Author Topic: How did you survive prior to the internet making information easy to find?  (Read 5432 times)

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Offline e100

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I'm about to start an ESP32 project and today I saw someone on a forum mention that the GPIO pin toggle speed was way slower than the clock speed would suggest. I checked the ESP32 sitting on my desk and two minutes later I was looking at this post https://www.esp32.com/viewtopic.php?t=1595 which confirmed the behavior.

So how did you find out about this kind of stuff prior to internet making information searchable?


 

Offline pcprogrammer

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Don't forget about datasheets that you could request from suppliers and electronics fairs to look around for new technology.

Or libraries with books for that matter or the popular electronics magazines.

Offline RoGeorge

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At first, we survived with printed on paper info:  books, databooks (a book of datasheets), magazines.

I remember the whole floor used to be filled with all kinds of books and magazines, all opened at a given page or article that was related to whatever project was happening at the moment.  It was the equivalent of a web browsers with many open tabs.  ;D

That was not very efficient, so we invented the Internet.  :P
« Last Edit: June 19, 2022, 08:09:15 am by RoGeorge »
 
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Offline pcprogrammer

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I remember the whole floor used to be filled with all kinds of books and magazines, all opened at a given page or article that was related to whatever project was happening at the moment.  It was the equivalent of a web browsers with many open tabs.  ;D

That was not very efficient, so we invented the Internet.  :P

And a multiple monitor setup, so you can spread out the pages on your screens instead of having to swap between tabs :palm:

Offline tggzzz

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Well before the internet was popular there were electronic bulletin board systems, or USENET / gopher if you did have internet access at work / school / whatever before the "web" was popular.

And of course "user groups", "clubs", "groups", etc. with people doing similar projects where one could ask.

That all came decades later.

Magazines, a few datasheets and application notes from companies sent by snailmail, books and textbooks, and in corporate settings "videos" on 16mm film.

With such little information available, the key skill was to repeatedly re-read anything you could get your hands on, in order to glean as much data as possible. That was valuable, since it encouraged thinking, and understanding of causes and consequences.

Today the opposite skill is required: rapidly determining what to ignore. There's vast amounts of superficial and inaccurate dross in people's blogs and yootoob vids.

Most videos are a waste of time: mere talking heads (much slower than reading), there are too many ums and ahs and you knows, and too much "I unboxed it plugged it in and it worked therefore it is good look at me and give me advertising revenue".

Go back and look at some of the corporate videos from before the 80s. They tend to be notably concise and information dense: they were carefully planned because creation, manufacturing, distribution and viewing were difficult. A good example is the Pace "Basic Soldering Lessons 1 - 9" videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL926EC0F1F93C1837
« Last Edit: June 19, 2022, 09:08:13 am by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
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Offline SeanB

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Still got a good chunk of Motorola databooks, amongst others, that I got from a local supplier, as they got new ones, and I got the old ones free. Same for National databooks, and they came in useful over the years, having obscure semiconductors in them that were obsolete, and nothing known these days about them. Then the poorly printed transistor, diode and IC shortform data books that held shortform info about 15000 transistors, so you could look up what that part that failed was, and what was a substitute that likely would work in place of it, that you could get locally.

When you sent off for a catalogue from the UK, and would actually get it, then go get that international bank draft to post to them, then the 3 month wait for the delivery. Yes I ordered from Maplin UK, to South Africa, and still havce the chime clock I bought as movement and chime IC from them, still working 30 years later on. Did however this week upgrade the power supply for the chime, it eats AA batteries, so in went a 10Ah lithium pouch cell from a power bank with junk connections that never worked, along with a battery management board, and the lowest power 3V3 regulator I could find. Should only need charging next year, a much better proposition than AA cells that last 3 months. Clock itself goes 2 years on a single AA cell, no worry there, and making a battery eliminator for it is a pain, as you need to get a very precise 1V3-1V4 to get timekeeping into the sweet spot for accuracy long term.
 
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Offline HighVoltage

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Databooks were the best in those days.
And the suppliers had outside reps with knowledge.
There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who can count and those who can not.
 
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Offline AndyBeez

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How did we manage beford Sir Tim put the ht into the tp? We "pulled the drawings". An expression I guess that goes back to when engineering drawings lived in 6x4ft drawer racks(?). Or we "checked the specs."

