Monday, June 27, 2005

Electronics Australia

My folks gave me a Philips EE20 kit for Christmas in 1965. I suspect the EE stood for Electronics Engineer. The kit provided a bunch of components and instructions on the building of 20 different electronics projects, including a radio, an amplifier, an oscillator and even an electronic organ. A primitive organ admittedly but it was fun to play with. I was bitten by the electronics bug!

And, as always, when a bug bites me, I have to investigate deeper. Thus, when the classical music bug bit me in 1970 I wasn't content with just listening to the music; I had to learn to read a score. Or write the odd symphony or three! So it was with electronics. Inside two weeks I'd read the instruction manuals bare (and they were pretty comprehensive - they described electrons and holes and the theory behind inductors and capacitors). Then, in March 1966 I started a paper round and, as part of it, discovered Electronics Australia, a, nay, THE magazine in Australia for Electronics.

From March 1966 until sometime in the 1990's I was an avid reader of Electronics Australia. Each month in the late 60's, I'd haunt the local newsagency waiting for the next issue to arrive. Usually I'd start about 2 days before it was due and annoy the heck out of them until it had arrived. More than once I got the first copy just so they could get rid of me! I still remember the heady smell of a fresh issue, the almost silky feel of the front cover and the excitement of opening it up and racing to the 'Serviceman' column.

What I liked about the magazine was that it wasn't just a cookbook on how to create some piece of electronic hardware. The writers went to some pains to explain just how it all worked. In some ways things don't change; The best articles on CodeProject[^] are the best for exactly the same reason. Not just, 'this is the code to do X' but also 'this is how the code works'.

When I became a radio apprentice in 1970 I spent a lot of time at the Technical Bookshop in Swanston Street just north of Lonsdale street. They had back issues of EA and RTV&H stretching back to the mid 50's. I bought em all.

The other thing I liked about the magazine was that it wasn't just an electronics magazine. They had reviews of classical music recordings. Julian Russell is the reviewer I most remember; I don't know when he was born and can't find a link but I recall his writing about attending a performance of Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy as a child in 1918 or thereabouts so I reckon he must have been pretty old when I was reading him.

Reading back issues also helped introduce me to the serious side of life. I still remember Neville Williams piece where he described the death of the editor of RTV&H, John Moyle in 1960. No, I didn't read it when it happened; I read that piece about 10 years after John Moyle had passed away but I had also read John's reviews of classical music and even though the ink was dry 10 years I felt sympathy for Neville's loss of a friend.

I trust you'll forgive me an indulgence. This link[^] gives the biographies for a few technical writers I admired when I was growing up. Every name listed as having worked at Electronics Australia is almost as familiar as my own, and boy could they write.


Alvin Smith said...

Really a nice blog...
Got much new information from here..
I have read little bit same information at and it was also amazing.

Roly Roper said...

I was also tinkering in the 60's and learned a great deal from "The Serviceman Who Tells" (then spent most of the rest of my working life fixing stuff ;)).

I've still got the Playmaster 117 60W valve guitar amp I built way back then.

Jim Rowe still writes sometimes for Silicon Chip.