MattInX's Miscelaneous Musings Say what now?

13Nov/150

My love-hate relationship with pre-lit trees

It's that time of year where we start to pull out the Christmas decorations. Now before you start, yes - I know it's only November, but when you have six trees to put up and decorate along with all the other decorations, you need to start early. If you've looked at Christmas trees in the shops recently, you'll see that there's a big trend toward pre-lit trees. If you haven't, the idea is that instead of having a long string of lights in a box that you have to slowly unwind onto the tree, the tree has several strings of lights already attached to the branches so all you have to do is fluff the branches and plug it in.

Incandescent Christmas lights are pretty neat little things. They're not just a simple filament bulb - they also have a shunt which is intended to short out the bulb in the event that the filament breaks. This means that when you have a long strand of bulbs wired in series and one fails, it doesn't cause the whole strand to go out. It usually works, but not all the time. As bulbs fail short, the overall resistance of the strand drops, and in accordance with Ohms law, the current in the strand increases. This in turn means that the likelihood of another bulb failing increases, and so on until either a bulb fails open or the whole strand is toast.

11Nov/150

Gaining traction on an old interest

I've always had an interest in old computers - especially those systems contemporary to my youth, be it systems that I owned or wished I could have (or even just get access to). Back when I was at university, I amassed quite a collection of various systems, both small and large. Most of this had to be re-homed when I left the UK (Mum and Dad refused to store everything indefinitely), but a few systems I really cared about stayed. These included my ZX Spectrums (two 48k models and a +3), a TRS-80 Model 1, and my three Amigas (an A500 with A570 and A590, an A1200, and an A2000). After holding onto these for approaching 10 years, I finally bit the bullet and found a new home for the A500 (plus bits), the A2000 (along with all *those* bits), and the TRS-80 over at MicroMuseum.co.uk. The A1200 and Spectrums I decided were small enough they could probably find their way home with me at some point.