The Old Magick

An ESP32 chip with OLED displaying the time and date set by NTP over WiFi.

Not thinking about the Strange Days is more and more my hobby. To distract myself, I peel the onions within my more physical hobbies. A good hobby has layers and each one could be its own area of recreation. Radio is great in that regard.

I have a microprocessor that came on a development board with an OLED display. It is WiFi and Bluetooth enabled. I put together a small program to grab the time from an NTP server and display it. I put power to the chip, it connects to my WiFi, grabs the time, and shows it. Incredibly simple. But in that chain, how many things could I not recreate from scratch?

That’s where it falls down for me. I don’t think that I could pull together what I’d need to reproduce such a function. I know how the components work and could do a block diagram, sure. Obviously, I can write code. But could I do it all from nothing? No.

Radio is a little different. One can still assemble a pile of resistors, capacitors, and coils and make a functional radio. Each of those pieces can be fabricated using simple materials. It really is the basis of so much tech. And there are books that can take one from nothing to a functional radio, given time and patience. It’s wonderful to play with that power and absorb that knowledge. It really feels like mastering a kind of magic – the old kind from legends and the deep past.

It’s a sickening feeling, but it feels like we as a culture are on the edge of losing things. Hard earned knowledge and a respect for curiosity are threatened. Perhaps it’s time to enhance all of our personal libraries where we can with books that hold the basics. We may yet need them.

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