My grandfather had a room just for my pleasure. This 25 square meters room was literally filled with old and busted electronics, mechanical parts from engines, radios, pick-ups, wheels, bearings, gears, tools. Literally, it was a paradise! I spent half of my childhood in this room breaking things apart. Although I had not developed skills in making things, I certainly gained tons of experience into dismantling things! Every Sunday my grandfather would go to the bazaar and the local junkyards to bring me new things! Every Sunday it was a new years eve for me! These were my toys. Playing with toy cars and playmobil was simply too boring.
At the age of 7 I made my first electronic project. Greece was (and still is) kinda slow in technology, so finding electronic resources in the 80's was hard if not impossible. Plus, none in my close environment had anything to do with electronics whatsoever. So I used what I could find: A flash from my father's Yashica camera, a wooden stick, some wire and nails from my grandfather's workbench. And so I made a needle detector for my grandmother who used to like knitting. My grandmother was thrilled! Here is a link with a remake of my very first electronic project.
"The Universe and Dr. Einstein". This is probably the oldest book in my library. I was fascinated when i read it for the first time.
Then my father searched and found that there was this school giving electronic lessons via mail (snail mail, email wasn't invented yet). I took a two-year course in radio and television operation (we're talking about vacuum tubes!). They gave me also a briefcase with the 80's breadboard for my first experiments with resistors, diodes and transistors.
At the age of 10 my father returned from one of his trips with a bag, and inside the bag there was this strange black plastic thing with some other black... things... It was my very first game console, the Atari 2600! But that was only a first taste, because at the age of 11, my father bought me my first computer! It was the Hyundai XT Super 16 TE, based on the 8088 16-bit 10MHz processor. This monster had Hercules black and white graphics card, 640 kB of RAM, 5 1/4 360kB floppy drive and -of course- no hard disk drive. I also received 3 floppy disks with MS-DOS 3.1. I really can't remember how much time it took me to figure out how to use this gadget. I clearly remember though the frustration of the first weeks (or months) trying to make it work. I had a very expensive computer and I was unable to accomplish a simple task like 1+1... Then I began reading the manual - It had two books: The MS-DOS guide and the GW-BASIC guide. Slowly I took my first steps into MS DOS.
This Tandy Pocket Scientific Computer PC-6 was for me the start-point of my long route into programming.
Next year, my father returned from another trip with what was about to be my kick-starter into programming: He brought me a Tandy Pocket Scientific Computer PC-6! I still use this gadget for quickly solving formulas (after 25 years)! It had memory to store telephones (or formulas for physics and maths for the exams) and it had the amazing capability to store formulas and solve them! These days this is a simple smartphone app, but hey, back then cell-phones were only seen in Star Trek. Among these features, it had a programming environment to program in BASIC language. It took me quite some time to figure out how to program, but it eventually programming proved natural for me.
PC Interrupts - I slept many time on my desk with this book trying to decode the secrets of assembly
In the meanwhile, my electronic experience was limited to Smart Kit and Velleman electronic kits. One day when I was around 14 years old. I was searching around a technical bookstore probably for programming books, when I came across the first edtion of the High Speed CMOS Databook from SGS Thomson! I was thrilled! For the first time in my life, I was able to see what was hidden inside those small black plastic things called "microchips"! This book had all datasheet of the HC series (and 4000 series) microchips, as well as some of the 74 series. And this was my kick-start in digital electronics. My very first digital project was a 3-digits counter (heh...).
The SGS-Thomson High Speed CMOS manual revealed to me for the first time the secrets inside microchips
It took me another ten years to discover micro-controllers. When I was a soldier, I had a lot of free time to read science and electronic books. Internet-Coffee stores were popular in Greece these days. I spent many hours searching around the internet for science articles and electronic projects. One day I came across a project with the PIC 16F84. To my great surprise I discovered that this chip was programmable with assembly (!!!!! WOWOWOW !!!!!) language. This would be the bond between my two hobbies - Electronics and programming! I found and downloaded the datasheet of the 16F84 chip. I remember that I spent the rest of my time as a soldier reading the datasheet and trying to understand how it works. When I returned back home, I already had the link to buy my very first PIC programmer - The mighty MPLAB ICD2 programmer!
I graduated the Technological Institute of Chalkis (class 94' B) as an Electrical Engineer (Dipl. -Ing). On April 15, 2007, I created my website, pcbheaven. The first release was a year after, in 2008. Today I work as a CNC technician (since 2004), and as a professional circuit designer (since 2010).