Electronics in the Future

Thread Starter

MikeyChris

Joined Mar 10, 2018
31
Hello All! I am a retired video systems engineer who spent 45 years in electronics/communications, from being an Air Force ground radio repair tech (7 years) to being a video systems bench tech/field engineer (20 years) and finally a video systems engineer (designing and building video systems from edit suites to TV stations). I was also an avid electronics hobbyist for about the first 10 years that I was a bench tech. I used to buy the newest I.C.s and experiment with them. I found this to be a great aid to troubleshooting circuits in my job. Near the end of my bench tech days SMT was pretty much in all the gear I worked on. My favorite "thing to hate" was those little capacitors that developed high ESR and had to be replaced - usually ALL of them on a given board (maybe 20 or more in many cases). You had to twist them to literally break them off the board. This was a technique I was never comfortable with, but manufacturers (such as Panasonic) said this was the technique they recommended. I knew a fella that did consumer electronics repair, and he amazed me! This guy would actually take those little cameras & digital recorders apart (hooking up many test harnesses to be able to power them up) and troubleshoot them. By this time I had moved on to systems design (and glad of it!).
My hobbyist days pretty much ended in the late 1980's. I had designed and built signal detection circuits for my model railroad, designed and breadboarded a full function generator and a TV sync separator for my Heathkit scope, as well as a few interface circuits at work (customers always wanted to mix brands of equipment, and each brand had its own method of doing things).
A couple weeks ago I got interested in Arduino's and have gotten back into the "hobby". As mentioned here, it sure is different now! I'm still also interested in model railroading, and the tech used in that hobby is also quite complex now. SMT has made a lot possible in a small space. Unfortunately, my 71 year old eyes and dexterity are not up to that task! That said, using the modular approach (enter Arduino & Raspberry Pi) a hobbyist can still do a lot. As to discreet components disappearing entirely, I would be quite surprised if that happened in the near term - say the next 15 years - but I didn't think HDTV would take off as big as it finally did either (I saw a prototype HD system in Japan in the early 1980's, but it never went anywhere). Would you believe there were 18 HDTV formats being promoted in the 1990's?
I agree with other folks here that electronics repair is pretty much dying. Stuff is not made with serviceability in mind, ad board swapping is much more feasible than troubleshooting to the component level. Back in the day, we had to troubleshoot multilayer boards (printed circuit traces often 4 or 5 levels deep) and it didn't take anyone long to figure out these things are non-repairable.
Just my 2 cents.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,415
I grew up diagnosing, repairing, and replacing discrete components on DEC Flip-Chip cards and DG Nova minicomputers back in the 1970s. Yes, I agree that repairing modern electronics is very different than what it used to be. Today, the closest I have come to repairing modern SMT boards is replacing bad capacitors on PC mother boards.

Hobby electronics is not dead!

Don't let SMT components scare you. I do my own PCB designs and solder all SMT components by hand. You do need to get a proper viewing microscope with adjustable magnification in order to work with SMT components.

SMT has actually been a real benefit in my line of work. Besides the obvious size reduction, all the low voltage, low power, compactness has meant a huge reduction in noise level. I can now create circuits that had been a nightmare before SMT came along.

Imagine that the size of a DEC PDP-8 was that of a household refrigerator and the room lights would dim when the power switch was turned on! Now, a simple MCU chip has 100-1000 times more capabilities and cost 20,000 times less than a 1970s minicomputer (not even factoring inflation).