It was normal for engineers to spend hours in the technical library department searching for some coefficient in some material of some part that had a non standard tolerance. It was a case of, if you did not know how to find out then, you found out, how to find out. Now, we just "click on the PDF".

Today I fixed my long used and abused orbital sander. The yellowed 1980s instruction manual which clearly stipulates no user servicable parts inside, has an exploded diagram and parts list! Although the telephone helpline number might be 3 decades dead, no internet connection was necessary to figure out what to do.

The availability of datasheets online is a HUGE leap forwards. No need to order poor quality photocopies from RS or Maplin, at 25 pence a page. This said, there is a new generation that has no idea how lucky they are. And they still have NO idea how to use this hypertext internet thing. Seriously kids, Google for it and then RTFM.pdf
 

Offline tggzzz

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How did we manage beford Sir Tim put the ht into the tp? We "pulled the drawings". An expression I guess that goes back to when engineering drawings lived in 6x4ft drawer racks(?). Or we "checked the specs."

Or, usenet, or in a few cases, used FTP.

FTP still works in browsers, but it will soon be removed :(

Usenet is almost, but not quite, dead.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 
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Offline AndyBeez

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Or, usenet, or in a few cases, used FTP.
FTP still works in browsers, but it will soon be removed :(
Usenet is almost, but not quite, dead.
Real old skool stuff. Newsgroups, Archie, Gopher and Finger. Using Kermit over a blistering Kbps business grade connection to FTP from a BBS. Happy days.
 

Offline tggzzz

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Or, usenet, or in a few cases, used FTP.
FTP still works in browsers, but it will soon be removed :(
Usenet is almost, but not quite, dead.
Real old skool stuff. Newsgroups, Archie, Gopher and Finger. Using Kermit over a blistering Kbps business grade connection to FTP from a BBS. Happy days.

Old skool is before the internet existed, and before the Altair 8080 existed. Others will debate those specific events, of course.

Examples:
https://entertaininghacks.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/a-40-year-old-hack-disinterred/ which is nearer to 50 years now
https://entertaininghacks.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/vintage-hacking-or-the-past-is-a-foreign-country-they-do-things-differently-there/ Makes me wonder why we ever had enough patience to build anything. The lack of distractions probably helped. No doubt in 50 years time my kids will be saying something similar about biohacking
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 

Offline Bud

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What do you mean by "survived" ? We thrived, not survived, there was plenty of books and magazines and old electronics to dismantle and use parts from. It was Much more exciting time in terms of speed of development, nothing close as it is now. And we had real grey beard mentors, not that youtybe shit where everyone is an expert.
Facebook-free life and Rigol-free shack.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Yup, that was mostly magazines, datasheets and books. Then depending on the exact period, you would have probably experienced slightly different things.

I personally never had access to BBS when I grew up. I started getting interested in electronics pretty early on, and so that was magazines, books, starting with kits, and datasheets when I could get ahold of them. Sometimes that meant writing to manufacturers asking for some datasheets, and if you were lucky, they would send you some. (I was still a kid/teen at this point, so that needed to pull off some trickery.)

Then at uni we had access to Internet (but there wasn't nearly as much information as there is now, the web was just merely starting, so that was mostly access to some FTPs, newsgroups, and IRC.) And when I graduated, Internet started to become accessible for private persons so I got a personal access about when I started working. So in my case, the pre-Internet era was mostly when I was learning electronics as a hobby as a kid and teenager.

Yes, these days, getting information has become so easy. As others have said, I'm not sure younger people realize how easy they have it now.
I think having to put more effort to do anything was giving us a better sense of reward when we managed to be successful.
 

Offline jonpaul

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it took me decades....5 yrs college 3 yrs grad school, reading books, magazines and  learning on the job.

  HARD WORK!

j

Jean-Paul (EE 1968, the Internet Dinosaur)
 
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Offline emece67

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« Last Edit: August 19, 2022, 05:59:12 pm by emece67 »
 

Offline pcprogrammer

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What do you mean by "survived" ? We thrived, not survived, there was plenty of books and magazines and old electronics to dismantle and use parts from. It was Much more exciting time in terms of speed of development, nothing close as it is now. And we had real grey beard mentors, not that youtybe shit where everyone is an expert.

That is what a lot of us are here on EEVBlog, grey beard mentors, except for the beard which I don't have once a week :-DD It is somewhat grey though at the end of the week.

