Author Topic: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.  (Read 3760 times)

Offline The Dude Abides

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A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« on: June 23, 2013, 05:44:36 PM »
I know a lot of electronics and sometimes it just come boiling out. I do not expect any comments, or even many readers. I just wanted to get this off my hard drive.

ELECTRONICS
A few thoughts on computers and the electronics that make them chug along. I spent forty-one years in the field, and probably had a total of three full years of classroom and lab training on various aspects of it during that time. This was not a liberal arts education: the first year and a half of class was provided by the Air Force, and they have no real interest in teaching you History or Art or English Lit. They want you to know electronics and you got six hours a day, five days a week, for a long, long time.

My later education came in the control systems business. I worked for a petroleum products pipeline for more than thirty years designing, building, installing, and maintaining high-end control systems. These SCADA systems allowed remote control of far-flung facilities from a central point.

I think (and I am biased) that my years in the digital electronics field were the golden years of electronics. I went from hardwired relay and vacuum tube computers to high-density programmable microprocessors in my career. It spanned memory from magnetic core memory stacks that had three tiny wires (an X select, Y select, and sense line) hand-threaded through each ferrite doughnut, providing perhaps 2k of memory, up to non-volatile RAM and DRAM chips that contained gigabytes in one chip. They were heady years for a designer. SSI, MSI, LSI, EEPROM, USART, the acronyms flowed from our tongues like water. We were the über nerds, the ones that held the magic of purpose-designed logic in our brains.

All things come to an end. By the time I left the profession, hardware was no longer a big factor in control systems. Software written using compilers for multiple processors had taken over. Hardware was generic, cookie stamped, with the vast increases in memory size and speed making any drawbacks irrelevant. So like Puff, I slipped into my cave. But that is a different story.

In the Beginning, there was electricity.

PLUS AND MINUS
Electronics is electricity mashed through various components. The simplest electrical circuit is a wire put across the terminals of a battery. You will find out two things in a hurry:
The wire gets hot, red hot maybe. It might even burn through if it is a small diameter (gauge). And The battery very soon goes dead. A direct short across a battery discharges its stored charge very soon.

You demonstrated current flow there. The rush of electrons through the (small) resistance of the wire generated heat. So you had voltage, current, and resistance all in play. This is Ohms Law, E=IR. Voltage (volts) equals current (amperes) times resistance (ohms). So if you have 1.5 volts, and a wire with a tenth of an ohm of resistance, you are drawing 15 amps. That’s a lot through a small wire.
I find electricity to be boring. I will not beat you over the head with it anymore. Just remember that without electricity, the magic smartphones and computers we love could not exist.

ANALOG & DIGITAL
Let’s discuss some aspects of digital information versus analog information. First, some definitions. Analog is constantly varying content. It is “real life” since all natural sounds and physical phenomena are analog: when a tree falls in the forest, the waves it generates in the air, whether they make a sound or not, are analog. They vary in amplitude and frequency to exactly reproduce the sound the tree made as it crashed its way through the underbrush and smashed into the ground.

Digital is always man-created. Digital electronics encompass the related areas of binary logic and math. That is what is important to us. Analog is dead, except as it relates to our sensory clusters. Digital is ones and zeroes, and it requires some dipping into numbering systems. Don’t worry, it will not hurt.

NUMBERING SYSTEMS
You already know decimal, it is what you use every day, the good old 'zero' through 'nine' digits. Binary only has two-steps, 'one' and 'zero'. This is useful in computers, which are very dumb. One and zero can represent on/off, open/closed, set/reset, and so on. This forms the basis for all computing. The very CPU I am using now to type this uses those simple yes/no, pass/fail kind of decisions to handle the work I am doing. It keeps up with my two finger typing and at the same time it keeps up with various housekeeping like monitoring the I/O ports and keeping the Time-Of-Day. The only advantage a computer has over a human is that the computer is so damn fast: it can easily do a million things while a human (me) is mumblescratching around looking for a key on a keyboard. Of course, computers can’t think for shit.

