Electronics Class

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My first class of the new year was Electronics shop.   In my high school, academically-oriented people did not take shop.   Those who took wood shop would become carpenters.   Metal shop, welders and machinists.  Auto shop, auto mechanics.  Electronics shop, TV and appliance repair technicians.  Shop was for tradesmen.  And, yes, that was tradesmen.  Very few girls took shop, except those who were so butch, they were basically guys, anyway.

Against this backdrop, Julie Ching stood like a rose among mushrooms.  Junior class officer, costume mistress of the school musical, a girl who thought of herself as utterly average, yet snagged a 30 on the MAA math qualifier.  Julie, like myself, was part of a new breed - those who were taking electronics because they had dreams of a future career in computer design.

Once in class, while trying to explain some binary arithmetic to someone, I looked up and noticed Julie watching me from across the room.   I glanced up and met her gaze, and for the first time in my life, didn't immediately avert my eyes.  There's a concept of "moral looking time," the maximum time you can look at someone before it starts to mean something.  Whatever the duration of that moral looking time was, when our eyes locked, we blatantly exceeded it. I knew that the other guys around me could see that something was going on - yet I didn't care.

After about ten seconds, Julie stood up and started to slink out of the room.  Uh-oh!  Wrong message.

"I thought you were hinting for me to leave," she said.

"No, no! It's just… well, you were looking at me."  I thought I was being so slick at disguising my thoughts.

We had little money in those days, so most of us plundered our electronic components out of cast-off radios and TV's.  New components were far too expensive (a transistor might cost a dollar!), but occasionally, we would buy bags of reject parts from a company called Poly Paks.

One of my fondest memories from High School was of standing at the transistor tester, sorting a bag of parts with Julie.   The tester had six buttons.  You pressed them one at a time, and if you got exactly two beeps, you had a good transistor.  A part that gave no beeps was a dud, but occasionally, a part was found that gave only a single beep.  With a separate test, I discovered that these were actually Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCR's), an even more valuable component.

"Don't throw away your bad transistors," I said philosophically, "they may be excellent SCR's.  Just like people, everybody's good at something."

"I guess some people are just good at being average," she replied.

"Anyone we know?"  I said coyly.  I knew she was referring to herself, but somehow, that only made her even more attractive.

We made a little small talk about movies and such, and at one point, Julie said, "Oh yeah, I went to see that with my boyfriend – at the time, that is."

What a wonderful phrase that was, at the time.  Julie's social skills were far in advance of mine.  With a very subtle phase, she had indicated that she was available.  Though my emotions were screaming, "Go get her!"  procedurally, I had no clue as to how to go about that sort of thing.  Nevertheless, it was a good day.

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