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RE: Akiba's blog, part deux

By MRE - Posted on 24 July 2009

My higher education in one word:


I could sum it up that way. If you grant me two words, I would say "EXPENSIVE trash."

I really think that that what we do and how we play during our formative years has a lot to do with who we become and how we think. I got into electronics at an early age. It was my dad who pushed me into it, and we shared a lot of interesting projects together, but I also developed my own take on it, and did a lot of things on my own. By the time I got to school, I didn't really learn much new in the first two years, other than all the boring equations I tried hard to avoid growing up.

The comment left on his blog about kids who play with nature are much more likely to be critical thinkers as adults is 100% true. I am one of those kids. I experienced first hand cause and effect, action and reaction, and the beauty and horror of nature.

But back to schools:
Much of what I learned proved to be unimportant. Some of it downright useless. And a smidgen of it utterly WRONG.

An example: While preparing for the lessons, Akiba and I were talking about a particular set of equations, and how we were taught them. It turns out, that in both cases, we were given these massive tangled circuits, that when the equations were applied, would net a total current, voltage, and resistance for the whole circuit. It involved combining sequences of resistors into one huge 'whole' resistance.

The problem is, outside of the classroom, I have NEVER seen a SINGLE circuit like that. WHO in their right mind would use 10 similar parts in a spiderweb of a circuit, to create what amounts to a single resistor?!

It is not an accurate representation of how and when you might see these series of smaller circuits in real life, and thus how to apply the equations.

During our discussions, we got onto a tirade of how useless and stupid it all was, and had decided to scrap that whole section of the class.

Ultimately, we realized that we needed to keep it, because we were about to talk about a REAL world application.

And there in lies the problem: In both cases, our schools focused so much on the "spiderweb circuit of holy theory practice," that it never bothered to point out and subsequently explain how to deal with these circuits in REAL LIFE.

Another example:
My school taught micro-controller applications on a micro trainer circa 1988. Yes, it was in assembly.
Ok, I grant you that learning assembly is an important skill. It lets you in on the big secret: Whats under the hood.
But at some point, you have to move up from there. C is an industry standard, and given the educational condition, a lot more can be accomplished with it by the average student.
To make matters worse, these trainers involved punching in hexadecimal on a dedicated keypad. We were manually programming the chip, and manually inspecting registers.
Around 1990 the world said "Wait a minute, this is insanity! Lets hook these things up to a PC. It would be so much easier!" And a new industry standard was born. No one... EVER... manually programs a chip. You use an assembler on a PC. It checks things out and makes sure you didn't try to play any tricks on purpose or accidentally. Finally, you instruct the PC to load the application into the micro-controller.

Really... my school was one step above flipping switches on an Altair!

All but one of my teachers were unaware of the latest developments in embedded systems. And they eventually fired that guy because he refused to wear a tie in class.
It should be noted, that the guy was rich, and with the exception of teaching classes twice a week, he worked from home, in his beer stained underwear.

Hey, nothing wrong with working from home in brown stained underwear. Oh...did you say beer?

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