True Story No37


Some Inspection Lamp !

Earnest discussion between the Engineering Development Manager and fledgling engineers at a well known company in Germany that makes equipment for professional people.

"Things are a bit slack at the moment lads
Can anyone think of something we can get our teeth into".

Glum silence follows.

"What's in the forward order book", Henrik chimes up.

"Nothing much", says the boss.
"We've got an enquiry from someone about a desk lamp".

"What for exactly..
Couldn't they go to the Kaufmarkt and get one for a few marks ?"

"Well I suppose it's got to look good, it's for a chap that sells spectacles".

"The last pair of glasses I bought cost a small fortune", says Wolfgang.

"I suppose he's willing to pay a little more from us because he'll get our name on the side and it'll look impressive to the customers".

"Do you think his customers will have heard of us?" asks Ernst.

No-one answers.

"Maybe we could fit a control on the side of the lamp so he can change the brightness?" suggests Ernst.

"You mean a sort of rheostat?" asks Henrik.

"Well I suppose we could use a transistor or two", says the boss, beginning to sound a little less bored,
"That'll make it more interesting, and we could even use a printed circuit board".

"That'll keep the Drawing Office busy for an hour or two", Henrik chimes up.

"Righto Henrik, old chap..
You've got the idea...Write me a proposal...
Get the lads together in the conference room for an hour or two after lunch and work something out.
Be sure to make it interesting though
We've all got to earn our living".

The next day after the meeting...
"Hello Boss, we had our get-together and we think we've got a great idea.
You know how everyone thinks microprocessors are really cool ?
Well we think we can make a sort of desk lamp with a microprocessor in it."

"That sounds really good.
The DO will be pleased they like microprocessors they can spend absolutely weeks and weeks drawing circuits and things.
What about the Mechanical Engineering Lads, they're a bit pushed for things to do ?
They've spent the last month stocktaking and filing and they're getting a bit restless."

"Oh I didn't think about them", says Henrik, sounding slightly guilty.

"Have another meeting tomorrow and see what you can come up with".

The next day after the second meeting...

Henrik knocks on the office door of the Boss...

"Hello Boss we've had another great idea....
We've come up with this idea for a superb desk lamp.
It's not actually a desk lamp it's more of an INTEGRATED SYSTEM for OPTICIANS.
You remember Wolfgang saying Opticians had pots of money?
Well how about a big chair thing with lots of electronic bits attached ?
We can even have a lamp for illuminating the ceiling above the chair.
That'll impress the customers!
We can have a special thing for the Optician to peer at the customers eyes.. another sort of lamp.
And a special lamp for looking at contact lenses.
Those are ever so expensive and I think that might help the customer think he's paying for something other than a couple of little bits of plastic.
We can mount the lamp things on a special table that swings in and out and backwards and forwards.
The microprocessor can fit in a kind of plinth and we can have lots of extra bells and whistles and things.
It'll look really great!
It'll keep the DO busy for months and months.
The mechanical engineers will have a field day.
And us Electrical Engineers can get out teeth into something really complicated.
In fact...
We can probably use some programming!"

"We don't actually have any programmers", says the Boss, now really inspired,
We don't need them for making desk lamps".

"Well... we do now Boss!"

"You'll better hire some. Go any see the personnel chappie..
Say... a couple of systems analysts, two or three programmers a coder or two and what we've all wanted for ages………
A really snazzy computer system for sorting it all out
I reckon I can run up a Development Plan for a million marks!
Champion my lad, you'll go far…
My congratulations.
We'll get started first thing after tea break.
I'll get Marketing to draw up a fancy brochure and they should sell like hot cakes."


Post script

I was called to the local Opticians the other day
Whilst he was inspecting a patient's eyes his lamp went off and it went dark
The light shining on the ceiling was OK and everything else seemed to work but the actual, important lamp, went out.
He'd put a new bulb in it but that didn't do any good.
"Could you fix it Allan ?"
Well I imagined it was just a fuse or a loose connection…..
That is until I opened the front to look for the fuses and found the microprocessor!

It was sitting on a huge printed circuit board with hundreds of chips and transistors on it.

After a lot of fruitless inspirations I decided to trace the circuit back from the lamp.
The lamp brightness could be varied of course

I found the rheostat...
Its wiring went into a metal box next to the where the lamp plugged in

Inside the box was a circuit board with lots of transistors
This was wired via a plug and socket to the microprocessor box.

En-route it went via a micro switch in the base of the equipment.

After hours of effort and having dismantled things so they were readily checkable with a meter
I hadn't got very far when, holding onto a piece of the machine for balance, I noticed a warm glow on my hand
I looked and saw, under my hand, a tiny transistor. I felt it and burnt my finger.
This was an obscure UJT type of device and its function was to buffer the rheostat or more accurately a potentiometer and the thing that varied the bulb current.. a triac.

After rummaging in my boxes of transistors for ages I found a UJT, and after fitting it, the lamp worked and business could resume as normal..

What would have been the chances of an ordinary lamp failing and stopping business for several days?

Still it does look impressive and helps support the view that glasses can't be cheap!

At least when all the bits are put back together and it looks the part!

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