Knitting Electronics

April 29th, 2010 by k8gu Leave a reply »

Sarah is a knitter.  She started when I was in graduate school.  It was a sort of support group for all of the other wives and girlfriends of grad students, postdocs, and faculty.  When we moved, several others also moved to various places and the group keeps in touch loosely via e-mail and (electronic) social networks.  The unofficial leader of their group moved to Switzerland while her husband was on sabatical there this year.  Knitting is to her what building and repairing electronics is to me—she always has multiple projects, buys more yarn than she needs for a project, etc, etc.

Sarah remarked yesterday that her friend in Switzerland had e-mailed an urgent plea for suggestions on some eight different projects.  “Gee, ” I thought, “this sounds like my problem.”  I was reminded also that one of my SuperDARN colleagues calls the portion of a radar build in which we construct the phasing cables and wire antennas “the knitting circle.”  Everyone sits around with a sharp knife, connectors, crimpers, or a solder iron, making up cables and chatting like a group of knitters.  Let’s extend this a little farther…

It occurred to me that it is socially acceptable to knit in coffee shops, during lectures, on mass transit, on airplanes (politically-incorrect jokes about knitting Afghans aside), and even during church services.  What are the barriers to knitting electronics in public?  A few thoughts came to mind…

  • Soldering is incompatible with the public sphere.
  • Knitting is inherently tidy by virtue of the yarn being continuous, unlike discrete components which are tiny and hard to contain.
  • Knitting is socially “understood” whereas building electronics in public might elicit the bomb squad.
  • Most of my projects (e.g., TS-930) are too heavy to schlep around.

Ok.  That settles it.  I guess I’ll have to settle for drawing block diagrams in my little black notebook.