Wednesday, March 08, 2023

I'm Glad I Soldered This Backwards. Really.

I've started building my Elenco AM/FM Radio Kit and breathed a sign of relief when I finished soldering the audio amplifier's IC socket. The socket's polarity and eight legs were opportunities to mess up the trickiest component I'd worked with yet.


When I went to solder the capacitor between pins 2 and 6, to my horror, I realized I'd soldered the socket on backwards:

What the heck? It took a few minutes, but I figured out where I went wrong: I'd carefully oriented the socket and flipped the board over to solder it into place. Gravity did its thing and the socket fell out. I put the socket back soldered it, all without considering its orientation.

At the time I was really ticked. I realized I better deploy some countermeasures before I started fuming and did something I'd regret.

First off, I put the project down and called it a day. While I wanted to fix this NOW, I realized that taking a beat would be much smarter.

The next day, I Gratitude Gamed this failure.

Let's Gratitude Game This

The Gratitude Game is a technique I use for dealing with mistakes. It has two parts. First, without judgment or filtering I enumerate all feelings related to the debacle. The nastier and more irrational, the better:

  • Of course you screwed this, up you always screwup projects like this.
  • You've broken the project. It's done.
  • I bet if you try to fix this, you'll only make this worse.
  • You should chuck this all in the trash and pretend it never happened.
  • You're an idiot and a loser.

Inner voices can be real jerks.

Next, I posed the question: how was this blunder a good thing?

  • If the goal of this project is to learn things, then this is an excellent opportunity to learn to desolder. That's a useful skill.
  • I need to stop thinking of hardware projects as an exercise in perfection. Screwing up and recovering is a basic skill I need to embrace and master.
  • I messed up the trickiest component yet, and the project isn't over. Despite what my inner voice claims, I haven't failed.
  • I can use this as a great example to talk about Gratitude Gaming on the blog.
  • I'm a beginner at this, of course I'm going to make mistakes. Who cares?

As is often the case, this exercise exposed my negative inner voice as a fraud and that far from my mistake being catastrophic, it was actually a good thing.

Let's Fix This

Using desoldering wick, it took just a couple of minutes to get the socket removed from the board.

I reoriented the socket and used a bit of masking tape to fight off the effects of gravity:

Within no time I had the socket soldered correctly. Far from being a crisis, my mistake had let me work on an important skill and set the tone for this project as being far more forgiving of errors than I imagined.

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