And on youtube well I guess you are using irony, cause lets face it there is a lot of crap on youtube and the makers don't give a toss as long as it makes money :palm:
« Last Edit: June 19, 2022, 07:26:29 pm by pcprogrammer »
 

Offline rsjsouza

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Well before the internet was popular there were electronic bulletin board systems, or USENET / gopher if you did have internet access at work / school / whatever before the "web" was popular.

And of course "user groups", "clubs", "groups", etc. with people doing similar projects where one could ask.

That all came decades later.

Magazines, a few datasheets and application notes from companies sent by snailmail, books and textbooks, and in corporate settings "videos" on 16mm film.

With such little information available, the key skill was to repeatedly re-read anything you could get your hands on, in order to glean as much data as possible. That was valuable, since it encouraged thinking, and understanding of causes and consequences.
Exactly this. People actually read the documentation instead of trying to get the quick fix for their problem. This fostered an environment of contemplation of a problem and actual discussions that led to a lot of knowledge passing among people.

Part of my work is to create documentation for specific products and it amazes me how little people read these days, even with the help of easy reading fonts, hyperlinks to glossary, other relevant topics, graphics, photos, etc.

Vbe - vídeo blog eletrônico http://videos.vbeletronico.com

Oh, the "whys" of the datasheets... The information is there not to be an axiomatic truth, but instead each speck of data must be slowly inhaled while carefully performing a deep search inside oneself to find the true metaphysical sense...
 

Offline AndyBeez

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...
Exactly this. People actually read the documentation instead of trying to get the quick fix for their problem. This fostered an environment of contemplation of a problem and actual discussions that led to a lot of knowledge passing among people.

Part of my work is to create documentation for specific products and it amazes me how little people read these days, even with the help of easy reading fonts, hyperlinks to glossary, other relevant topics, graphics, photos, etc.
Agree 100%.

When the WWW was in it's infancy, I had a library of Wrox Press computer books which, I had to read cover to cover as, there was no 'Gandalf' teaching us the quirks of the LAMP haystack. Everyone had to figure it out the hard way. Thankfully, there were goaty beards creating detailed examples. In software development, I've heard people bleat that things are "too difficult". Obviously searching Google is not for stupid lazy persons.

Before we became the pixelation nation, I read quite a few Wireless Worlds, Practical Electronics and ETIs. They are a facinating read even today, especially the adverts for hardware that's now vintage. Looking back from 2060, kids of today will have no such joy. Unless printed out, their digital world will have evaporated faster than you can say zip drive.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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The "quick fix" attitude can also be seen in software using debuggers.
Back then, unless you had access to expensive tools, you just couldn't fire up a debugger, set up a few breakpoints and step away. You actually had to observe behavior, analyze the code and deduce what could be wrong, and proceed methodically from there. That may have taken a little longer at first, but would maximize the chances that you would actually *understand* the root of the problem instead of just adding a quick patch and move on until the bug reared its ugly head again in some other form.
 
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Offline westfw

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It helped a lot that devices were simpler back then...

Quote
you just couldn't fire up a debugger, set up a few breakpoints and step away

I dunno.  8080 has breakpoint and single-step capabilities, along with many of the other micro, mini, and mainframe computers back through the 70s.

OTOH, there were those IBM Mainframe Dump Files.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2022, 09:25:20 pm by westfw »
 

Offline jonpaul

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"simpler devices"

See the 1942 unbreakable speech scrambler SIGSALY, my IEEE SPECTRUM article

72 ADC, 384 thyratrons, 30 kw power staffing 15 techniciens....

Jon
Jean-Paul (EE 1968, the Internet Dinosaur)
 
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Offline RJHayward

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My recollection, circa 1988, we sat / stood around one screen or another, to debug some game machine code, and there, way over in corner, some client had running;
A MODEM running dial-up mode, at 4800 baud.  Most of us (Engineers) had little idea, of that 'outside world'.  An almost complete disconnect, between that remote connecting thing, and OUR devices right there, running at 'blistering' multiple Mhz, (like 2.2 Mhz).
 

Offline brucehoult

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I'm only 60, so I really don't remember a time before internet, at least in my working life.

Before university was just terrible. I grew up on a dairy farm half an hour outside a small city of maybe 30,000. I read everything the city library had about electronics and computers but most of it was from the 1950s and 1960s and there wasn't much (this is in the late 70s), especially about programming.

The best resource I could find was magazines: Electronics Australia and Electronics Today International (also out of Australia). Wireless World (UK) or BYTE (USA) were also sometimes available on newsstands, but were very expensive.