Binary is very inefficient. It takes seven bits of binary to represent one single character, say, “A”. The ASCII coding for “A” is 1000001. But because computers are so fast, this is not a drawback. In decimal 1000001 is 65, and in hexadecimal (which we will get to in a moment) it is 4116.

You will note the subscript “16” after the 41. That is one way to indicate that the number is hexadecimal, also called hex. Otherwise you could not tell it from decimal in a lot of cases. You can also put an “h” after the number.

The binary system on which all digital electronics is based uses powers-of-two, just like decimal uses powers-of-ten. So, the progression 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128, 256, 512, 1024, etc. So the character “A” mentioned above, binary 1000001, means that there is a “1” in the 1 weighted position, which is 2 to the first power, and a “1” in the 64 weighted position, 2 to the seventh power. Hexadecimal (and its older brother, octal), directly divides the binary into nibbles of 4 bits (or 3 for octal), in this case 41. Octal for the same binary number is 101. Hexadecimal and octal are more ‘efficient’ than decimal in computer work because they do not waste any numerical values. Hex uses the letters A,B,C,D,E, and F to represent the numbers 10 through 15, or 1010 through 1111 binary. Decimal, on the other hand, only has the digits 0 through 9.

Enough of these numbers. Let’s return to analog and digital.

ANALOG & DIGITAL, CONTINUED
If you look at the internal working of a running logic system using an oscilloscope, you see digital signal switching taking place. It is very quick, but luckily, for us, the same electronic advances that allowed the powerful CPU’s we have now also allowed much improved test equipment. No human can be expected to see what a CPU is doing, but the scope charts time vs. amplitude and puts it on a screen so you can see the microsecond and even nanosecond switching that is taking place. This is important because you need a scope to understand the process of converting analog to digital and then back to digital again. It lets you see what is happening.

When you want to convert, say, Frank Sinatra crooning (which is, being natural, all analog) into a nice clean digital form, you need something that takes an analog signal and converts it into a digital representation. This converted data is typically stored in the form of a table of values, with each entry describing one sample of the original signal amplitude. The position within the table indicates the time it occurred. As you might infer, the device used to convert these is called an “Analog-to-Digital” converter, or A/D, as it is usually written.

I could describe the workings or an A/D converter but it is already done. Google 'Analog to Digital' and go to the Wikipedia entry and you will find out all you want to know. I will wait here until you return.

Pretty complex huh? But it works. Just remember resolution and sampling rate. The wider and faster, the better, as far as end result. But you have to be practical. The faster and wider, the more space in memory the conversion requires. Most people would not want a song that lasted three minutes in real time but required 6 Gb of space on their hard drive.

The D/A process reverses the operation and changes your table of binary values back into a pseudo audio wave that can feed speakers or earphones and vibrate to produce sound.

This is the Meat of where I was getting. Sorry I had to shovel all that tech stuff into your maw. Audiophiles claim they can tell the difference between Frank’s original croon and the one that is converted to digital and then back to analog to get into your ear hole. They say it loses something. That is why they avoid digital music like CD’s, MP3s and such. They go with vinyl LP records or audiotape, which are never converted. I call bullshit on this.

It is true that no analog to digital to analog conversion will ever be an exact replica of the original; but I maintain that no human or dog ear can tell the difference at the high end of conversion. I wager that a blind taste test, where the audio expert is blindfolded and has their nose pinched off, would show that they cannot tell the difference between a bite of CD and a bite of vinyl record. Hahahahah. No, I mean a blind ear test.

I believe their claim is based on the unavoidable stair-step shape of the re-created analog. You can see this stair step with an oscilloscope. If you zoom in close enough with your scope, you will see teensy little steps between samples. But a human ear cannot detect steps this small.

I think what they miss is the noise, the hiss and clang that are unavoidable in analog signals. When you digitize, you clean up. So, you may get what they claim is Franks cracking instead of crooning. You lose the ‘oon’ and get the ‘ack’. And you may lose Frank scratching his ass and the trumpet player shuffling her feet. Maybe that is what they miss.

