About 15 years ago when I was trying to find information on high frequency alternating current (HFAC) for train lighting, I was told by many kind people in the hobby that HFAC was left behind when command control, now digital command control (remote control for model trains), came into favor. Many told me to move to the command control where I would not need the HFAC. It was hard to explain why I wanted the "old technology," but eventually I found someone who sent me an updated parts list for an old Peter J. Thorn circuit for HFAC, his book having been out-of-print for years. These old techniques are new to people like me, and in addition to the trains and layout being a hobby (and the computer related projects), these little electronic projects are fun too, perhaps a hobby within a hobby.
With my emphasis on automation and just watching the trains operate, and the current trend toward more and more interaction with the trains, the gap has widened even more for me, separating me from some current and popular aspects of the hobby. All of these old techniques can be used, at times, to improve the performance of our layouts, and as I said before, can be a lot of fun! Yes, there is a certain thrill when I suit up with goggles, stand about 20 feet away from my layout, throw a switch and wait to see if my capacitors are wired correctly, or if they blow up. And seeing just a minor improvement in layout performance is very gratifying. It used to be more fun when I was using just text and the old bulletin board system with Fidonet, anticipating the days when I would have room for a layout, and very helpful people would answer my very basic electronic questions, helping me to avoid problems. It was often a challenge to do a diagram just in ASCII, especially on the old Timex/Sinclair 1000 and 300 baud modem. I was introduced to simple diode use, capacitors to filter DC, simple techniques and guidelines on resistors, component ratings, soldering techniques, etc. Yes, all this information was in the hobby books, but it was great fun sharing things, and these experienced electronics people enjoyed seeing me learn and grow. Unfortunately, as the internet grew, the old BBS went by the wayside, and we all spread out and lost touch. If any of the old Fidonet and CompuServe guys are out there, please send me an e-mail, take a look at my site and see how all those ideas are now in action! Joe.