Learn when you're young, remember when you're old.
When I was 16 or so I was totally obsessed by electronics of one sort or
another. (Ok, not totally; there was also space in there for thinking about
food and about one other subject which I'll leave as an exercise for the
reader.) I particularly remember a project that put an FM radio in a TicTac
box — kind of like this beautiful
match box radio...
...only in a Tic Tac box.
Heady stuff. (Ok, not as heady as the third category of 16-year-old obsession, but still I used to spend hours poring over a hot Maplin catalogue planning my next foray into the tantalising world of transistors (or trannies), tantalum capacitors, thin film resistors and the like.)
Fast forward ahem years (ok — 32, to be precise). As part of a ground-breaking excursion to the very frontiers of human knowledge (otherwise known as pi.gate.ac.uk) I'm building circuits, figuring out which combinations of components will solve a particular problem, prototyping them virtually on CircuitLab, prototyping them in hardware on a breadboard, and, finally, soldering up "production prototypes" on a stripboard. All good clean family fun, and useful to boot. (Thanks, Raspberry Pi, for making all this possible!)
A lot of the skills and knowledge that I'm using is stuff that I haven't used for the intervening thirty-odd years — but they're still there. What you learn when you're young, and what you learn when you're interested, stays with you. It's a neural plasticity thing.
An upshot of all this, is that putting together a simple circuit board on a Friday afternoon (instead of doing what I'm paid for, ahem) is a whole lot of fun. And the pictures are almost as interesting as Category Three (this may also be an age thing). Do let me know if you agree... here they are:
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