It all began with an electrical outlet. An ordinary, single gang electrical outlet about 12 inches from the floor. It was an old type of outlet, not having a ground connector on either of the two plugs. It was dark on a white wall. There was absolutely no outstanding distinguishing characteristic of this outlet. Except...
But I am getting ahead of myself... I was probably about four at the time (I don't quite remember the exact age!) and spent a lot of time on the same level as that electrical outlet. My curiosity was developing ( -- in fact, it was probably in full bloom even at that age!) and I was one of those children who aggravated my parents by constantly asking questions. It had been one of those days, and I found myself once again exiled to my room. My parents thought they were getting some well deserved rest and were teaching me a lesson by forcing this exile from their presence upon me. Little did they realize that one such as me never saw time alone as an exile, but rather a time of exploration -- of discovery -- of adventure!
So I found myself stomach down on the floor, closely examining the electrical outlet. "What is this strange item? We have them in every room. What is their purpose? What do they do? Why is there a dark square around these four little holes? Does a mouse live in those tiny holes? Maybe I can look through them and see outside! Why does that small round thing in the middle of the four holes have a slot in it? How deep are those holes?" The questions came rapidly, but they were not endless, no matter what my mother may have thought. For, when I was by myself, I could not get any answers to my questions until I entered the realm of :
Now, the scientist asks questions, also. But to gain answers to those questions, the scientist must do something else: experiment! So, with my young mind leaving the four-year old questioner mode, and entering the four-year old scientist mode, I begin to look around for a way to explore this wonder. I had to design an experiment and set up the conditions for the experiment. What was I to do? With my mind's processes traveling at the speed of thought, I suddenly spied a bobbie pin!
Bobbie pins, for those who remember them, were once used by every female who ever wished to keep their hair from becoming too unmanageable. I believe that many fortunes were made through the simple manufacturing and sale of bobbie pins. Every woman had a box which contained their latest supply of a hundred bobbie pins. It was always their latest supply because all the previous supplies (totaling thousands of pins if the woman was no longer young!) had, one by one, fallen from their head and became lodged in the carpet or wedged under the baseboard until an electromagnetic shield was created around their bathrooms, dressing rooms, and bedrooms!
Anyway, my young hands reached forward and pried loose the bobbie pin which had become lodged under the baseboard in that spot. Here was a tool! Surely it was Providence Itself that provided me with that tool just when I needed it! Ask and ye shall receive! Even here, as a young scientist, my faith was being strengthened in the Almighty! I now had a tool to use in my experiment! What should I explore first? Yes! The tool has two ends which can be spread apart until they are just the identical distance as that which separates two of those small rectangular slots or holes. "I wonder how deep those holes are?"
And so, with my hand outstretched, holding on to my divinely provided tool, I approached the two small holes. I pushed the ends apart until they were just the correct distance to enter the two holes. I pushed the bobbie pin into the holes... Then, to further convince me of the hand of Providence in this matter, I let go of the bobbie pin just as there was a flash of light and a loud pop of a noise! The lights went out as if turned off by an unseen hand. I blinked a couple of times and saw a streak of what turned out to be iron filing deposits upon the wall above the outlet. Then, from downstairs comes a voice... "Bill! What are you doing up there?"
I rushed to the door of my room, quickly opened it and timidly replied "Nothing!" (My faith was not well enough developed at this time to connect divinely inspired experiments with unconditional disclosure of either the methods or conclusions to the experiments.) I heard my father muttering something about not having any more fuses, while the stairway creaked with the steps of my mother coming up the stairs.
The remainder of this story had nothing to do with any conclusions concerning those electrical outlets and the many questions I had concerning them, so there is no use telling any more. (Except that what followed convinced me that corporal punishment is never a deterrent to the true scientist!) What is important, though, is that this was the beginning of a lifetime questioning and learning about electricity, electronics, Ham Radio, computers, and how people think and act. Ahhh... the lure of Electricity!