The technician's view of it.

For the first half of my time spent doing electronics, I was mostly a technician. Just over a year's education in electronics (courtesy of the U.S. Navy), and another 15 months learning about Univac computers and some of their peripherals made up my formal background.

The reason that the armed services use depot-level repair centers now is that no matter what the level of training, it is a horse-and-water situation. Some people learn to be technicians (or doctors, lawyers, EE's, etc.) and some don't.

The most fun, after learning how to troubleshoot, was figuring out how to get around certain kinds of problems.

Lots of this happened at Dam Neck, Virginia, at the Fleet Anti-Aircraft Warfare Training Center, now renamed. We worked in three shifts - days for training in the mock-ups, evenings for program developers, and the midnight shift for maintenance and repairs.

We had paper tape punch/reader combinations. Incredibly slow, even for the late 1960's. The reader was by Ferranti. I saw one in an identical cabinet that used phototubes, but ours had germanium phototransistors. The incandescent bulb had a long filament to cast light over the 1" wide paper tape.

One night, we found that a paper tape cabinet had a burned out bulb. We had to perform a test and certify that it was working - not that big a deal, but vital to us because the chief petty officer in charge was a total jerk.

No supply of bulbs was to be had, but a check showed that it ran on 12 volts DC. A run out to a VW produced a dome lamp that was identical to the original. Worked fine, and Chief M. didn't get to chew on our butts in the morning.

More on that miserable paper tape cabinet later...

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