June 1955 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
This article from a 1955 issue of Popular Electronics magazine describes my evolution from electrician to electronics technician to electronics engineer. For that matter, it describes the paths many people I have worked with over the years have taken. My mentor at my first job as an RF engineer after graduating with a BSEE from the University of Vermont began as a technician in the Army, and then he went to school part-time while working a full-time job to earn his BSEE. In my next job as an RF engineer there were at least two guys I knew who had also taken that path. Although not by any means absolute criteria for judging an engineer's enthusiasm, I will say that at least as a distinct segment of RF engineering, those who are amateur radio operators and/or those who began life as a technician and then earned a BSEE tend, per my observations, to have a higher degree of appreciation for the job. I'm not saying they are by default better or smarter people, just more contented with the work. ...and yes, I do consider many "other than" engineers I have worked with to be far superior to me.
Planning to Be an Electronic Engineer?
By Forrest H. Frantz, Sr.
Physics Department, Mississippi State College
The quantity and variety of careers in electronics are tremendous. Industry is clamoring for men with suitable backgrounds in numerous specialized phases of electronics at various levels of ability and attainment. But the big cry, the big demand, is for men trained at the engineering and scientific level. Specialists are not as much in demand as men with a thorough basic background in mathematics, physics, and engineering.
If you are in high school now, in the armed services for a brief period, or under thirty years of age and able to go to college, consider seriously the possibility of getting into electronic engineering - that is, if your interests and talents tend to be in this direction. A few technicians, after years of experience, earn the status of engineer or scientist in industry, but most engineers enter the profession after securing a degree from an accredited college or university. The same is true of physicists and mathematicians.
To be ready for an engineering or scientific college education, there are several things that you can do now which will make the going easier in college, and enable you to get more out of your college courses. You should:
1) Become extremely proficient in mathematics.
2) Get a solid background in physics.
3) Become familiar with the practical aspects of electronics.
4) Learn how to use a slide rule.
This sounds like a big order, and for the most part, it is. However, when you consider that a large number of high school graduates cannot pass college entrance examinations, the need for this "large order" is apparent. Furthermore, anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of the students in basic college mathematics and physics courses fail or just barely pass. This indicates that a prospective college student would do well to prepare himself as best he can to meet the standards that have been set. The four points mentioned above are basic for pre-college preparation. Let's examine them more closely and see why they are important.
1) Become proficient in mathematics: To do this, you'll have to do more than work a few assigned problems. Work many, many problems. Use your high school trigonometry and algebra texts, and if you can work these problems with ease, try to find texts with slightly harder problems that present a greater challenge. Before you can really get into electronic work on the college level, you will have to complete courses in college algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and calculus. Then you'll be taking courses in differential equations, advanced calculus, and vector analysis along with your electronic courses. If you don't enjoy working with mathematics and can't use it with ease after high school courses, you would be better off not to enter college with electronic courses in mind. It is impossible for the author to find words that adequately describe the importance of mathematics to the engineer. The inability to cope with mathematics is the pitfall for most students who have difficulty with their basic physics courses. A deficiency in mathematical background becomes more serious in advanced science and electronic courses.
2) Get a solid background in physics. This is important because every phase of physics comes into play at some time or another in an electronic engineer's career. If you understand basic physics, then you will find it easier to understand your specialized electronic courses. Electricity is the basis of electronics; mechanics must be understood to understand fully electrostatics and electromagnetics; sound is essential for audio, acoustics, and vibration studies; light must be understood to learn the principles of television; and heat is important to the study of vacuum tubes, heating devices, and equipment design. Every phase of physics is important to an electronic engineer.
3) Become familiar with the practical aspects of your field: You may do this in numerous ways. Read technical periodicals and books on electronics. Build equipment either of the kit form or from construction articles in magazines. Seek the help and advice of persons already engaged in radio, television, and electronics. They'll be glad to help you get started. This is the kind of preparation that keeps your interest in electronics alive and will make your future study an interesting search instead of a tiresome walk in a strange land.
4) Learn to use the slide rule: The slide rule is as true, dear, and important to the engineer as the six-gun was to the legendary figures of the "Old West." As a matter of fact, most engineering students carry them fastened to their belts just as the Westerners of past years carried their guns. If you learn to use a slide rule now, you'll become acquainted with a life-long friend. If you can't get one and start to use it before you go to college, put it at the top of your list of things to get when you hit the campus.
As an electronic engineer, you'll receive a good salary, enjoy considerable prestige, and have the satisfying feeling of accomplishment in doing your work. It's a great future, and the future of electronics becomes greater every day. There are many problems to be solved and many new devices to be created. Some of them may be waiting for your particular approach.
Posted August 15, 2019