Some Things Never Change

Some Things Never Change

| 5/31/2013 1:00:00 PM

It’s commencement season again. The grads will be listening to lofty, cliché-ridden speeches.  They’ll be told that the future belongs to them.  (Along with the national debt.)  They’ll be told to follow their passions.  (Perfectly reasonable advice, provided that your passion involves something that comes with a steady paycheck and a reliable automobile.)  And they’ll be told that their freshly minted diplomas have prepared them to step bravely out into the world and “start making a difference”.

old technologiesIf I were writing a commencement speech, I’d skip all that inspirational boilerplate and tell the grads a few things that they can actually use. For example, I would caution them that a diploma doesn’t prepare you for the future; it only provides you with a starting point. Twenty years ago a graduating commercial artist needed to know about airbrushing and press type; the same artist would now be working with Photoshop and InDesign.  A sound engineer who was a wizard with reel-to-reels and 3-track NAB cartridges would now be doing it all digitally.  Old industries and old technologies disappear; new industries and new technologies rise to replace them.   Modern adults don’t just change jobs in the course of their lifetimes; they can expect to change their careers as well.  The Luddites of the early Industrial Revolution became famous for resisting change by attacking and destroying the new machinery, but I think my eighth grade daughter has a healthier attitude.  She wrote, “Embrace uncertainty.  Have fun. Work hard. Enjoy life, be loud and never let uncertainty stop you.” 

Last year I wrote and spoke a lot about the intersection of the laws of Moore and Metcalf.  I pointed out that the changes won’t just keep on coming, but that the rate of change will inevitably accelerate.  We’ll all have to keep acquiring new skill sets and keep on adapting to new circumstances.  It will all be a bit disconcerting at times, but you can’t deny that this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive.

But even as uncertainty becomes the new norm, the laws of physics will remain the same.  No matter how much the world changes, your diploma will have been worth the money if it provided you with a firm grasp of the fundamentals.  Data networking via the cellular phone system may be a bit more sophisticated than tapping out Morse code on a clandestine radio in a WWII movie, but it’s still just radio.  Morse code or TCP/IP, radio is still subject to the same laws of nature. 

At B&B Electronics we can help you with the fundamentals.  A couple of weeks ago, for example, I presented a very well attended webcast on the fundamentals of wireless communications. It attracted a lot of interest and it produced a lot of great questions. You can find a recorded version of the webcast here.

Next month I’ll do another one on an evergreen topic: “How to Bulletproof Serial Communications”.  Like radio, wired communications will always have to obey the same old laws of physics, no matter how sophisticated the protocols and the gadgetry may become.  Problems like surges, spikes, ground loops, EMI, and signal attenuation will never go away.   I’ll discuss some solutions and the reasons that they work, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer some of your questions for you.

Mom's Drive-InWhat other topics would be useful to you? These short, “Lunch & Learn” webcasts are proving to be an effective way to help our subscribers expand their expertise and refresh the knowledge that came with their own diplomas, however new or old those diplomas may be. Let me know.

Leave a note with your technical topics, or your own commencement advice – love to hear from you.

And as for my own commencement advice, I’d add a few more details:  Change your oil religiously or you’ll be sorry.  Floss; or you may live to regret that, too.  And, to paraphrase Nelson Algren, never eat at a place called “Mom’s”, never play cards with a man named “Doc” and never, ever shoot pool with a man named after a city.

Happy Connections,
Mike Fahrion

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