Or maybe they are just hipster snobs that always want to do things the contrary way, the Old Way.
"Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like"
                 Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan

Offline bri h

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2013, 07:50:16 PM »
Apart from the para before Analogue &Digital, which to be honest looked like the 'wordy' version of white noise to me, I found this very interesting, fascinating in places. Thanks. But I'm puzzled? Is this for an article on Electronics, you're planning to submit? B
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline The Dude Abides

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 06:41:15 AM »
Thanks. No, this is just a bit of fluff I have had on my computer for awhile. In the past I wrote bits about various aspects of digital electronics (boolean logic, logic elements, IC's, and so forth) for classes and such and am just looking for a place to put them. They are not anything new, other than the wonder of how fast electronics has changed.
"Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like"
                 Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan

Offline bri h

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 12:58:38 PM »
Well even though I didn't understand all of it, I did enjoy the bits I did understand. Cheers, Bri.
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline bowmore bill

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 03:28:07 PM »
I know a lot of electronics and sometimes it just come boiling out. I do not expect any comments, or even many readers. I just wanted to get this off my hard drive.

ELECTRONICS
A few thoughts on computers and the electronics that make them chug along. I spent forty-one years in the field, and probably had a total of three full years of classroom and lab training on various aspects of it during that time. This was not a liberal arts education: the first year and a half of class was provided by the Air Force, and they have no real interest in teaching you History or Art or English Lit. They want you to know electronics and you got six hours a day, five days a week, for a long, long time.

My later education came in the control systems business. I worked for a petroleum products pipeline for more than thirty years designing, building, installing, and maintaining high-end control systems. These SCADA systems allowed remote control of far-flung facilities from a central point.

I think (and I am biased) that my years in the digital electronics field were the golden years of electronics. I went from hardwired relay and vacuum tube computers to high-density programmable microprocessors in my career. It spanned memory from magnetic core memory stacks that had three tiny wires (an X select, Y select, and sense line) hand-threaded through each ferrite doughnut, providing perhaps 2k of memory, up to non-volatile RAM and DRAM chips that contained gigabytes in one chip. They were heady years for a designer. SSI, MSI, LSI, EEPROM, USART, the acronyms flowed from our tongues like water. We were the über nerds, the ones that held the magic of purpose-designed logic in our brains.

All things come to an end. By the time I left the profession, hardware was no longer a big factor in control systems. Software written using compilers for multiple processors had taken over. Hardware was generic, cookie stamped, with the vast increases in memory size and speed making any drawbacks irrelevant. So like Puff, I slipped into my cave. But that is a different story.

In the Beginning, there was electricity.

PLUS AND MINUS
Electronics is electricity mashed through various components. The simplest electrical circuit is a wire put across the terminals of a battery. You will find out two things in a hurry:
The wire gets hot, red hot maybe. It might even burn through if it is a small diameter (gauge). And The battery very soon goes dead. A direct short across a battery discharges its stored charge very soon.

You demonstrated current flow there. The rush of electrons through the (small) resistance of the wire generated heat. So you had voltage, current, and resistance all in play. This is Ohms Law, E=IR. Voltage (volts) equals current (amperes) times resistance (ohms). So if you have 1.5 volts, and a wire with a tenth of an ohm of resistance, you are drawing 15 amps. That’s a lot through a small wire.
I find electricity to be boring. I will not beat you over the head with it anymore. Just remember that without electricity, the magic smartphones and computers we love could not exist.

ANALOG & DIGITAL
Let’s discuss some aspects of digital information versus analog information. First, some definitions. Analog is constantly varying content. It is “real life” since all natural sounds and physical phenomena are analog: when a tree falls in the forest, the waves it generates in the air, whether they make a sound or not, are analog. They vary in amplitude and frequency to exactly reproduce the sound the tree made as it crashed its way through the underbrush and smashed into the ground.

Digital is always man-created. Digital electronics encompass the related areas of binary logic and math. That is what is important to us. Analog is dead, except as it relates to our sensory clusters. Digital is ones and zeroes, and it requires some dipping into numbering systems. Don’t worry, it will not hurt.

