Caveat Lector

Mike Buetow

Twenty-one years.

That’s how long I’ve sat in this chair as an editor for this publication.

That’s 21 years of writing editorials. Never missed an issue. Many times, I’ve written them on planes, heading to or from someplace afar. (I may work from home, but traveling from Boston to China, as I have done many, many times, still means ample commuting time.)

I wrote one on my honeymoon. I wrote one from the recovery room after my first child’s birth. (With little else to do, I spent the time counting all the circuit boards in the equipment around me. Yes, I’m a nerd.)

There may even be a reader or two who was born about the same time I assumed this role in January 2000, first as editor in chief of PC FAB, to which my boss Pete Waddell then added Printed Circuit Design, and finally, in 2005, CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY. (Now I feel old. Thanks a lot.)

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Read more: As the Chair Turns

Mike Buetow

I left off last month on the subject of progress. “Are you making progress?” I asked. “In your career? In your life? And if not, do you plan to start?”

We at UP Media Group are planning to start right now. Last month, during our annual PCB West trade show, we announced the signing of a letter of intent to sell certain assets, including this magazine, to the Printed Circuit Engineering Association. More on that in a moment.

In its two short years, PCEA has already established itself as the leading association for printed circuit engineers. The leaders of the Designers Council formed it after IPC, its longtime benefactor, decided to go a different direction. The trade group has ties to SMTA and the European Institute for the PCB Community (EIPC), among others. And it is the certifying body for the PCE-EDU Printed Circuit Engineering Professional curriculum.

What, exactly, does this change mean? I’ll answer three ways.

First, for PCEA, it acquires the PCB West and PCB East trade shows, PCD&F/CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY magazine; the PCB UPdate digital newsletter; the PCB Chat podcast; the PCB2Day workshops; and Printed Circuit University, the dedicated online training platform. It also includes all the databases and related websites, among other things. The move makes PCEA a significant player in terms of its capability to reach a huge audience of printed circuit designers and engineers, fabricators and assemblers, not to mention the massive trove of content it has for those audiences.

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Mike Buetow

I once heard the actor Tom Hanks – probably the first time he’s been referenced in these pages – describe a brain game he plays with friends. The challenge, he explained, is to define a concept in as few words as possible. The example he offered was “time,” which he characterized as “progress.”

Now, it’s easy to find physical and historical examples that disprove Mr. Hanks’ conceptualization.

More than a few readers probably studied physics in high school or college. Einstein’s relativity theory of time, of course, states that time changes depending on your frame of reference, and that the faster you travel the slower time moves.

And the ecologist and author Jared Diamond argues that there’s evidence some populations such as Austronesians began to use metal tools – an obvious improvement over rocks and bare hands – only to later shed them.

Much, much earlier, the Greek philosopher Aristotle surmised that change is distinct from time because change occurs at different rates, whereas time does not.

Where these ideas converge, however, is around the notion that progress means change.

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Read more: Making Progress

Mike Buetow

Years ago, ahead of a US election, I used this space to pen an open letter to the new president. I wrote that the race for office was heated and intense, but the winner should put aside any ill feelings and work toward the betterment of all Americans.

The column was timed to hit readers’ desks in November, just after the election results were announced. Magazine deadlines being what they were, of course, I wrote it in early October – more than four weeks prior to election day. In short, I submitted it to the printer having no clue who was actually going to win.

More than a few readers didn’t catch that little nuance, and they filled my inbox with screeds both positive and negative about the outcome, projecting their own biases on my musings and utterly missing the point I was trying to make about leadership.

Since then, I’ve stayed away – far away – from anything that even hints of politics, sensing it’s too charged a subject to use even as a metaphor for a larger point.

So, when an industry friend whom I respect more than he will ever know suggested I write an editorial about electronics companies requiring vaccination, and, in his words, “come out swinging in favor of it,” my first reaction was indifference.

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