Friday, December 14, 2012

What Was My First Electronic Device?

On the Podcast Hypercritical on John Siracusa was answering questions from listeners and one was something like, What was your first electronic device that had a big influence on you?  I think the idea was to discover what maybe contributed to his interest in technology, computers, etc.

I wondered how I would answer this question myself.  I was a bit taken aback by the realization that when I was really young, we practically had no electronic devices in our house.  Of course we had a black and white TV.  Also, by brother had built a stereo hifi system and that had a huge impact on me.  It was a wonderful thing.  Stereo was new, and it was rather amazing at the time.  I still remember listening to one of his stereo demo records with trains and race cars zooming by.

We might have had a radio (I don't remember one from then) and that was probably it.  There was nothing else in the house that would have qualified as electronic.   (Hm, well my brother had his VOM meter).

But those were all tube-based devices.  I don't think there was a single transistor in the house.

At some point when I was a kid I received a transistor radio followed by several others.

Of course there were battery powered toys but I don't think any of them had anything more fancy than DC motors and some incandescent lights.  (LEDs were not on the market yet, at least for consumers).

The first electronic device I remember actually owning (other than the radios) was my first calculator, a Texas Instruments SR-51 (slide-rule with 51 functions).  That was when I was a senior in high school.  In high school physics and chemistry we used slide rules so having an electronic version with 10 digits of precision rather than three, was a wonderful thing!

Sadly the TI barely made it into my second year and was replaced with an HP-25 and then that was quickly traded for an HP-25C.

(Note:  That image is an SR-51-II, a later version of my SR-51.   I wasn't successful in finding an SR-51 image.)