Hello Dr. Leach,
How is everything going at Georgia Tech? I have driven by Atlanta many times, and many times I have stopped to visit with you, but unfortunately you were unavailable or out for the day.
I think back on the days at Tech, and I can mildly say I enjoyed my stay. The work load was hard, real fun was hard to find, but the person I became from endless days with very little sleep turning into weeks and even years, was worth it.
I was looking at Dr. Brewer's You Tube video of the sound checks. It is ironic that he had on the board the two diode clipper circuit that you suggested I use for my independent project for you in my final year. I still have the guitar amplifier and effects that I designed and built. As nice as it is, I now buy all my music equipment. I am still active as a musician.
My daughter is now 18 and attends Saint Leo University and is very active in music. I also have a son named Matthew. He is 7 years old and takes piano lessons.
I now live in Tampa, Florida. I am semi retired and sometimes work for myself. As much as I enjoyed being an RF Engineer, the time and money was not worth it. When I was made Senior RF Engineer at Bosch Security Systems in Rochester NY. , I looked over their receivers. The first thing I noticed is they were populating the circuit boards with a transmitter section that they never implemented into their product line. Each ransmitter consisted of about $7 dollars of parts. I noticed the error, cut out the transmitter part, redesigned the receiver for frequency interference compliance, and saved the company $7 per unit. That year we produced over 3 million units. So I saved the company about $21 million dollars.
I also redesigned the front end because we had a nursing home with watch transmitters on the patients. The "I've fallen and can't get up" ones. It was my design, and they said that the patients were disappearing because they transmitters did not have range. I took my spectrum analyzer and went to the nursing home. As I got out of my car, I tried to use my key transmitter to lock the car door. It did not work at 30 feet away. I thought that was strange. So I got closer to my car and it worked at 5 feet. I looked around and I noticed that there were TV and Radio towers all around on top of the hills. It became clear to me that we were getting swamped with transmissions.
I checked the frequencies and signal strength on my analyzer and yes, they were strong and right on the money. I went back to the office, looked up the schematics for tHe receiver that was produced by the engineer before me. And bingo, no front end filter. No wonder they were blaming my transmitter and all the time it was the front end of the receiver. I designed a front end filter, put it in, and the missing patient problem was solved.
I have to say, I was highly disappointed with the way the engineers design things these days. When Motorola decided to obsolete their transistor line, it was my duty to find replacement transistors to "drop in" to every transmitter the company made from its ISM Band lines. There were 17 transmitters that needed replacement transistors, No one understood that the characteristics for the transistors were different for each transistors and did not understand why it would be difficult. Unfortunately, I was the only Senior RF Engineer in the company at the time, and the only one who understood S-parameters.
I tried to use what Motorola referred to as drop in replacements, but to no avail. Out of the 17 units only 9 worked, and when I put the transmitters to extreme temperature testing, only 2 passed. Unfortunately for me, the engineer before me thought he was doing the company a favor, and did not use the standard T or pi matching filters between each stage of the transmitter. I must admit, I did learn this in your class. This engineer would take away components and tweak everything so the circuit worked with the least amount of components. Saving the company immediate money might have looked good, but when designing a circuit, especially RF, you should design with tolerance in consideration. Well he did not, and no other "drop in" transistor would work.
I had to redesign most of the transmitters using new transistors from other companies. Not only did this take time, but instead of looking brilliant, I looked stupid, and the circuits took more time to redesign and cost more than the original design. But with my new design, I could drop in 3 or 4 alternative transistors from other companies. Unfortunately, I was the only real RF Engineer, and thank God for my ham radio experience. But no one at the company understood what I had done for them.
I realized that maybe that place was not for me. A couple of months later, I had designed a glass break transmitter for the company and it was written up in a magazine, and the marketing and everyone loved it. I was walking by the meeting room one day, and I noticed my product up on the board. The marketing department was celebrating the product and were having a little party. I walked by and looked into the room, I went to visit the restroom and thought maybe that I would drop in on their party. When I went back to the room, they saw me coming and one of the marketing bosses shut the door before I could approach the room. That is when I realized that marketing was king, and I was just an engineer. Well that was two strikes.
