Harry’s Blog

This is SRQ Technology’s “whatever I feel like” page – just for fun – things that don’t belong elsewhere. Technical, nontechnical, humorous, serious, personal – whatever. One rule – no politics!

My first interest is technology – electronics and other. I’ll be posting links to things I find interesting. Nontechnical? I’ll know when I see it. Maybe unusual but interesting stories. Maybe world news that the US media doesn’t much cover. You’ll probably see items about our adopted hometown, Sarasota, FL. Humorous? Warning – I love puns!

For serious stuff, explore our other pages to learn what SRQ Technology does. If you’d like to start learning basic electronics we have a page for that, too.

Enjoy!

Harry

The Huffy RadioBike

When I was a kid I saw an ad for a new bicycle with a built-in radio. What a dream! Like any other kid I dreamed of one, but it never happened. But – read on!

The Huffy RadioBike, made by Huffy Bicycle (Huffman Corporation) of Dayton, Ohio, came out in 1955. The radio was in the “gas tank” between the handlebars and the seat. It ran on three vacuum tubes and  turned on and off with a key – just like Dad’s car. AM only in those days.

Vacuum tubes needed high voltage & large batteries: you can see the power pack mounted above the rear wheel. Poor battery life –  and expensive. Transistor radios were brand new. An article I read said they came out about the same time but cost about $40, almost as much as the RadioBike. Remember, this was 1955, the same year the US minimum wage was increased to $1.00 per hour. Only about 8,500 were ever built. It was available for 2-3 years. I didn’t get either a RadioBike or a transistor radio!

Fast forward to 1978. I took an engineering job with Yellow Springs Instruments (now YSI). Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small village/college town about 20 miles (32 km) east of Dayton.

Imagine my surprise when I found a RadioBike tank on the marketing Vice President’s bookshelf, complete with a radio. YSI had made them for Huffy!

Here’s the circuit schematic drawn by Hardy Trolander, engineer, one of the founders and the first President of YSI. One of my favorite people.

PS: 50-plus years earlier Dayton was home to the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop. Huffman began in the late 1800s, so I’ll bet they knew each other.

References: Huffy Radiobike – American Vintage Bicycles (american-vintage-bicycles.com).

1955 Huffy Radiobike – The Online Bicycle Museum.

1955 Huffy Radiobike | www.Oldbike.eu (wordpress.com).

Chip Shortages

You’ve surely heard about the electronic chip shortage even if you’re not in the electronics industry. TV news tells us how auto production is being slowed because of delayed microcomputer chip deliveries.

I just read an article that says Apple is facing shortages and delays of radio frequency (RF) ICs (integrated circuits), and chips for brightness and color control and power management. Production of Macs and iPads is already being impacted, and they expect it to start slowing production of iPhones in the 4th quarter of 2021.

Well, it’s hit SRQ Technology, too. Not as directly – we don’t manufacture anything other than occasional prototypes, but we’re sometimes asked to help find alternative parts. Elsewhere on this site you’ll see examples of things we’ve designed for other companies. Sometimes these companies use Harry’s former company, JH Technology, for production. JH turns to us for help when they run into parts problems.

The latest – a simple, low-cost 8-bit Microchip PIC microcontroller. They needed only a handful for a short run but the chip was unavailable from several distributors. Deliveries were projected anywhere from October 2021 (I’m writing this in August) out to next year. The design uses an 8-pin surface mount (SOIC) industrial grade version; however, it was unavailable in other versions, too.

We searched for other 8-bit, 8-pin PIC microcontrollers. We found one, similar but not identical, with enough in stock at one distributor to meet the need. Unfortunately, the differences will require some reprogramming. JH bought some. Problem solved – maybe. We’re waiting to hear if their customer (our former client) wants to pay for reprogramming or will just wait until the part they need is available. A second IC also was short, but we found a substitute.

By the way, it’s not just ICs or chips. We in the industry have known for some time about capacitor shortages; especially ceramic multilayer chip capacitors (MLCCs). Simple, basic parts but one cell phone or one car can use hundreds. Resistors and other parts, too. The Covid-19 impact on shipping is part of the problem – they’re mostly produced in China and elsewhere overseas. This all is projected to continue well into 2022.

(Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash.com)

National Day of the Cowboy

We missed it! The National Day of the Cowboy. Did you know it exists?

It’s the fourth Saturday in July, declared officially every year by Congress and some states. An internet bluegrass show I was listening to dedicated a set of Cowboy songs to it, so I decided to look it up. Here’s the site: www.nationaldayofthecowboy.com.

It’s a nonprofit, apparently a largely volunteer organization. Here’s the mission statement from the web site:

The National Day of the Cowboy non-profit organization works to contribute to the preservation of America’s cowboy culture and pioneer heritage so that the history and culture which the National Day of the Cowboy bill honors, can be shared and perpetuated for the public good, through education, the arts, literature, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos, and other community activities.

They are looking for volunteers and, of course, donations.

I found it interesting that such an organization exists. I’ll keep this post short. If you’re interested, just visit their site. By the way, Arcadia, Florida (near Sarasota, where we are) runs several rodeos. www.arcadiarodeo.com.

(Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernandez on Unsplash.com)

How it all began – my Heathkit radio

As you can read at the top of the Basic Electronics page, I started fooling with electricity and reading about electronics in the 6th grade. Now, this was in the mid-1950s when transistors were brand new and not yet used in consumer products. I did read about crystal sets and thought I’d like to build one but somehow it never happened.

My first project? In the 8th grade, I think. I saved up my allowance and bought a 5 tube Heathkit AM table model radio. FM existed but was hardly heard of in those days.

Heath (they’re still around – Heathkit.com) gave excellent instructions, starting with how to solder and including info on the components, color codes etc. The assembly instructions were step-by-step, detailed and easy for an 8th grader to follow. Each step had a box to check when you were done. I carefully followed each step, checking it off.

The last step was, go back and double-check each step. Well – I just knew I had been so careful that there were no mistakes, so I plugged the radio in and turned it on. It made smoke!

I went back, checked each step and of course found several errors. The good new is, once I fixed them, it worked. It became my bedroom radio – used it for years. By the way, I didn’t have an actual soldering iron, but the iron in my woodburning craft kit worked just fine. Used that for years, too.

I wish I had a picture of the radio. I don’t – couldn’t find one on line, either. Here’s a picture of my first piece of test equipment, though, a late ‘50s VOM (volt-ohmmeter) from Lafayette Radio/Electronics. No ICs, transistors or even vacuum tubes! I still have it. As a kid I mail-ordered a lot from Lafayette. Here’s a Wikipedia article about them – they went out of business around 1981.