Well, it's Christmas morning, and here's my traditional Christmas story documenting one of the deepest lessons I ever learned about life and technology. It's not gift wrapped, but it will have to do...
From my earliest years I was always playing with technology. My dad was pretty much a genius and started me listening to shortwave around age 5. So- I always got into this stuff, always building, hacking, modifying.... being kind of a geek... That's me.
So I'm about 11 or 12 years old and I had a Cobra 142GTL CB radio which had replaced a Hallicrafters CB3a- which I used to talk to friends and my dad while he was driving around. My dad had a 102 inch whip on the station wagon with the stereotypical tennis ball bumper in place.
The then new 142GTL was highly modifiable- some of those mods were illegal. The ones I wanted were in fact legal. There was a receive modification that increased sensitivit and a repair to the preamp in my D104- both of which seemed critical to me.
I was not qualified at this point to work on more than than rectifiers/power supplies. However I knew an "old guy" named Frank who was a design engineer for Clarion. He and I used to attend a "radio get together" held at a local restaurant. He was a ham, as many other attendees were.
So a phone call was made to Frank, and an appointment made. I then coerced my mom into taking me to Frank's basement radio shop for the modification since the radio would not survive the trip on my bicycle.
It was a summer day... hot.... green leaves turning over silver in the breeze. Can almost remember the smell- car exhaust and chlorophyll. Pratt avenue in Chicago... early August.
We got into Franks basement. Frank sometimes treated me like a peer (I liked that) and he asked me to participate by opening the radio. So I opened it up and started pointing out components to my mother- who's eyes were glazed over looking catatonic.
So I droned on... "this is the PLL chip".... "Here's the clarifier"..... "look here's the finals"...
Of course, I did not really understand what the components did. Well a little... but I was just showing off- and arrogantly so.
Then all of a sudden Frank blurts out: "Shutup... you sound like you know what you are talking about, but you don't, and I know it".
Jesus I was humiliated. And my mother, who was a parent who enjoyed when I suffered, immediately liked Frank. I wasn't so sure anymore.
But Frank was a very smart guy... he did the mod... then explained it to me.... then we left. Mom was in a good mood the rest of the day.
But the lesson: be sure you know what you know before talking. This was a huge influence on me.
Later in life I attended a conference at Northwestern University about fiber optics. We weren't hearing from vendors- we were watching a presentation by scientists about what was coming in 5 years- and I did not understand all of it. I remembered Frank while taking copious notes.
A few days later I called the main scientist who had presented and asked him to lunch, with the understanding I wanted to pick his brain. He said sure.
So there we sat at this Indian restaurant, talking for almost 4 hours, as he educated me far beyond the points I missed. And I kept my mouth shut.
When we were finished- HE picked up the tab. We were friendly for many years after that and used to hang out. The information I learned from him gave me big wins professionally, and a friendship personally.
Thanks Frank. I keep my mouth shut a lot. Except for today.