Mahesh Venkitachalam bio photo

Mahesh Venkitachalam

Programmer/Electronics Hacker/Photographer/Writer from Bangalore.

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The madness started in 8th grade. Someone told me that it was possible to cut an LED and make a photocell out of it. Having no idea what that meant, I dragged my dad to the narrow row of electronics shops near the Thrissur railway station in Kerala. Over the next 3 years, I pretty much could think of only circuits. I didn’t understand much of the theory, but that didn’t stop me from learning soldering and building a whole bunch of circuits ranging from the “clap switch” to a power amplifier. My dad was very supportive of my hobby, and his only concern seemed to be that I was “straining my eyes soldering microscopic components”. It seemed obvious that I would pursue a career in electronics. But as fate would have it, I went on to study Metallurgical Engineering, then Materials Science and finally ended up with a career in Software Development.

I was introduced to programming in 1991, during my first year as an undergrad at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The CS101 course lectures were conducted in a huge auditorium. We never missed these lectures. It was air-conditioned, and the professor dimmed the lights at the start of the lecture. This was a much better place to sleep than the dingy hostel room. The course required us to write programs using Fortran 77 in a computer building, on consoles connected to a mainframe we called “Cyber”. The Cyber building was also air conditioned, and to escape from the sweltering heat of Bombay, all you had to do is find the right nook to hide yourself within Cyber’s maze of cubicles, monitors and rectangular slabs bristling with lights. You were safe as long as you avoided the prying eyes of the security guard trained to eject loitering undergrad riffraff from the building. The other grave danger you faced in Cyber was that someone would steal your footwear, which you were required to leave outside the building. I don’t recall finishing a single assignment for the course successfully, and my final project, a ghastly implementation of the “Snakes and Ladders” game, left a lasting impression on the examiner. This experience should have made me hate programming for good. Thankfully, that did not happen. I eventually discovered the joy of programming on my own by fiddling around with “Turbo C” graphics on 386 PCs at the tiny computer lab in the Metallurgical Engineering department.

Now, years later, I am renewing my passion in electronics and programming. This time, I am re-learning electronics from both directions - bottom level hardware (designing sensor circuits), and top level software - programming these tiny computers that talk to sensors. At the same time, I am learning PCB design, and new manufacturing techniques like laser-cutting and 3D printing. What an age we live in! The DIY-ers never had a more powerful set of tools at their disposal.

I have established to share my journey with you. Hope you enjoy your visit!

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