If I Can Get a Hand on It

The vacuum tube was perfect. It fit in the palm and fingers closed round. Held to the eye and admired.

Transistors came next and were smaller, but fingers could still pinch and place where desired.

The gear and pulley man was content. He built all kinds of things with simple machines and a transistor or two.

But along came the integrated circuit. It was too small and soon too complex. There were no tools in the garage to work on it.

The pull lever mechanical calculator became the silicon computer chip, which chips when linked together could perform over 150 trillion calculations per second. The chip, smaller than the tip of a fingernail, could not be repaired by the man in his garage.

The tooling gap widened. There were no tools for the common man to use with miniaturized electronics. The integrated circuit board was a highly specialized, factory clean room production.

Miniaturization stopped the industrial expansion. It limited the tinkerer from modifying, hopping up, adapting to new uses a part he could barely see.


The first three pictures on this web page just begin to visually show the story.


The Heathkit Company provided build-it-yourself electronic kits into the mid-1980s, but closed because it could not keep up with Moore’s law (see graph, numbers are mind-boggling).



Beginning in a corner of the basement, this son of a coffee broker and French maiden manufactured track for hobby model trains.

This article from Popular Science, April 1940 shows him at work behind his track machine.

Fred Chemidlin found demand for his well-made track and soon moved out of the basement into commercial digs. His company, Midlin Models grew rapidly.

Fred married and fathered eight children (source: Prominent Families of New Jersey, Vol. I).