My first job

While poking around in the dark corners of my Mac’s hard disk, I discovered a couple of things I wrote for the IEEE Southeast Michigan Section newsletter when I was the editor. They’re not really related to amateur radio, but I hope you’ll  find them interesting. This one is about the first “professional” job I ever had…..Dan

My engineering career had an inauspicious start. When I was a college sophomore, Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys) hired me as a coop student to work in its component test lab in Plymouth, MI. We performed component qualification tests for all of the parts used in the Plymouth plant and many other plants around the world.

As you might expect, we students were hired to do the grunt work. My first assignment was testing capacitors. I tested thousands of capacitors. I tested disk capacitors. I tested tantalum capacitors. I tested electrolytic capacitors.

I tested capacitors at room temperature. I tested capacitors at high temperature. I tested capacitors at low temperature.

I measured their capacitance, of course. I measured their series resistance. I even measured the solderability of the leads. (What the test procedure called for was for me to dip the leads in a solder pot and then estimate what percentage of the lead was covered with the solder.)

At the time, I thought the job was perhaps the worst job in the world. I wanted to design stuff, not test capacitors. Looking back on the experience, though, I can see that it wasn’t all bad. It got me started in testing, and I have spent my entire career working with or writing about testing and test equipment.

Since then, I have always been interested in test equipment. The instrument I used to measure capacitance was a rack-mounted digital capacitance meter from GenRad that used Nixie tube displays. It was my first experience with digital instrumentation, and I found it fascinating.

That job also got me interested in automatic test equipment. When testing capacitors, I had to record each measurement by hand on a piece of paper. I knew there had to be a better way. Today, we would connect that capacitance meter to a personal computer, which would not only automatically record the measurements, but also simplify the analysis as well.

I also gained experience with how calibration affects measurements. The head of our lab made it clear to me that I was not to use test equipment that did not have a valid calibration sticker. I have since turned into a real stickler for proper calibration.

That early training came in handy when I later became test engineering manager for a manufacturer of digital temperature indicators and dataloggers. To automate the test line, we built our own calibrators. Because we were working with millivolt-level signals and measuring them with microvolt-level resolution, we had to account for many factors to ensure we made meaningful measurements.

I also came away with a good understanding of how component values can vary within a lot of parts and how values can change when used in extreme environments. That experience came in handy when I wrote in-circuit test programs for printed circuit board assemblies. Because I understood the principle, I was able to more effectively set test limits.

I guess I was just cut out for a career in test. A couple of times I tried to move into test engineering, but things just never seemed to work out. Test is where I started and test is where I’ll stay.

Hire me to write your amateur radio business blog

A couple of  hours ago, I got the following e-mail from the owner of an amateur radio business:

Keep up the good work with your blog. I Enjoy it. I wish I could keep my blog as interesting as yours.

To which, I replied:

Thanks. If you’d like to pay me, I could blog for you as well. Pay me enough, and I’ll ghost-blog, that is I’ll write it and you publish it under your name. You could feed me things that you want me to write about, or just let me write about what I find interesting. If published under my byline, you could even pay me to re-post items originally posted on my blog.

Google loves blogs. They’re great for search engine optimization (SEO). That’s why if you own an amateur radio business, you should not only have a website, but also a blog. Blogs bring traffic to your website, and more traffic means more sales.

The problem, of course, is keeping the content fresh and up-to-date. It’s hard running a retail operation. It’s not a surprise, then, that there’s little time and energy left for blogging.

The solution? Let me blog for you. I am a professional writer by trade and one of the leading amateur radio bloggers. I’ve been at this for more than ten years now, and this blog has nearly 2,000 posts. Let me say that again. This blog has nearly 2,000 posts.

So, let’s talk. As I mentioned earlier, the blog posts I write for you can run under my byline or under your byline. They could be posts that originally appeared on this blog, or completely original pieces. I’m very flexible, and as a writer for hire, I have very little ego.  You can edit a piece however you want, as long as you’re paying for it.

My email address is cwgeek@kb6nu.com. My phone number is 734-930-6564.

Tooting My Own Horn

Henry Huang, a Ford Motor Co. engineer, is Test&Measurement World's Test Engineer of the Year.

One of the things that I do for a living is write articles about electronics technology, mostly electronics test and measurement. I used to actually be employed by Test&Measurement World, an electronics trade magazine covering that industry.

Recently, I got a chance to write a slightly different kind of piece for them—a personal profile of Henry Huang, TMW’s 2011 Test Engineer of the Year. That’s Henry at right.

He’s not only a great test engineer, but a great guy, too. To make a long story short, he’s not only managed to have a successful professional career, he’s the father of two children and a community volunteer.

At the risk of tooting my own horn (pun intended), I think my story about him turned out pretty well. It was certainly a lot of fun to write.

DX Made the Ear Grow fonder

Radio World is a magazine for radio managers and engineers, but occasionally they have articles of interest to radio amateurs as well. The latest article to catch my eye was “Distance Made the Ear Grow Fonder.” This is a collection of replies to an earlier article, “AM Radio: My First Real Love.”

Both are reminiscences of AM radio in the old days. Just as the author logged all of the clear channel stations west of the Mississippi, I logged them east of the Mississippi. My favorites were WBZ in Boston and WCAU in Philadelphia. Both of those stations had talk radio shows before Detroit did, and I enjoyed listening to it. Radio was my window to the world.

Nowadays, more stations play syndicated content and there’s less local content, even on the clear channel stations. That’s our loss truly.

Who the Heck is KB6NU?

updated 2/8/13

I got an e-mail from a guy who noted that he couldn’t find my name anywhere on this website. I looked and he’s right. So, here’s a little bit about me. I’m going to figure out a way for a link to this post to appear on one of the nav bars so that readers can find it more easily….

My name is Dan Romanchik, and I’m just a guy who’s having fun with ham radio.

I’m 57 years old, and have been a ham for 42 years, although for most of those years, I wasn’t very active. I have been very active since the summer of 2002, after I got the bug again after working some CW at our club’s Field Day. Since then, I have:

  • made more than 12,000 contacts, mostly on CW,
  • increased my code speed to 30 wpm or so,
  • built a bunch of kits and other stuff (including an Elecraft KX1 handheld HF transceiver),
  • worked a bunch of contests and have even garnered a few certificates from doing so,
  • taught Tech and General class course,
  • written five amateur radio books, including license study guide for all three license classes,
  • set up an amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (WA2HOM),
  • served as president of ARROW, a club that serves ham in and around Ann Arbor, MI, and
  • served as Affiliated Club Coordinator and ASM, Training for the Michigan section.

I’m no “super ham.” I don’t have a 120-ft. tower with a three-element 40m beam on it. I don’t own a $10,000 transceiver, and I haven’t yet been on a DXpedition. I am having a lot of fun, though.