NUMBERING SYSTEMS
You already know decimal, it is what you use every day, the good old 'zero' through 'nine' digits. Binary only has two-steps, 'one' and 'zero'. This is useful in computers, which are very dumb. One and zero can represent on/off, open/closed, set/reset, and so on. This forms the basis for all computing. The very CPU I am using now to type this uses those simple yes/no, pass/fail kind of decisions to handle the work I am doing. It keeps up with my two finger typing and at the same time it keeps up with various housekeeping like monitoring the I/O ports and keeping the Time-Of-Day. The only advantage a computer has over a human is that the computer is so damn fast: it can easily do a million things while a human (me) is mumblescratching around looking for a key on a keyboard. Of course, computers can’t think for shit.

Binary is very inefficient. It takes seven bits of binary to represent one single character, say, “A”. The ASCII coding for “A” is 1000001. But because computers are so fast, this is not a drawback. In decimal 1000001 is 65, and in hexadecimal (which we will get to in a moment) it is 4116.

You will note the subscript “16” after the 41. That is one way to indicate that the number is hexadecimal, also called hex. Otherwise you could not tell it from decimal in a lot of cases. You can also put an “h” after the number.

The binary system on which all digital electronics is based uses powers-of-two, just like decimal uses powers-of-ten. So, the progression 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128, 256, 512, 1024, etc. So the character “A” mentioned above, binary 1000001, means that there is a “1” in the 1 weighted position, which is 2 to the first power, and a “1” in the 64 weighted position, 2 to the seventh power. Hexadecimal (and its older brother, octal), directly divides the binary into nibbles of 4 bits (or 3 for octal), in this case 41. Octal for the same binary number is 101. Hexadecimal and octal are more ‘efficient’ than decimal in computer work because they do not waste any numerical values. Hex uses the letters A,B,C,D,E, and F to represent the numbers 10 through 15, or 1010 through 1111 binary. Decimal, on the other hand, only has the digits 0 through 9.

Enough of these numbers. Let’s return to analog and digital.

ANALOG & DIGITAL, CONTINUED
If you look at the internal working of a running logic system using an oscilloscope, you see digital signal switching taking place. It is very quick, but luckily, for us, the same electronic advances that allowed the powerful CPU’s we have now also allowed much improved test equipment. No human can be expected to see what a CPU is doing, but the scope charts time vs. amplitude and puts it on a screen so you can see the microsecond and even nanosecond switching that is taking place. This is important because you need a scope to understand the process of converting analog to digital and then back to digital again. It lets you see what is happening.

When you want to convert, say, Frank Sinatra crooning (which is, being natural, all analog) into a nice clean digital form, you need something that takes an analog signal and converts it into a digital representation. This converted data is typically stored in the form of a table of values, with each entry describing one sample of the original signal amplitude. The position within the table indicates the time it occurred. As you might infer, the device used to convert these is called an “Analog-to-Digital” converter, or A/D, as it is usually written.

I could describe the workings or an A/D converter but it is already done. Google 'Analog to Digital' and go to the Wikipedia entry and you will find out all you want to know. I will wait here until you return.

Pretty complex huh? But it works. Just remember resolution and sampling rate. The wider and faster, the better, as far as end result. But you have to be practical. The faster and wider, the more space in memory the conversion requires. Most people would not want a song that lasted three minutes in real time but required 6 Gb of space on their hard drive.

The D/A process reverses the operation and changes your table of binary values back into a pseudo audio wave that can feed speakers or earphones and vibrate to produce sound.

This is the Meat of where I was getting. Sorry I had to shovel all that tech stuff into your maw. Audiophiles claim they can tell the difference between Frank’s original croon and the one that is converted to digital and then back to analog to get into your ear hole. They say it loses something. That is why they avoid digital music like CD’s, MP3s and such. They go with vinyl LP records or audiotape, which are never converted. I call bullshit on this.

It is true that no analog to digital to analog conversion will ever be an exact replica of the original; but I maintain that no human or dog ear can tell the difference at the high end of conversion. I wager that a blind taste test, where the audio expert is blindfolded and has their nose pinched off, would show that they cannot tell the difference between a bite of CD and a bite of vinyl record. Hahahahah. No, I mean a blind ear test.

