December Nostalgia

It looks like this is now becoming a thing with me and writing down my memories of things that I loved as a child or as a teenager, which unfortunately makes me appear older than I am (other than the items I am referencing).  Today’s trip takes us to another nostalgic object that really helped shape the me of today, it is a toy of sorts and I am not sure how many people will jump up beside me and say “Wow, I remember getting one of those.” but hey…  This is about my experiences.

As a kid I didn’t have much in the way of influence towards the geek side, mostly I had a Radio Shack® on the main street of my quaint little town and it wasn’t like any of the fancy and organized stores of today, it was the local electronics repair shop, automotive audio, and all around fixit place.  You would walk in and never in a million years think this is the type of store a kid would love to come in.  Matter of fact I don’t think I had seen more than two people at time while I was in there myself…  Anyhow one day I had popped in and there she was, the most awesome thing I had ever seen.

The Science Fair 60 in One Electronics Lab.  I don’t remember if it was the jump into the unknown or if it was that it had a motor, but I do remember that it had a light that shown down from above and was accompanied by a choir of angelic voices.  Of course memories aren’t always what we make them out to be it most likely was sitting under a display lamp and that the owner loved the local hymns radio channel, none the less I knew at that time that it was what I wanted.  Now growing up I had a paper route and would mow extra lawns in the summer to earn my money but just like any other kids during those days my ability to save for what I wanted was crap.  I would get $20 bucks and hit the arcade and the penny candy store before I realized I didn’t save to get this thing.  Fortunately I was able to whine and cry for about 8 months or so to make sure I could get it at the one time of year we all get the “unexpected” gifts.

So my first time actually getting my hands on this thing was at Christmas that year and boy did I take off with it… Or at least that is what I would love to say because I tell you what I had no idea WTF that book was talking about.  I remember trying to do the first few projects and thinking to myself “Cool, but what is it!”.  I didn’t have the knowledge or patience at the time to really pay attention to what it was showing me.  So I skipped ahead to the cool things like making a “metal detector” and a “Morse Code machine” because I could understand those results pretty easily.  After that it went on to the shelf.

Although I didn’t really have much of a lingering interest in the toy itself I had become aware that these little pieces and parts that were on the cardboard were in different things that I was able to “fix” or I should say “try to fix”.  Along with that I would still frequent the store because now I know that it is how those things are connected that make the alarm clock work the way it does.  I would go in and I would look through the little drawers that were in the middle of the store and look at all the neat little doodads (electronic components I would find out later) that I had no idea what they did but they were making the world run.  And one day as I turned to leave there it was again, but better…

Original_RS_ScienceFair_130in1Bigger and better than what I had and about $20 more expensive too.  So I went home and dug up my 60 in 1 set (falling apart at this time ) and took to learning what I had failed to learn the first time.  And I put my sights on getting this newer, bigger, and better one.  This time though I was able to save up for it (did a lot of jobs all at once to get the money all at once).  This time I was able to learn a lot more about how electronics worked.  I was able to create such things as a fish caller, burglar alarm, and a radio transmitter.  I learned much more about how resistors worked, learned about IC’s like a flip-flop circuit, and how to manipulate LED lights and displays.  This is the one that really cemented electronics as a hobby, and when I do drift back to the days of when I loved it this model is the one that pops in first.  I had learned so much because of this wondrous “toy” that I had no longer looked at it that way but now as a tool.
Fortunately that wasn’t the last of them that I was able to get. After the 130 lab had begun to fall apart, mostly from being packed away under things when I wasn’t using it. I had gotten the much bigger and badder 200 in 1.Original_RS_ScienceFair_200in1 This guy was a little better and had more projects. I really can’t credit these with giving me a depth of knowledge but they definitely opened the doorway to so much more.  As I got older and my interests began to change I had packed away the kits (the 60 in 1 was thrown out when I got the 130 in 1) and I really didn’t touch them again.  My interest was always there and I would on occasion get myself some components to fix something with my soldering iron and the love of electronics lived within, something that would never go away.

Years later my love had been revived as I had entered the military and had gotten full on training in electronics and how to troubleshoot complex circuits. Unfortunately I was also introduced to quick repairs and module replacement which meant that the time playing with those little parts and pieces that I had grown to love was not what I was doing or would ever do actually working in the field of electronics. So I had moved on to computers and placed my love into the hobby shelf and hoping one day I could find that passion again. As an adult I had found that I really, really want to get back to it but right now other things in life have taken the priority. Yet one day I will get back to it.