Standing around, saying "oooh yes, that's a nice Motorola 68000," or "this Intel 80387 is the woofer's knackers," is not in the main a viable course at college. A HNC in this course, is however, a viable learning path, and one that I took. I put it on my CV as the course's official title, but I tell everyone what it really was, which was computer electronics. I am qualified to look at a silicon chip, and tell you it's knackered.
The course was 12 solitary nerds, 10 pervy blokes, one large middle aged woman, and one tasty Essex girl (who only lasted a month). The actual course was run from 9am until 9pm every Wednesday, in Southend's academic haven that was the South East Essex Technical College. The start of each week we'd be given a task, and by the end of the following week, we'd have to present the task, automated and electronified. The first week would be spent usually heading to the pub for the afternoon, and then some serious work in the evening finding out and theorizing the problems. It would also be the time where we would partake in the student pastime of 'fannying about.' The mirth and woe of firing up the gas soldering iron, and shouting "catch!" before throwing it to some poor sod. Everyone had blistered hands with either "cetzA" or "citsilaeR" burnt into their palms. We'd also experiment with things we shouldn't.
One week, someone told me in an Obi Wan Kenobi voice "never short out a charged capacitor." And so, after much rummaging around, 3 of us found a whole half-farad capacitor locked away in a cupboard with "Danger: High Current Capacitors. Do NOT short circuit" written on the door. we started off with a 9 volt, low current charge.
"OOoh, sparks." as a lick of lightning went from the high voltage probe to the capacitor's prong.
"I dare you to lick it."
"You can fuck off."
Instead, we whacked up the charge. 20 volts at 1 amp. We knew the capacitor was charged, because it was bubbling and starting to smell. With heavily asbestos gloved hand, I stepped forward with the only thing I could think would take all the charge at once, One 40,000volt insulated flat-bladed screwdriver, and like in Ghostbusters where they were told not to cross the streams, the world seemed to end.
I went blind. As I stood there for a second, wondering if I was in limbo, heaven or hell, I heard a voice. Through all the buzzing that was now going on in my ears, I distinctly heard outside in the corridor, "That was a capacitor." Realising I was still a mortal (just), I thought "oh fuck. I've blinded myself." I went to take off my safety glasses (we lived with them on, just in case) so I could rub my eyes. I then realised I could still see. Looking at the front of the glasses they'd become peppered with burnt oily paper. The capacitor was now a very blackened empty cylinder, smoking away in front of me. The other two had disappeared, and were last seen heading in the direction of the toilets at the end of the floor, one's eyes bulging and the other one giving us his best "boilk" rendition. Dr. David Evans (the course organiser and Welsh lead tutor, and known colloquially by us students as "sheep") appeared with a face like a recently discharged 500 millifarad capacitor.
"oops" I said.
"mumblemumblemumblemumble" he said, incoherently as my hearing was still shot. His body language said it all though. He wasn't best pleased, but from what I gather he still regales what I did to his students today.
Ah, fame at last.
London 2012: Four years later
4 weeks ago