These magazines were sometimes publishing things such as designs for a board using a SC/MP or 2650 microprocessors (which were both pretty horrid) and such articles included some assembly language program listings. 6502 wasn't really on the radar yet, though it was starting to appear in commercial machines (Apple, Pet).  The US magazines were more about very expensive S100 machines using 8080 and then z80.

One of the teachers at my high school had been working for a computer company overseas before becoming (returning?) to teaching. He started an electronics club in the school. He had thick books of datasheets for things like TTL from TI. I made a few small things using 7400-series and 555s and 741 op-amps. We were probably very lucky to have this.

When I went to university I deliberately chose a smaller university that had interactive computing available using PDP-11s and terminals (and a VAX on order). The larger universities had B6700 mainframes that could be accessed (at least by students) only via submitting decks of punched cards.

Apart from writing my own projects on the DEC machines (far in excess of what we were taught in class .. e.g. in my first month at university I got tired of the line editor on the PDP 11/34 and wrote my own full-screen editor ... at the start of 2nd year we were writing assembly language for Rockwell AIM65 6502 boards but we only had access to the lab a few hours a week ... so in an evening I wrote a 6502 emulator on the VAX) ... the main useful thing about university was the library, and specifically the basement full of things such as CACM and Sigplan. I spent days every week in that basement reading all the historical (and current) issues.

Internet still didn't exit then (1981-1984), at least in New Zealand.

In 1985 I got a job as the only in-house programmer in a stockbroking company. They had a DG MV10000 supermini that was mostly running standard commercial software. The lack of access to information after leaving university (and going to a different city) was just awful. I quickly made some contacts at the local university who could help by borrowing or photocopying articles or books for me.

AND THEN!!!  In 1986 BYTE Magazine announced they were starting a BBS service, and it would be accessible via X.25. My employer already had a PC with a modem and an account for X.25 (via X.28 dial-in to a PAD) in order to access library and some commercial financial data resources. I persuaded them it would be worth while me also using that to access BIX. (and it really was)

Then in 1989 a local Wellington BBS system got a connection to internet. At first it was just uucp so was basically internet email and usenet, but that was huge. You could also do things such as ftp files via email. Within a year they got full time connection, so I could also use them to telnet to BIX (saving many hundreds of dollars a month -- sometimes thousands, I think -- instead of using X.25)

In the late 80s I think BIX was a better resource than internet, as internet was mostly academics, while BIX had people working in industry, and as also used as a support forum by various companies, ranging from for example Rich Siegel from THINK/Symantec, to Bjarne Stroustrup at AT&T and Greg Comeau of Comeau Computing (first commercial vendor of C++ cfront) when I was using Apple cfront-based MPW C++. Also Walter Bright of Zortech (first native C++ compiler, later developed the D language). And lots of others, in many fields.

As the 90s rolled on and more people and companies got on internet BIX faded away.

But basically, I've had electronic access to internet or something like it for so far 36 of my 37 years working.
 
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Offline betocool

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I got private internet access during my 2nd year at Uni, but I've had Internet at Uni one year prior, not that I used it much. I didn't really get into C or programming until much later.

I did use a lot of the Internet in 2002 for my thesis, working on a Xilinx Dev Kit. The Digital Systems Head of Department had a kit and didn't really know what to do with it, so he gave it to me and says "Tell me what it can do and how, make something flashy". I would have been utterly lost without Internet.

Ever since then, my work experience has been with available information online, and while there is TONS of crap out there, most of the time someone has already had the same problem. Usually it's a very specific thing within a bigger scope, which is what you're trying to solve. And sometimes you find a few jewels where the information is laid out beautifully and support by the community is there. Fortunately, I find the amount of information has also gotten better.

I do remember working on a TI DSP in 2002, and at the time the lab had the complete datasheet as a book. It came with the dev kit when bought as an educational package. Never seen that since.

Hats off to all the pre-Internet engineers man, I cannot imagine how that would have been, I confess I'd be utterly lost.

Cheers,

Alberto
 

Offline pcprogrammer

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I cannot imagine how that would have been, I confess I'd be utterly lost.

You did not know any better and used the tools you had at hand. Over time a new tool came available and that was the internet, and indeed it is very handy, but also requires new skills. These are needed to filter what information is available. What is real and what is fake, what is useful and what is not, etc. some can't tell the difference. :palm:


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