In eighth grade I discovered electronics. A friend by the name of Chris Burnette introduced it to me. Chris wasn’t exactly a friend but he wasn’t as mean to me as some of the other boys who would bully me around. Chris liked electronics and to placate him, I asked him to tell me more about it.
I remember being impressed that he could read a schematic diagram and he taught me how to do that too. Before long, I found the perfect little book for a young man who wished to learn more about this subject. It was “Using Electronics: A Book of Things to Make” by Harry Zarchy. I’m excited that someone has put the book online for some of us to revisit.
As early as eighth grade, I learned about Ohm’s Law, how to read the resistor color code, basic circuits, and how to solder parts together.
One of the first circuits I learned about was the crystal radio–which I had built as a cub scout. It was a lot of fun and I used to listen to radio stations at night. It didn’t have much selectivity and I could hear two or three stations on top of each other.
Even today, I think this book is an amazing example of how books could and should be written for hobbyists and people who want to learn more. He wrote the book in such a way that the very mysterious became very understandable.
This early start would later lead to the joys of “Ham” Amateur Radio, and vocational electronics in high school. I became a disk jockey at a local radio station while in high school and paid a good part of my college education from this. I would later teach college level broadcasting courses. Even today, I teach a course called “Media, Faith, and Society” that is a descendent of this early eighth grade interest.
Who knows what my life might have been like if I had not tried to placate young Chris Burnette by learning more about electronics! I think Chris would be surprised at the difference this chance encounter made in my life. I never knew what became of him, so I’ll just have to give a shoutout to the universe and thank him for a wonderful start that worked out so very well for me.