For Christmas of 2006, my uncle gave me a Roomba. I started running it around my apartment, as you do, and after a couple days I noticed that it wasn't detecting walls right, it wouldn't follow edges correctly, that sort of thing. I took it apart to see what was up, and found that one of the leads to one of the sensors was broken off from the wire.
I went to Fry's, bought a cheap soldering pencil (no temperature control, not even a stand), some electrical tape, and a spool of solder. I did the world's worst solder joint, wrapped it in tape, and the Roomba worked again! And the electronics bug was planted.
Now, almost exactly eight years later, I have run out of solder.
In that time, I've gone from that horrible solder pencil (which I once dropped into my lap, but somehow managed to dodge away from), through two battery powered irons, three nicer temperature controlled stations, to my current station with the SMD rework gun and the smoke absorber.
What I'm a lot more proud of is, I've gone from building blinky-light kits to building much more complex kits, to designing my own things. I've built a gamepad, tweaks to my helicopter, Christmas gifts for people. I've taught myself everything from lighting up an LED with a battery to decoding radio signals. Gone from Dremeling a hole in a candy tin to printing my own enclosures. And from not even knowing what most tools do, to having a decent workbench setup.
And soon, I'm going to go from the little folding table I used in my apartment eight years ago, to having an entire room to build my stuff in, in my new house.
You know the whole thing about, to be a writer, you have to write a million (or whatever) words of bad writing before you get to start writing good things? That roll of solder was my million words. And now I'm going to take the plastic wrap off my next roll.
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