The computer accelerated my learning

At the same time, fortunately, we got a computer at home initially an old computer from one of my uncles and later my father purchased a new assemble millennium PC, that was the turning point in my life. As soon as the computer came in, I got really excited to explore what a computer is and what could be done with it. As any other child initially I was obsessed with games, I rem playing for hours without getting tired. I learned a lot of things, how to use MS-DOS, MS Word, PPT, Paint, Xls, even little bit of c programming, HTML programming. I have spent almost 13 hours a day during my school holidays (after 10th Std). Late night working on the computer was like my daily thing.

Now, I was also getting access to Electronics for You magazine and as the internet came in, I could also explore a few more things on the internet. I remember Netscape explorer and Yahoo search engines at that time.

Till the time I was in 12th, I had a mini electronics lab in the house. I was making PCB using FeCL3+ copper clad board at home, tracing tracks using a black permanent marker. The 1st circuit I made was AM transmitter using a transistor. I got the circuit from a magazine and I went to an electronics shop and bought all the component, made PCB and tested the board, after a few days of struggle I could make AM transmitter work. I have connected MIC as input and received the voice wirelesses over radio receiver set within few feet range. That was a great achievement for me.

This all increased my interest in electronics. I opted for the engineering entrance exam and got fair rank (~5000 All India rank and in Haryana it was ~3000). I was so much interested in electronics that I did not care about advice from most relatives and other people suggesting me to opt for computer science or information technology stream at that time those were booming.

This was the start of my passion. While doing engineering I was getting very depressed as I was unable to satisfy my curiosity. I was finding it very difficult to get answers to my queries like how transistor work, how a diode works, was trying hard to get the answers in books or magazines. Internet at that time was a real luxury and was not easily very accessible and was expensive.

I used to travel 3 hours one way to my college. It was painful to travel because of two reasons, 1, because I had to spend 100/- per day for the travel and I was not really learning anything practically useful in the college. All I was getting was, how to get marks, bookish knowledge. No one was teaching the practical aspects which I was most interested in.

While traveling one day in the Bus I came across on senior (Rajiv Kumar) who was also studying electronics. While talking I disclosed my interest in electronics and what kind of activities I do after college. We started meeting more often and were discussing some projects I was doing at home.

Looking at my interest in the electronics my uncle gave me one project (with funds). Here, I was required to make a circuitry which will act as an emergency alarming system. This need to be installed in 5 nearby houses and there will be a small seven segment display to show from which house call has come and an emergency switch, pressing which alarm will be raised in all other connected houses. It was quite a challenging project, after many sleepless nights I was able to complete the project. I did this whole project using digital ICs 🙂 at that time. I had no idea about MCUs. MCUs were yet to come to my life.

After the success of this project, I got really excited and I was wanted to do something so I can get some money, so I discussed with Rajiv if we can get some project from outside and can work as a freelancer. I remember at that time we got one project temperature controller (with the help of another friend, Krishan Thakur) from a company called Matman Plastics in Anand Parbat. We took that project for 12k rupees (we had no idea how to estimate). This project we used opamps as an amplifier, opamp as a comparator, 7107 DPM chip for temperature display & setting and a relay circuit. PCB design work we outsourced to some other person as we had no idea how to do. We struggled to get it done on time. This made me realize that I should also try to learn PCB designing so that I can be independent. We could not make the project work reliably as it was taking too much time as we were lacking the knowledge, experience and had no ideas who can support us in completing that although we tried reaching out to a few people. The project got over with a big disappointment and failure.

After a few days of being in sad mode, I searched on the internet and found Australian company Protel making PCB design software (Altium), I somehow got hold of Protel v2.7 and started learning by myself. I figured out that you can also learn things from the help section of the software and got some help from magazines and the internet. Internet was still a luxury that time and speed was still only 56Kbps :).

NEXT (how I started providing PCB Design services to various companies in Faridabad, Delhi as a freelancer)