Running on the smell of an oily electron


My father was a mechanical engineer whose admiration for the very finest of engines knew no higher accolade than to point out to a much-smaller version of myself that ‘it runs on the smell of an oily rag!’

Of his six kids, I inherited all his engineering skills and my five siblings go fifty thumbs between them.

For some years I toyed with the notion of following in Dad’s footsteps but realized soon enough that the machine age was over and that electronics was the new frontier (this was the late 1960s).

Still, I never quite lost his sense for elegant solutions that did much with little.

The year 2015 marks my 40th year as a practicing electronics engineer.

When MEA started the Plexus radio project, I got to work on various circuits in my efforts to milk every last electron out of tiny solar panels and to store them in Lithium Ion batteries.

Since then, over 600 Plexus field stations have rolled out of MEA and have been ‘running on the smell of an oily electron’  ever since; through sun, rain, frost and storm.

The old feller would be pleased.

John Skinner at his workshop door
John Skinner at his workshop door.


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