I believe their claim is based on the unavoidable stair-step shape of the re-created analog. You can see this stair step with an oscilloscope. If you zoom in close enough with your scope, you will see teensy little steps between samples. But a human ear cannot detect steps this small.

I think what they miss is the noise, the hiss and clang that are unavoidable in analog signals. When you digitize, you clean up. So, you may get what they claim is Franks cracking instead of crooning. You lose the ‘oon’ and get the ‘ack’. And you may lose Frank scratching his ass and the trumpet player shuffling her feet. Maybe that is what they miss.

Or maybe they are just hipster snobs that always want to do things the contrary way, the Old Way.


Hi dude, his brought back a few memories, the collage where I worked reorganized the workforce, and introduced in house training. I went from being a store man in the computing and electrical dept to being a trainee in electronics, and had three years of it before I retired...An interesting read.

Offline The Dude Abides

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2013, 11:43:49 AM »
I have a thousand anecdotes about how computing has changed. I try not to abuse people by voicing them. I have found that most people's eyes start to cross and it becomes clear very shortly that they do not care a whit for the contrast between old and new.

Even my wife, who in all other ways appears to love me, gets the faraway look when I begin to tell her about how large in size and small in capacity old memory was. I am looking at a fingernail-size SDHC micro card that has 16Gb of RAM. Nothing of that capacity existed, no one could imagine ever needing more than 128K to do anything. We had a magnetic drum memory as big as a car tire for bulk storage. It held 256K.

Enough, enough, I am stopping now ...
"Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like"
                 Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan

Offline Gyppo

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2013, 11:57:47 AM »
I dare say this may make you feel a little nostalgic ;-)

Left click to enlarge.

« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 11:59:38 AM by Gyppo »
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Offline The Dude Abides

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 01:00:25 PM »
Hahahahah. You bet. Paper tape I/O. It was used on Teletype machines even before early computers.
"Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like"
                 Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan

Offline bri h

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2013, 04:26:33 PM »
Is this what the Yanks call 'Ticker-Tape, Gyp?
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline renewton27

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2013, 06:25:28 PM »
I still have a twin diskette Tandy Radio Shack that I fire up on holidays. IBM PC Junior still in my possession to remind how far and fast technology moves.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2013, 06:37:49 PM »
Is this what the Yanks call 'Ticker-Tape, Gyp?
You'll have to wait for an American to answer that one ;-).

All I know about that bit of tape is it came from The Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough, when my Uncle worked there.  It's probably from about or a bit before the mid sixties as he gave it to me to play with when I was still at Senior School.
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2013, 07:07:16 AM »
Ha I used to read that 5-level ticker tape. It was scrambled into 2a18jbs but I remember the binary system like I do morse code.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2013, 08:42:12 AM »
At the scrag end of WW2 Mum was working for the Department of Information and Statistics, using a Powers-Samas punchcard machine.  Early hi-tech and entirely mechanical, not an electron in sight.

Quite a culture jump for a girl who was working heavy horses doing timber haulage just a year or two earlier.

Mum says she was one of the faster operators in the office, and quite possibly the most accurate, but she drove the supervisor woman mad because - like some of us who have taught ourselves how to type - she didn't do it 'the approved way'.

"When I start making mistakes then you'll have cause to criticise the way I work."  (Mindless obedience has never really caught on  in our family.)

"That not the point, Miss G....  There's a proper way to do these things and it reduces the chances of human error."

"Then maybe I'm not human."

Gyppo
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

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Offline bri h

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Re: A Bit o' Electronics. It contains some mild expletives.
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2013, 03:08:11 PM »
That binary 'ticker-tape-thingy' was invented by the carpet weavers to control the patterns as they weaved. Didn't know if you knew so thought I'd tell ya's. I learned it on a programme but can't remember the name of it, or the presenter(who happens to be Mr Weasley off Harry Potter). Damned bad memory! B
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx