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    EEVblog #1040 – Caesium Beam Frequency Standards

    A look at the Caesium beam time and frequency standards at the Keysight standards lab ...

    • John W.

      I’m not quite as educated, so I have to tell people “Electronics Engineering Technician”, or possible in the near future, “Broadcast technician”, but I imagine I might get blank stares and the like.

    • Robert

      I like “Umm, I Design Computers”! 😀

    • Radio Randy

      I tell people I’m a “ham radio” operator which usually elicits the response “oh, you mean CB?”.


    • Horzza

      I always loved overhearing people doing psychology at uni gloating that they do “Astro physics” to get the response “Wow sounds hard!”

    • Hobgoblin

      One analogy that I like to use to explain the difference between an Elec Eng and a Electronics Technician is that the engineer is more like an architect, where as a technician is more like a tradie; one is more on the design side of things, whereas the other is more on the construction/maintenance side of things (although one usually does have some knowledge of how the other operates).

      The above is a bit crude as far as analogies go, but it gives people a close enough idea to what Elec. Engineers do.

      By the was that camera mount does look rather snazzy.

    • The camera mount sucks! However you mounted the camera last time made for much better (bounce free) footage. Go back to the duct tape please.

    • Sam

      Funny thing is, being a Software Engineer myself, I get similar questions. “Oh, my computer is broken, it does such and such, what’s wrong with it?”. For starters, I write programs, not fix computer issues (even if I kind of know what I’m doing there), but even so, I’d need to be at the computer to actually work out what’s going wrong, which I usually tell them. It’s here they usually ask me to, and my normal response is something along the lines of “You can’t afford my rate”. That usually shuts them up quickly in a humorous way.

      • Lance

        I feel your pain. “Can you work on my computer/cctv/phone/etc?” has been coming up a lot these days. I’ll have to try out your method.

    • charlie

      Just say “very expensive” in front of any job name, or that you’re hired to blow things up.

    • I tell people I’m studying Computer Science, they say “Oh, so you fix computers?”


    • Julio Cesar

      No, I don’t repair blenders!!!

      Same thing in my country, It is quite difficult to explain what Engineers do.

      Another good video David 😀

    • It is interesting that all over the world people from our occupation have the same problems. 🙂
      Great post, David. Continue with the good work.

    • I’m an IT teacher in a secondary school. The common misconception I get is that I must also logically be an IT technician who can fix the school’s computers. After all, to be able to “teach computers” you need to know how they work, right?

      The thing is, I can… I used to be a software engineer, and I used to be an IT technician in previous work so I can do all that stuff too.

      Only, it’s not my job, we have IT technicians in school to do all that stuff. I don’t want to do their job for them, and anyway I don’t have administrator privileges on the network to fix their problems even if I tried.

      Try telling that to a stressed English teacher who can’t make her laptop play DVDs on the projector 😉

    • Tim

      I’m a Test System Engineer and I loath the small talk in social situations with the usual ice breaker ‘what do I do’.
      I usually try my best to explain what I do but after their eyes glaze over I eventually revert to ‘I work with computers’ which is followed by the inevitable ‘can you fix mine’.

      Maybe you can do a blog on including testability in design.
      Test is usually the last thing on the designers mind until just before going into production then its ‘testing what testing! my design will work perfectly!’
      It would make my life a lot easier. 😉

    • Tom

      Hi Dave,

      I like to listen to podcasts in my car and radio obviously doesn’t play video files. Can you also make the audio file availible as MP3 or OGG? Right now I convert these drivetime blogs myselft, but there might be some other people who like the idea 🙂

      My radio has an SD-card slot so I can easily download audio files and play them.



    • jon

      All throughout my years at Uni people I met would ask me what studied. I’d reply with “Electronic Engineering”. Then I would get, almost without fail, an instantly uninterested “oh”.

      Now at work I have to explain to people what the difference is between Electronic and Electrical Engineering on a regular basis.

      • Dan

        Want to tell one more person? I was planning on doing electrical engineering. I’m only 16, and I get all these same questions. When asked what do I do in my spare time, I tell them about microcontrollers or other digital circuits, and they show me their broken VCR. I usually say I can’t fix it, you should get a new one and give me the old one for parts. 🙂

    • Neil

      I would disagree with your assertion of Rule one of fault finding.

      Surely rule one is “did the id10t plug it in?”


    • Daniel

      Oh, I made the same experiences 🙂

      Great rant!

      Ah, and before I forget it:
      Dave, can you fix my computer? 😉


    • george graves

      I just tell people I’m a porn star. Works like a charm.



      • Can you fix my wife? She has a headache 🙂

    • Newton

      Well… Design is the only thing left for me anyway…
      My 5 year old son is the one the fix things around the house and beats the crap out of me in PS3 games 🙂

    • James

      There seems to be a lack of understanding of levels of expertise and responsibility of the technical professions amongst the general public.

      The Architect and brickie analogy is a good one. Would they get a consultant doctor mixed up with a nurse? A lawyer with a clerk? I think not. Same industry, but quite different roles. Why so in engineering?!

      In Germany, it’s illegal to call yourself an Engineer if you’re a technician or tradesman.

      Here in the UK, we get heating “engineers” (plumbers) and automotive “engineers” (car mechanics).


      I think the other problem is that often people have no idea that products are created; they know that they are made in factories, but have no concept of “design” outside the scope of the creative industries such as fashion and graphics. Since engineering is technical, it can’t possibly be creative…!


    • edward

      I always use the home construction analogy since most people understand the various roles there (eg, architect, general contractor, trademan, etc).

      In mixed company of lamen, I tell people Im an electronics architect. It works.

      They understand that an architect does not actually build it or fix it, but they are the creative element, and it garnishes the respect I think it deserves.

    • Lionel

      I’ve been through this a million times at parties & pubs, & I have some standard answers that work well for me:

      Q: What does an electronics designer do?
      A: I design electronic devices, eg; phones, security systems, computers, & so on.

      Q: Wanna fix my TV (etc)?
      A: You can’t afford me.
      Q: No really?
      A: Do you think your TV is worth $200/hour for 4-8 hours?

    • Tony J

      I love this subject. I’m not actually an EE, but rather a Computer Engineer by degree (not to be confused with Computer Science).

      Been doing ASIC design my whole career. My response at the gatherings:
      “I design custom chips. You know, like BBQ, Sour Cream and Onion. The guy that did salt and vinegar doesn’t work for us anymore.”

      If they’re really interested they’ll dig a little. So then I tell the average layperson
      “I design custom ICs….computer chips.”

      Immediate response:
      “Oh, so you work for Intel?”

      Yet another *facepalm*

      I did my 9 months in Folsom thank you very much. (A little Johnny Cash reference there).

      Just found the blog couple weeks ago. Been doing catchup on the episodes. Keep it up Dave!!

    • Tom

      My standard reply is one of two things, depending on whether I’m doing more hardware or software development that particular week.

      1) “I push electrons through wires.” (usually ends the questioning of any layperson, and piques the interest of anyone smart enough to know what an electron is.)

      — or —

      2) “I push ones and zeros around inside computers.” (shows I work with computers, but usually prevents anyone from asking me to fix one)

      I have also used:
      “I’m an inventor.”
      “I design cruise missiles.”
      “I manage the chaos where I work.”
      “I design equipment that isn’t as non-linear as my ex-wife.” (really makes people think)
      “I’m one of those guys in the Engineering Dept. that makes sure the Sales Dept. actually has something REAL to sell.”

      I really like your analogy of architect vs. brick layer. I also like several of the responses that others gave here, such as “electronics architect”. Maybe I’ll try “Porn Star” as a response sometime and see what sort of look I get. LOL

      Keep up the great work. Your blogs are pretty interesting!

    • Sean

      Heh, lifetime tech here, no matter what I get into, I end up troubleshooting and fixing it. The thrill of the hunt and all that keeps drawing me back, I guess. Though I dabble in electronics design and glue programming, I prefer to leave most of that to the experts.

      Now, how to fend off all the people who instantly think I work for free after hours… though in one instance baked goods were an acceptable trade…

    • lee

      i like to say “robot doctor” and then go on about how fulfilling it is to save robots lives, and the feeling you get when robots you had helped come back and thank you, and how its just your job…

    • Daud

      Hey Dave,

      Since you have to rotate the display 180 degrees in the post-edit do deal with the upside-down window mount for the videocam, I have a request:

      Could you also please flip it left-to-right to make it look like you’re not driving on the left side of the road? 😉


    • bob

      I used to work in a electronic repair shop and we hired some retired aero space engineers to come work with us.

      Engineers have a different thought process than us repair techs. It was fun working with them but they often wanted to redesign things.

    • Roddy

      How did you make up that song?
      The song was already there and that was my creative interpertation of it.
      Can you fix my stereo since you are a musical genius?

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