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Childhood memories

The Engineering School

Nasho

Work Experience

In the 1950s (and probably still today!) it took more than two hours to get from my home at Mount Dandenong to the City by public transport. For a short while my father tried commuting, but this involved a 15 minute walk to the Main Road in the morning to catch the 7.30 bus to Croydon, and then the train from Croydon to the City, arriving at Flinders St just before nine, and finally a tram ride to work. This all had to be repeated in the evening, and he eventually got home after seven, so he soon gave up.

The engineering course involved lectures or prac classes from 9 to 5 five days a week, so commuting would have been impractical as there would have been no time left for study. Fortunately I got a Commonwealth Scholarship, which paid my University fees, and a Council Scholarship at Trinity College which paid the College fees, so that I was able to live in Trinity for the four years of the course.

Most of my fellow students at Upwey had been the children of farmers and shopkeepers, and were not expected to continue their studies when they left school, so there was little emphasis on achieving high marks. At Trinity I was surprised to discover that there had been Exhibitions for the top students in the Matriculation exams, and two of my friends at Trinity had shared the Exhibitions in Science and Maths.

Although in those days there were separate degrees for the different branches of engineering the first two years of the four-year course was the same for all branches, and it was not until the fourth and final year that we really specialised in electrical engineering.

The junction transistor had been invented in 1948, but in 1954 our course was almost exclusively about thermionic valves (or vacuum tubes), with just one lecture on those newfangled semiconductors. We each had to do a practical project in our final year, and one student was allocated a very expensive junction transistor. However I was very interested in the subject, and wrote an article on transistors for "Cranks and Nuts", the Engineering Students Society magazine, in which I correctly foresaw many of the changes made possible by transistors.

When I graduated I found myself in a never-ending struggle to keep at the forefront of the most rapidly changing of all the professions, and for 40 years I did the equivalent of learning in foreign language every five years. Just occasionally I thought it would have been nice if I had become a French teacher, so that I wasn't continually struggling to keep up.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2017

Melbourne University