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Farnell and vinyl

With many thanks to Céline at Farnell, they went ahead and sent me a catalogue after all. And didn't they do it in style - a shiny brown UPS truck arrived and this catalogue, all ~3300 pages of it (!) is delivered.

Farnell catalogueI could easily drop a few grand on this stuff. It would be a great help to have an oscilloscope, prices range from about €150 for a basic model up to mid-range four digits for one that practically builds your circuits for you. But being a little more modest, I would be looking for some IC holders and some 74-series logic and some stripboard. Actually, they do a nice breadboard kit for about €50 which would be useful to test a circuit before committing to soldered joints. There's also the issue of wire-wrap. I have never done wire-wrap circuitry, but I do recall that one of the designs on www.6502.org (the SBC?) was wire-wrapped. It looks quite tidy when done well, and has the advantage of not being constrained by the tracking of the board.
The only gotcha, and the one that concerns me, is that I believe as a person who does not have an account with Farnell, I will be hit for €12 in postage (or €18 if I want it next-day). That is quite steep for the sort of things I would be ordering (it would make sense if I wanted a 19" CRT or something heavy, but...) and it could account for a large percentage of my final order, especially as I don't need it extra-quick; my Amélie project has been 'brewing' since ~2003 so I don't need a big UPS truck to arrive to drop off what would be a rather small parcel! I'll need to read the Ts&Cs carefully...

Until then, there's so much stuff in there it is mind-blowing. The quantum leap in tech between the 1988 RS catalogue and the 2008 Farnell one is incredible, it is almost like looking at those old RSGB books where radios had clunky solid-metal dials and ... valves! Somewhere here I have a book that gives only scant reference to the silicon transistor, seemingly dismissing it as not being a suitable replacement for a valve. Remember, of course, that those were the days when hardware stores (and I mean village hardware stores, not Payless DIY) used to sell batteries with some insane output like 90VDC designed to get valve circuitry running. These were the days when you would turn on your radio and a couple of minutes later it might have warmed up enough to start working. It would take something of a shift in thinking to say "hey, guys, this thing works on less than 12V... yes, entirely." thus ushering in the age of little circuits. I have here a little red record player. Built in speaker, can do 45s or 33s and it runs off, I think, 4 C cells. I always used a mains adaptor. So you can take your favourite records with you, perhaps to the beach? A clumsy affair, but back then grooves etched into a piece of plastic were what people had for holding their music, and ironically a record treated well will provide better sound fidelity and a much longer storage life than cassette tape. [here, I am tempted to say "groovy!"] This is why these little record-to-USB devices are turning up. It is partly because there is something of a vinyl revival going on (you know about me and '80s music... yes, I have a Bananarama LP!) and there is also the issue that with all the strife over "illegal" downloading of music...

 

When illegal downloading should not be an offence

I say "illegal" in quotes above because I am of the opinion that it should not be an actual offence to download music if it is not available from any other source (given a reasonable and justifiable amount of searching). Consider animé and even computer games. There is a lot of stuff that is pretty cool that never makes it to the West. Apparently you can obtain it, if you don't mind it being all in Japanese or Korean, but it is not exactly the legitimate way to obtain it for there is no legitimate way.
It is the same with music, especially long-forgotten niche bands. Punk groups. New Romantics that never made it to superstardom. Themes from old TV programmes that were actually a song of some sort that never quite charted and fell out of sight. Did you know that "theme from M*A*S*H" is actually a song with the chorus "Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and you can take or leave it if you please"? Ever heard of Burning Chrome?

Well, the greedy record companies will clobber you anyway. Doesn't matter that they last touched the track forty years ago and nobody in the company can even remember the tune... if you (stupid little peon who will bow before us) download even one single byte of that song, the entire paranoid drooling lunacy of the RIAA will be unleashed upon your soul... along with extravagant claims for "losses" (how can there be losses over something that isn't even being offered for sale?).

And for that, because nobody needs the hassle of being clobbered by an insidious and corrupt business (no, record labels, don't try to pass yourself off as innocent victims), there has been something of a resurgence in trade in vinyl. Car boot sales. Vide greniers. Charity shops. Even specialist shops dealing in old records. If you can't find the track you are looking for on places like iTunes, there's always your local second-hand record shop.

But, guys, shhhh. We don't want the big labels to know there's much trade in old LPs else they'd want to get their greedy grubby mitts into that as well.

 

Minimum wage

Does this report, from BBC World's teletext, suggest that 16-17 year olds have a minimum wage of £3.53 (which is an insult), that the minimum wage for 18-22 year olds is £4.77, and only after that can you progress to a proper minimum amount of £5.73? Isn't that discriminatory? If a person leaves home at 17 and wants to set up on their own, what the hell can they achieve on £3.53, which is only slightly more than half of what an 'adult' will receive?

My work is minimum wage too. A mere €8.71 per hour. Gosh, that's about £6.90 (using today's rate as quoted on CNBC's ticker). I feel better already. ☺

 

You can't keep children safe if...

I have a rant on my website. It contains 'strong language'. Accordingly, I have generated and included a PICS rating for that document, so a browser set to detect such things will warn it as being potentially unsuitable.
Why am I telling you this? Read this article from BBC World teletext:

I think this shows a lot of what is wrong with government efforts in things. The bottom paragraph - It will also develop a voluntary code for websites featuring users' content. Why? Why can they not encourage the assimilation of existing self-rating systems? I am anti-censorship myself, but I am also responsible enough to know that there is some stuff that parents wouldn't want their children to see, hence the PICS rating. It isn't an ideal solution, but it is a workable one provided people agree on a common standard and look to implementing it more and more widely rather than devising 'new' ideas. For we must also remember most of this technology originates from the US. Is a British-designed scheme going to make much impact?

 

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