.
This story and the troubleshooting process the author followed reminds me of the 101 basics I learned first on my stereo system: Is it plugged in? Is it switched on? In this case, the question is, Is the magnet magnetized?
Enjoyed the story of the 'Non-Magnetized TV Magnet'. It really embodies the essense of so much of the trouble shooting that we engineers and technicians go through as we go about our daily life. Great stuff and an enjoyable read.
As an old analog person, I'm reminded of how one could always test one's hearing by determining whether you could hear the faint sound of the 15kHz horizontal-scan signal emanating from those old vacuum tube TVs.
Great lesson learned here in how important it is to consider all options, however small and obvious. Given how complex technology has gotten and in light of the really impressive and powerful tools engineers have at their disposal to solve complex design challenges, I think basic exploratory practices and simple design iterations are often overlooked in favor of pursing the big or overly complex idea or solution. Yet another reminder not to forgo the basics.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.