Getting it wrong

I’ve been working on a particular project for the past five years. I had this great idea for a Christmas ornament and I wanted to see it realized and on my Christmas tree. For a variety of reasons, I have never successfully accomplished this.

I inherited an interesting clock from my Grandfather. It’s a Binary clock, and I absolutely adore it. It is one of my very favorite possessions. My uncle had an identical binary clock and it was in the same room I’d sleep in when we’d visit.

My Grandfather’s Binary clock

Loving this thing I thought it would be fun to carry the idea into something else – so I picked another thing that I loved dearly: Christmas.

I came up with a design, made a couple of circuits, tried some things out, and eventually tried to take the next step: Ordering some PCBs. And they didn’t work. So I tried again the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

Here, side-by-side, are the various PCBs I’ve designed for this project that have not worked:

None of these counts down to Christmas. Almost none of them even light up.

Typically when you read this sort of post, the author will tell you how they just kept on going until they heroically made it all work. Edison famously worked through a thousand different materials before settling on a carbon filament. This is not that post. I haven’t been successful here. My latest rendition heats up like a stove element when I plug it in, and I don’t even know what’s wrong… So why am I writing this?

Today I came across an article that spoke a bit about recording failures for the benefit of history. In the era of Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, it’s not hard to imagine that everyone is amazing and everything everyone is doing is amazing and perfect the first time.

It’s not of course. Few people write about the absurd failures they have. The wires they forgot to connect, the power and ground lines plugged in backwards, or in the case of 10-year-old me, the 3 tablespoons of salt added to the croissant dough, instead of 3 teaspoons. So here is my contribution to the world of things not gotten right.

Sometime in July or August I will dust off Christmas Countdown and try again. Maybe I’ll get it this year…

Note: After writing this, I spent a little time looking at my most recent version of the project and realized that I’d gotten the footprint for the LEDs wrong. I know why last years didn’t work – so it looks like I have something to go on.