by Bryan Bergeron, Editor
The Art of Diagnosis
When I first discovered my passion for electronics, my
greatest frustration was that a circuit — whether a
kit, from a magazine article, or my own design — wouldn’t
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work as expected. More than one of my early creations
ended up in a junk box, destined to be disassembled
for parts. In retrospect, my frustration was unfounded.
I eventually discovered that after gaining a degree of
manual fluency working with components, breadboards,
and a soldering iron, there wasn’t
much to be gained from a continuing
string of successes.
Heresy, you say? Think about it.
When was the last time you applied
Ohm’s Law when building a kit or
following one of the schematics in
Nuts & Volts Or, determined the
cutoff bias of a transistor? Or, tried
to hunt down a ground loop in a
printed circuit board? Real learning in
electronics comes from the hours
spent pouring over schematics and
circuit boards using heuristics and
a bit of luck to identify bad
components and flawed designs.
Even if you don’t agree, this
perspective will help you keep a
positive attitude when faced with
a seemingly impossible diagnostic
Mastering the art of diagnosis
has benefits beyond successfully
completing construction projects.
Once you’ve mastered the art, no
broken radio, appliance, or computer
peripheral should be beyond repair.
Furthermore, not only will you
become an asset to your friends and
family, but you may suddenly find
yourself with a second income.
Given the current uncertain
economy, having a second source of
income — even if only enough to pay
for your electronics habit — is a good
thing. Electronics is one of the few
hobbies universally useful enough to
be revenue neutral.
Based on my experience,
making the shift from hobbyist to
professional can be imperceptible.
My first real job in electronics —
working as a technician for the
Offshore Telephone Company — was
like being paid to have fun. I would
have done it for free, just to get my
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