A little while later, I was asked by my technician to do some high power testing on the units to see how they worked in harsh RF conditions. We would aim up to 1 kilowatt of power at 30 feet away towards our products. I saw the room, then I realized that on the other side of the wall was the cafeteria. I could not believe it. The only thing blocking people at a range of 50 to 100 feet from 1 kilowatt of RF power at 200 MHz to 1.8 GHz was a concrete wall. Of course I told the president that there would be harmful effects to humans at that range. So they put me in charge of the study, and for the next month, I did tests, and also researched the affects of high power RF on humans and human body parts.
Well, obviously the concrete wall did not attenuate the transmission. These people working at this place have been hit with high powered signal for years while they were eating lunch. The worst thing about it, the eyes and the reproductive organs get the most damage. The company had to relocate the testing room to our outdoor RF house that I help design and build. After this, I was alienated from this company. My raise was only 2.2 % that year on a possible max of 4.5%. So I decided to quit.
At this point, I started to think that maybe most engineers were stupid. The company that I worked for before that used to design high power amplifiers used to etch out semiconductors. I mean 10 kilowatts, and dc currents as high as 60 amps through their sensing resistors. I was working in sustaining and redesign. Lots of problems because the company would get the contracts, then build the units in as little as 6 weeks, We would then redesign the failures. There have been many times where again I ran into ignorant people. At Tech, we were forced to take material courses, dreaded and I remember the professors were tough eastern block types.
Anyway, we had amplifiers that would die after every 18 months of use, on the money. They could not understand why the capacitors would pop every 18 months. Well, I studied ceramics and I knew about rapid thermal cycling and knew that they would get tiny cracks every time they were turned on and off thermally. Eventually the cracks would get big enough to cause arching and pop, the unit would break down. I kept telling my bosses and they did not listen, So they hired a professor at RIT to consult, and he found out exactly what I told them. Cracks from thermal cycling. I just added some more capacitors in shunt, changed the values to match the original C, and the units lasted longer than 18 months.
Same place, different story. We had sensing resistors on our amplifiers. They were made of nickel and silver. After a while, we would have dendrite growth and the resistor would short out. I tried to explain to the other engineers that even though silver is good, it is an acceptor to the electro-negativity on the periodic table, and that we would have to use platinum and at minimum palladium coded resistors. After much fuss and another trip to the consultant at RIT, I was right again.
I don't mean to pat my own back, but what I saw from most of these companies was a trial and error approach to design. I decided that I would either go back and get a higher degree or change fields. So I changed fields, became a commodity broker and made almost 10 times my engineering salary the first year. I now own 4 companies. One is a private equity company (I raise money for different companies that I believe in), another is a marketing company (you will see the RF super booster advertised on TV which works to boost the signal on cell phones using parasitic mutual inductance on the antenna making it electronically bigger without physically changing the length). I also have a company in Panama that conducts customer service for some companies in the USA. And I have a promo and logo company that my wife runs. I now work for myself.
I am very happy, and I may apply to go for an MBA somewhere. I may not be an engineer anymore, but I sure think like one in all of my business and day-to-day operations. I graduated from Tech with Highest Honor, and my hard work helped me develop a good work ethic, work smart and hard attitude, and know when to quit and move on smarts. Of all the courses and professors, I enjoyed your classes Dr. Leach. I even enjoyed taking the extra credit in the final year to build my guitar amplifier and effects. I did not need the credits to graduate, but I enjoyed learning about sound and the ways to manipulate voltages and currents to produce the effects.
At Tech, I took as many labs as I could. Most of the other students hated labs because they were not many credit hours and took up a lot of time. I knew that one day I would need the hands on experience. And it did pay off. Thank you for everything Dr. Leach. And when I am in Atlanta, I will come and visit you.
Class of Fall 1999
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