Embrace the modern technology and pursue your hobby interests to the fullest!
 

takao21203

Joined Apr 28, 2012
3,696
Hello All! I am a retired video systems engineer who spent 45 years in electronics/communications, from being an Air Force ground radio repair tech (7 years) to being a video systems bench tech/field engineer (20 years) and finally a video systems engineer (designing and building video systems from edit suites to TV stations). I was also an avid electronics hobbyist for about the first 10 years that I was a bench tech. I used to buy the newest I.C.s and experiment with them. I found this to be a great aid to troubleshooting circuits in my job. Near the end of my bench tech days SMT was pretty much in all the gear I worked on. My favorite "thing to hate" was those little capacitors that developed high ESR and had to be replaced - usually ALL of them on a given board (maybe 20 or more in many cases). You had to twist them to literally break them off the board. This was a technique I was never comfortable with, but manufacturers (such as Panasonic) said this was the technique they recommended. I knew a fella that did consumer electronics repair, and he amazed me! This guy would actually take those little cameras & digital recorders apart (hooking up many test harnesses to be able to power them up) and troubleshoot them. By this time I had moved on to systems design (and glad of it!).
My hobbyist days pretty much ended in the late 1980's. I had designed and built signal detection circuits for my model railroad, designed and breadboarded a full function generator and a TV sync separator for my Heathkit scope, as well as a few interface circuits at work (customers always wanted to mix brands of equipment, and each brand had its own method of doing things).
A couple weeks ago I got interested in Arduino's and have gotten back into the "hobby". As mentioned here, it sure is different now! I'm still also interested in model railroading, and the tech used in that hobby is also quite complex now. SMT has made a lot possible in a small space. Unfortunately, my 71 year old eyes and dexterity are not up to that task! That said, using the modular approach (enter Arduino & Raspberry Pi) a hobbyist can still do a lot. As to discreet components disappearing entirely, I would be quite surprised if that happened in the near term - say the next 15 years - but I didn't think HDTV would take off as big as it finally did either (I saw a prototype HD system in Japan in the early 1980's, but it never went anywhere). Would you believe there were 18 HDTV formats being promoted in the 1990's?
I agree with other folks here that electronics repair is pretty much dying. Stuff is not made with serviceability in mind, ad board swapping is much more feasible than troubleshooting to the component level. Back in the day, we had to troubleshoot multilayer boards (printed circuit traces often 4 or 5 levels deep) and it didn't take anyone long to figure out these things are non-repairable.
Just my 2 cents.
Great to have you here on the forum.

Im not 71 but life seems to be short, when i was a child I dissected countless appliances, sometimes they had electron tubes in them and large filter coils. I stopped with it at 13 or so, but resumed in the 2000s.

Discrete components are here to stay for quite another while. Developing countries such as India use them, and chinese too, and they are still required for certain circuits. If you have a large and heavy appliance theres no need to miniaturize the circuit board. But in general, theres less and less of these parts. They can use silicon die directly since the middle 1980s.

Something like a stereo amplifier will always have some discrete parts, as well high voltage circuits.

The smallest SMD parts are quite difficult to see even, sometimes less than a millimetre. No longer possible to handle for humans. So Android tablets can not be serviced or repaired, they last maybe 2 or 3 years, when they recycle it maybe the battery is ripped out, the plastic frame, and the circuit board is shredded. Its cheaper than trying to remove the SMD parts, test them, and make them fit for resale.

In the past of course the chinese haver recycled hundreds of thousands of tons of old appliances, from gambling casinos (Intel 8086 etc), cash registers, numeric controls, you name it, quite a lot of boards had DIP IC with sockets.
Also they burn up boards and toss out parts with a hammer but I dont think they are reworked for to use them again, just for metals.

Since a while theres less and less gold, bonding wirres mostly palladium recently or probably aluminium. Older boards and ICs can be sold to some refineries by the kilogram, if you have ton or so, they give you a custom comission depending how much they can get out.

If you google ewaste you can see piles of same appliances in China, if they have hundreds of old keyboards they check what metals they contain, separate, and deal off, this can take several years to go through the channels, some things they can sell fast others pile up take longer, or are just burned.

