Introduction

Hey, Chunks Hurliggin here. I thought I'd take a minute and explain the basic idea behind my Projects Page here on the RancorTone web site.

Since I was a kid I've had hundreds of ideas blowing around in my head about things I've wanted to do or build or make. Most of them never happen. There's no time or no money. Mostly there's just too durn many of them. But some do happen and I'd like to share them with you here in this quiet little backwater of the fabulous RancorTone Records web site where I can take some time to explain exactly how they were accomplished.

Why? I thought it would be a good way to show the world how smart I am. But then I thought a little more and realized that that approach could, like, so blow up right in my face. What if I'm not as smart as I thought I was? A scary thought if ever there was. So I thought of a better reason.

There is one of those web-funnies floating around out there that goes, "When you get your Bachelor's Degree, you think you know everything. When you get your Master's, you realize that you don't know anything. When you receive your Doctorate, you realize neither does anyone else." Well, every project is a journey like that one, but a little bit different. When I get an idea for something I'd like to do, I start thinking about it and reading about it. I might make a few drawings or a few spread sheets and do some "thought experiments" to figure out just how I would do this thing. If the idea survives the "thought experiment" stage (some don't), then I continue to roll it over and over in my mind and eventually I think I know just how to do it. It can remain in that state for years, and usually does. During that time I feel like I know all about that particular subject and, given the time and resources, I could toss all the ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly, and, Voila! I would have one of whatever I'd been dreaming about.

Well, that state lasts right up until the time I actually set out to physically do one of these projects in continuous space/time under the ever vigilent eye of the Laws of Physics. Ever heard the old saying, "The devil is in the details?" Whoever coined that phrase was a very wise person indeed. And probably got that way through experience--lots of experience. So, as I start to actually draw serious plans or schematics or write some serious code, it begins to dawn on me that I don't know nearly as much as I thought I did. Many of these ideas start out something like, "I don't know why everyone's been building those things like that for the last twenty years. It seems so complicated and tedious. I don't know why you couldn't just . . ." Well, when you finally get around to making one yourself, from scratch, more often that not, you learn in pretty short order why everyone was doing it the way they were doing it. You find yourself going down roads with lots and lots of footprints on them. Somebody's been here before. You were not exactly the first person to have this idea or try to do it this way.

So, stage two is the "Gee, not only do I not know as much as I thought I did, it's starting to look like I don't know anything at all" stage. Should I just give up and buy one? Nah, that's no fun at all. Anyone can do that. Your mom can do that. To an inveterate tinkerer it really is the journey, not the destination. Half the time, the money in your wallet would buy you a hyperspace jump to the destination (via Wal-Mart, probably), if that's what you wanted. And that's something else I should point out: None of these projects are particularly practical. The end product won't save you any money, and it sure as hockey sticks won't save you any time. This is where a lot of people get off, "Why would I do that? Amazon has them for $49.95." You wouldn't do that. Not unless you have a passion for tinkering with things, knowing how they work and learning stuff you didn't know last week.

If you make it out of the "valley of the shadow of what made me think I could do this anyway?" that's when you start to accumulate solid, practical, marketable knowledge and experience. Working knowledge, they call it. By the time you're finished, you really, honestly know what you're talking about--to some degree. A lot of this knowledge will consist of knowing how not to do things, but you'll know why--and that's important. There might be people at MIT who could blow your socks off in terms of theoretical knowledge of the subject, but you are fully qualified to discuss it, having done it and all.

So, anyway, that's the point, I guess. Every project is a journey from the omniscience of the uninitiated, through the befuddlement of the all-too- initiated, to the serene knowingness of the battered-but-experienced. And, if you have a passion for the subject at hand, each makes a pretty good story, as well--I think.

So much for the soaring diatribe. Mostly, it's just fun to do these things and to write about what you did and how you did it. I've learned a lot over the years reading articles in DIY (do-it-yourself) magazines like Circuit Cellar and Audio Express and Nuts and Volts and such. And some others that have since bit the dust like Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics. It's very interesting to see how someone did something and to hear a little about their reasoning behind it even if you never actually do the project yourself.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it (Lord knows, it's stuck to me). I'm thinking we should do a project a day for about a year. That should reduce my backlog of ideas somewhat. You don't think we can do it? Attainable goals are rarely very interesting goals, so lets just go for it. There are links over there on the left to lists of the various projects. Browse away!

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Cover Photo: The main entrance of the RancorTone facility in Jesús del Este, New Mexico
This Page last updated: 2008.02.16