Passing the test

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Passing the test

50 years ago in the dark ages of my past, I was determined to learn how circuits worked and what made amplifiers tick. Working full time as a disc jockey for the US Army in Germany at that time I had no practical means of attending school.

Enter Herr Rudy Stroebel, chief engineer of the AFN network. Herr Stroebel was an embodiment of the stereotype German engineer: meticulous, exacting, educated beyond his job title, strict, unbending. Things worked the way things worked in Herr Stroebel's world even if he had to move heaven and Earth to make them conform.

Herr Stroebel agreed to take me under his wing and act as my tutor. He was my hero.

I desperately wanted to learn how to design amplification circuits, in particular, how to build a recording studio mixing console.

He had in his head the keys of knowledge that would for me unlock the secrets of design.

Halfway through our first lesson Herr Stroebel discovered I had yet to memorize the color code for identifying the values of resistors and capacitors. He was horrified and abruptly ended the lesson, informing me there would be no more knowledge shared until I took the time to prove to him I had mastered the basics.

I was pissed. Learning that code and all the formulas I hadn't yet stuffed into my head would make no difference in my ability to understand the inner workings of circuitry. And to add insult to injury he knew that.

After grumping around the studio for a week I finally confronted him.

I will never forget his answer.

"It is not about color codes or formulas. It is about obedience between the student and the master. A circuit obeys rules and so too must you."

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Paul McGowan

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