Its difficult to believe how much small controllers have evolved, somewhere in the 1990s they just so managed to put a FLASH to a primitive PIC, otherwise microcontroller boards were quite expensive and difficult to buy, softwares sold extra at a premium. now you can get Arduinos with almost 100 MHz and the software is free, you can get the smaller controllers for a dollar or less, LED bags for $15 (good quality) and less than that (not as bright). When I was young there were small shops selling single pieces for very high prices, as well a few mail order companies. I always looked at what they had on sale but back then it was so expensive, wasnt really able to build circuits, some in the books were older PMOS IC which werent available. So this took all my money and I didnt get much out of it

Maybe in a decade or two, circuits incl semiconductors will be printed on a flexible carrier, not as fast and not as long lived as a PCB but very low cost. Maybe postal mail will almost disappear, the internet will become mandatory infrastructure. But they still do postal SPAM (advertising leaflets).

Theres constant evolution, we now have smoke detectors everywhere and CFLs and LED lamps, while CRT televisions and audio cassettes have disappeared, next thing is coal fired power plants and gasoline cars, they are set to phase them out as soon as possible.

I think no matter what, certain kinds of electric parts will always be in demand, no matter the changes in technology, there will always be a market for them. The developing world is just starting to use electronics (Africa, India, some parts of China), though countries like Vietnam or DPRK aquired the skills to handle tablet computers, it is not so widespread, so they will continue to use discrete components for quite another while, 20 or 30 years.

The oldest parts now showing up in the secondary market pipelines, are about 40 years old, starting late 1970s all through the 1980s. Some even from early 70s and late 60s.

So the global pipeline is some 40 years. Even when they stop making some parts, they will be around still for some decades, old inventories decommisioned, from factories, research, production lines, warehouses, companies going out of business.

When ever it makes sense, they can make some money, of course things are traded off and sold, rather than recycled or burned/put to waste.

Theres is countless old Famicons still on the japanese market, approx middle 1980s.
 

Thread Starter

MikeyChris

Joined Mar 10, 2018
31
QUOTE="MrChips, post: 1246991, member: 62020"]

Embrace the modern technology and pursue your hobby interests to the fullest![/QUOTE]
I totally agree. As my Dad used to say, "If you 'em, do 'em" (no, he was not talking about women!). But another great guy (Clint Eastwood) is known for saying "a man has to know his limitations". I can still solder most things, but I now do it as a hobby and prefer to stay with things as least as large as an 1/8 watt resistor :)
I also like breadboarding with solderless breadboards (I remember the first one I saw back in 1970 - I bought it) and SMT (or SMD if you prefer) doesn't lend itself to that practice. There are advantages to almost everything.
 

dendad

Joined Feb 20, 2016
3,084
I too design and build multilayer surface mount PCBs. The best tool I've found for it is a Video Presenter. Mine in a second hand Elmo brand. It looks like an overhead projector but has a camera and optical zoom. It plugs into a VGA monitor and has an SD card to take pictures to.
I can zoom in from a full PCB (A4/foolscap size or bigger) to a few pins on a 0.5mm spaces SMT IC.
Very handy and they do come up cheap on Ebay.
Here is one (in Oz)
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Lumens-PS400-Video-Presenter-Digital-Visualizer-2-3D-Object-Slide-Film-Projector/253464063031?hash=item3b03a2ac37:g:DOoAAOSwK5tamjMk

And this is a USA Ebay add for the model I have ..
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/ELMO-P10-VIDEO-VISUAL-PRESENTER/222752461832?hash=item33dd14d408:g:29sAAOSwUMxaL3Nl
Have a look for one and see what you think.
The camera sits high above the work so you can get in to do stuff.
 

Thread Starter

MikeyChris

Joined Mar 10, 2018
31
Great to have you here on the forum.

