The TV Repair Man

I credit a friend of the family, a TV repair man, for setting in motion the sequence of events leading to my eventual career and subsequent success.

All this while I was somewhere between 9 and 16 years old.

Jim and his wife Tina were friends of my parents — Tina being of Dutch ancestry, she’d become friends with my parents and of course Jim did as well.

We’d periodically go visit them in their house in Kirkland, and somehow I came to find out about Jim’s profession: a TV repair man for Sears – back in Sears’ more successful heyday.

Oscilloscope by Plutor on Flickr

It was during those visits Jim did two things that became turning points for me:

  • He spoke to me as an adult. Most of the adults around me were still treating me as a child, and appropriately so I have to say. Jim was the first adult in my life that didn’t, and it had an impact.
  • He showed me the tools of his trade. Volt meters, various electronic components, and especially experimenting with his oscilloscope on the kitchen table sparked my interest.

That interest didn’t turn into a burning desire. Far from it. It was more of a “this could be interesting” moment.

One more immediate impact it had, though was the death and destruction of assorted electronics that came into my possession in the following years as I answered the question “I wonder what makes this tick?”. Most of them were surplus. 🙂

The real impact didn’t really happen until I found myself applying to Universities a few years later. On the application form at the time it, of course, asked for my desired major. I had no clue. It did, however, ask for areas of interest.

Second semester grades

What came to mind? “Electronics”.

Now, this was before the days that the University of Washington had specific entrance tests and higher requirements for entry into specific colleges … so based merely on my interest they simply placed me in the College of Engineering on the road to a degree in Electrical Engineering.

At the start of the second quarter of my University experience I stumbled into of the prerequisite classes and my future became clear.

Engineering 141 – Introduction to Fortran Programming

I’d never touched a computer before that day. I’ve hardly been away from them since. All, in part, because a TV repair man took the time to share with a random pre-teen.

Makes me wonder … whose life have you, or will you, impact in ways that you could never predict?

Or in ways you’ll never know?

Thanks Jim.

2 thoughts on “The TV Repair Man”

  1. Hi Leo

    I hope you’ll excuse me for picking a nit, but it’s actually “whose life…”, not “who’s life…”

  2. “Makes me wonder … whose life have you, or will you, impact in ways that you could never predict?”

    My workplace annually hosts local school groups. When they all crowd into my unusually larger and dimmer CAD office, with larger-than-normal monitors, their eyes light up and audible ahs and oohs are heard. I encourage the shyer kids, especially the young women, to step up to the front for a good view. I emphasize that this field, electronics, and P.C.B. design in particular, is something that young women can, and should, pursue. I’m also trying, hopefully, to spark some interest in the kids to the hands-on hardware side of computers, as compared to writing apps or doing web development.

    Craig in Madison

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