It’s that word again

Jakarta 016

Jakarta Harbour 1995  (C) PJ Croft 2016

Ad for a laptop at Harvey Norman in yesterday’s paper:

“… and Lenovo’s iconic watch band hinge.”

An iconic hinge! Wow! Madness. The word has lost its meaning.

I’ve just heard a guy on the radio say, “Increasingly more and more.” Er, yeah.


Mind you, I find myself using too many exclamation marks. There’s a school of thought in good writing practice that exclamation marks should never be used. The words should convey the power without requiring added emphasis. I’m not sure I go that far. An exclamation mark can be useful to convey that very meaning: an exclamation.

I’m a regular reader of Silicon Chip, an Aussie electronics magazine of venerable standing, even an icon of Aussie magazine publishing.

But all their writers are addicted to using exclamation marks. They can hardly get through a paragraph without using at least one.

I’ve been thinking of sending an email: “Hi Mr Editor, I’ve noticed you used so many exclamation marks in the last issue that I thought you might be running low on supplies. Here, have some on me. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




If you need any more for the April issue, just drop me a line. I’ve got plenty over here!!”

This magazine is the sole survivor of the golden age of electronics hobbyist magazines from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The original was Radio, TV and Hobbies which started in the 1940s, I think (as Radio and Hobbies – there was no TV then). It was one of the earliest magazines of its type in the world.

I started reading it when I was 12 or 13 in 1960. I’m very grateful that Dad bought it for me, as it set me on my course for life.

It changed its name to Electronics Australia at about that time, to reflect the widening field of electronics. Just how wide the field was to become we never imagined back then.

In about 1970, when I’d been working at Channel 7 for a couple of years, I wrote a letter (yes, a real paper handwritten letter in an envelope; there was no email or word processors then) to the editor, saying that Electronics Australia was the only magazine I could think of that didn’t have a Letters to the Editor section. Lo and behold, in the next month’s issue, there was a new section – Letters to the Editor. Did they print mine? No. But I claim the credit for starting it.

The electronics field started to grow in the 1970s as first transistors and later integrated circuits became freely available at really cheap prices. New magazines started up in competition with Electronics Australia as its editor, Neville Williams, was a very, very conservative man who resisted change. Eventually a split among the staff occurred and the new magazine, Silicon Chip was started by a former EA writer. It’s the sole surviving magazine today. Ironically, the man who left to start SC, Leo Simpson, eventually bought out the Electronics Australia title and assets when EA went under.

Another magazine, Electronics Today International, started up in Sydney in the mid to late 1970s and was much more dynamic and adventurous in its designs. ETI, as it became known, grew to be one of the best electronics magazines in the world and had a few offshoots for other countries.

Another magazine, Australian Electronics monthly, AEM, started in the early 1980s and lasted a good few years. It was aimed at a younger audience.

So at one stage, Australia supported four electronics hobbyist magazines. As well, we had the venerable UK magazine Wireless World which had been going since the 1920s, I think. It had a typical British stiffness about it, although the articles and designs were of very high quality. It clung on until the 2000s as Electronics and Wireless World but we don’t see it here now.

Out of all these magazines, the only survivor is Silicon Chip. We techs find this hard to understand as it’s never been easier or cheaper to build electronic equipment from a plethora of fantastic designs. Getting the components was a real struggle in the 70s and 80s, but now it couldn’t be easier. Altronics started in Perth in the 1970s and has grown to operate Australia-wide. Dick Smith started as a hobbyist shop selling electonics components and kits, before it was bought by Woolworths and turned into a toy shop.

Jaycar grew out of the work of a disillusioned former Dick Smith executive and is a fantastic shop Australia wide.

My point is, it’s fantastically easy now to design and build high quality, high performance electronics projects at really low cost. But all the magazines have died save one, and you don’t see many young guys in these parts shops. (You don’t see any women, not looking for electronics components or kits, anyway. Pink toys, maybe.)

What a pity. Yes, some young people do build stuff, but it seems tablets, games, drones and TV rule the scene these days. Computer studies means being able to use Word and Excel, not understanding the actual electronics that make up computers. Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, India and China are streaking ahead of us. They know they have to study the hard stuff.


Dieng hot springs 387B

Dieng hot springs, Java 1989  (C) PJ Croft 2016