Im not 71 but life seems to be short, when i was a child I dissected countless appliances, sometimes they had electron tubes in them and large filter coils. I stopped with it at 13 or so, but resumed in the 2000s.
Yep, it is. I too have disassembled stuff all my life. However, I find that, through the years, there is less and less stuff that I deem salvageable, Perhaps it's that I have run out of space for stuff (I used to keep much of my test gear and parts at work - retirement ruined that!), but I think more stuff today is "disposable".
The smallest SMD parts are quite difficult to see even, sometimes less than a millimetre. No longer possible to handle for humans. So Android tablets can not be serviced or repaired, they last maybe 2 or 3 years, when they recycle it maybe the battery is ripped out, the plastic frame, and the circuit board is shredded. Its cheaper than trying to remove the SMD parts, test them, and make them fit for resale.
I agree. We kept or SMD parts in clear envelopes that were maybe 2" x 3" (several hundred times larger than the part) and we often thought the envelop was empty - but it wasn't. I have soldered some SMD parts but did not enjoy it.
If you google ewaste you can see piles of same appliances in China, if they have hundreds of old keyboards they check what metals they contain, separate, and deal off, this can take several years to go through the channels, some things they can sell fast others pile up take longer, or are just burned.
Sounds like my closet! I periodically go through my old stuff and try to donate what I can (I hate to throw stuff out), but it's hard to dispose of old computers, TVs etc these days - most folks don't want them (with good cause). In the last couple years we have replaced a laptop, a desktop, two TVs, an oven a clothes washer and dryer. I have mixed feelings as to all the tech "improvements". I think some features are added "just because we can" but they add to the complexity and increase the learning curve. But that's just me.
 

dendad

Joined Feb 20, 2016
3,084
I remember buying the first SMT transistor from RS. It came in a single cell cut off a roll. While opening it to have a look, I slipped and it went flick.....
We never found it ;)
Things have sure changed from my first amp, 12AX7 and 6V6. There may have been an ER86 there too. It is a "while ago" now and in a weak moment I gave it away.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,415
Storing SMD can be just as much fun.

Here is how I save SMD salvaged or left over after trial and error design and test.



I take a long strip of sticky tape. Then I stick similar lengths of paper on both edges of the sticky tape. You can do this with three or four strips so that you end up with a sheet of sticky tapes where you can stick the SMD parts as shown above.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
9,146
I also like breadboarding with solderless breadboards (I remember the first one I saw back in 1970 - I bought it) and SMT (or SMD if you prefer) doesn't lend itself to that practice.
You can buy or build SIP/DIP adapters for SMT devices.

SMT devices like passives come in multiple sizes. I traded parts with an older gentleman who preferred to not use anything smaller than 0805. I'm in my 60's and prefer not to use parts smaller than 0603.

I still prefer through hole parts for my designs; mostly because I've accumulated tens of thousands of parts over the past 4 decades and prefer to use what I have on hand whenever I can.
 

Thread Starter

MikeyChris

Joined Mar 10, 2018
31
You can buy or build SIP/DIP adapters for SMT devices.

SMT devices like passives come in multiple sizes. I traded parts with an older gentleman who preferred to not use anything smaller than 0805. I'm in my 60's and prefer not to use parts smaller than 0603.

I still prefer through hole parts for my designs; mostly because I've accumulated tens of thousands of parts over the past 4 decades and prefer to use what I have on hand whenever I can.
If those adaptors suit someone's need, go for it. For me, the SMD's are still too small and I would still have to deal with 'em, and buy them, and the passive components are still too small. I'm not saying they aren't for anyone, just not for me. And I have enough "regular" size components to last a lifetime. There are some special cases that I will use the SMDs though, I admit.
 

Thread Starter

MikeyChris

Joined Mar 10, 2018
31
I remember buying the first SMT transistor from RS. It came in a single cell cut off a roll. While opening it to have a look, I slipped and it went flick.....
We never found it ;)
Things have sure changed from my first amp, 12AX7 and 6V6. There may have been an ER86 there too. It is a "while ago" now and in a weak moment I gave it away.
Yeah, we used a ton of 12AX7's, 12AU7's a 6LQ6's (or maybe that was 6AQ5??? too long ago) in the Air Force gear I worked on (the stuff we used In Nam was mostly WWII vintage).
 
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