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Low Tech Electronics

Whilst sorting through my older and uncatalogued non-perishable preps I came across a collection of resistors, capacitors and transistors from my old electronic days. I put them aside because I thought that they would be useful in my preps for electronic tasks such as communications, security systems and a variety of other tasks. Associated with that is soldering irons and several meters and other test equipment. There was also an oscilloscope which was sadly damaged in moving my preps around.

I worked in this area during the days when the integrated circuit (IC) was coming to the fore and LEDs were the latest thing. Everything was done with just these basic components, the ICs could easily be replaced by the base building blocks and anyone with a knowledge of electronics could make and repair almost anything from a circuit diagram.

It was at that point I was moving away from electronics and I put aside a core collection of the basic building blocks plus the bread boarding units that acted as basic circuit boards you tailored to your needs by soldering wiring and or cutting tracks.

Move forward a few decades and we find the world has changed dramatically. No longer do we have the capability of fixing any of our items outside the cosmetic shell. Everything is on an IC and they are so specialised and complex now that there are no circuit diagrams because there is nothing we can do to fix anything. Each complex IC is owned by a company, such as Apple, and they won’t sell them separately. Very few people have the technical capability of anything besides radio gear and that is because the Hams insisted that they were allowed to play with the circuits. Everyone else just plays and with even basic items being reduced to IC everything that breaks just gets thrown out and they are designed so that they cannot be repaired. It is the way cars are going as well with everything being replaced and not repaired. Manufacturers love it but it is the opposite of what preppers want.

Using the components I have would could still keep a few items going and perhaps even replace some of the simpler more modern items.

My issue is that not having kept up with my electronic capability I now find that I know I couldn’t even build a simple short wave radio receiver, one that some school kids could build. I’m sure that many of the books are still available so I could at least look at

Yet after an major event basic components will be all we will be able to maintain. ICs will eventually be consumed and production for ICs requires high tech facilities. Resisters, capacitors and transistors can be manufactured in low tech facilities, if we have the skills we could manufacture these ourselves as many old mad scientists used to.

As a side note you should be aware that these components are less susceptible to EMP. They are not immune but they have a much higher survivability rate which is why a lot of modern military kit still have these basic building bloacks in.

So, I’ve now identified a hole in my preps. I did have the skills for electronic work and now I don’t. This puts this into the same category as several other items, like medical, so it isn’t a major catastrophe. I can’t know everything. It does however make me think what other skills I am counting on that I have forgotten about and that should be refreshed.

Another thing it has identified though is my preps in this area were wholly inadequate. This is mainly because I just pulled everything in my workshop into storage at the time I changed roles with no real thought to the future. Now I can see a need for some electronic components, especially in the power, communications and security fields. Having the capability of repairing or replacing these with basic components is going to be an advantage and I have a miss mash of components as I didn’t really look at prepping in the same way back then. I’m going to correct that by updating my components, building up my library with relevant books and, if possible, trying to make something on a breadboard.

2 comments to Low Tech Electronics

  • RS

    I don’t know if I agree with you that hams are the only people with knowledge. The maker/Arduino crowd have tons of electronics knowledge. I’ve been working with Raspberry Pi’s GPIO system, as well as Arduinos, to build my own complex electronics systems (mesh alarms driven by a ZigBee mesh network are of particular interest). I’m not saying I’d be able to repair computers, but the knowledge to build and maintain circuitry is not a dying art – it’s been well and truly resurrected:)

  • Urbane

    The building blocks just got much bigger and more complex; as a component level computer repairer with 0.1″ grid components, I saw the rise of the finer grid SMD packages, complex ICs, and module cheapness, combined with high repair equipment and time costs prove the death knell for that repair work, so it is now only worth repairing some PSUs and panel controls in some electronics equipment e.g. to replace worn out 105C PSU capacitors.

    All semiconductors require Clean Room level technology, even simple signal transistors, and especially the vast array of complex ICs on numerous too cheap to repair PCBs. Component level repair is mostly dead for all but manufacturer rework and some specialist professionals. Most electronic work is now at a much higher level with modules, like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, GPS boards, DDR* RAM, USB sticks etc. I see some of this because I assemble my own PCs from ready made computer modules which I have picked and ordered.

    Several years ago I switched to developing software because software has replaced a lot of the stuff that used to be done by fixed design circuits.

    Hams may have some RF electronics knowledge, but they will be just as impotent without electricity!

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