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Book Review: Printed Circuits Handbook 6th Edition—Clyde Coombs, editor
Book Review: Printed Circuits
Handbook 6th Edition—
Clyde Coombs, editor
by Joe Fjelstad
The printed circuit, it can be reasonably have authored chapters for Printed Circuits
argued, is the foundation upon which Handbook over the years would certainly
the present global electronics industry cover the walls of any modern pantheon
has been built. Before the integrated of printed circuits were such a hall of fame
circuit was invented, it was the printed and honor to be created. I have had the
circuit that served to integrate the good fortune and pleasure to know and
discrete transistors used to create earlier learn from many of the authors personally
generation electronic products. To that over the years and have seen Printed Circuits
end, it is worth remembering that IC Handbook on the desks and bookshelves
inventor Jack Kilby worked for ceramic of fellow PCB and interconnection
printed circuit manufacture CentraLab in technologists around the globe. When I
Wisconsin before he went to work for Texas worked for a couple of years in the former
Instruments, and it seems reasonable to Soviet Union/Russia near Moscow in the
imagine that his invention was influenced 1991-1993 time frame, I found a copy in
by his printed circuit experience. the circuit lab published in Cyrillic (which
Given the fundamental importance of I learned later was not authorized) and was
the printed circuit, it is reasonable to expect able to translate and read there the names of
that a book dedicated to the technology respected colleagues whose knowledge had
would be produced. While there were some been crossing geopolitical boarders, feeding
early predecessors and followers to Printed minds and advancing technology.
Circuits Handbook, they lacked the focus
sided boards. When eyelet technology
If you have the good fortune to meet
and vision that has been the hallmark of
was the method of first choice for making
Clyde Coombs personally (and I hope you
Coombs’ book. A testament to that fact is
interconnections between the two sides of
will), he will tell you of his vision and the
its longevity, as the book is now in its 6th
a board, Clyde became convinced that a
insightful format for the book that has
edition and has spanned more than four
better way to make the increasing number
carried it though 40 plus years. The first
decades during its existence. Its importance
of connections between sides was to use a
edition collected the knowledge of the
and value has increased with succeeding
plated though hole, and he was soon tasked
time on a first pass from industry experts
by David Packard to find a way to make it
willing to write on the subject area of
Given its long established value, this
happen at HP. Packard also suggested the
their expertise, and it laid the foundation.
effort is not so much a review of Printed
use of a gold finish on the boards as a visual
Because not everything changes either
Circuits Handbook as it is a homage both
cue to HP quality. While doing research
wholesale or at one time, subsequent
to the time tested and time honored tome
for the project, Clyde met the people who
editions have built on and broadened
and its editor. I can recall using the first
would later contribute to the first edition
the base, expanding the knowledge and
edition as a neophyte printed circuit process
of the book. Equally important, Coombs
embracing new technologies. As Coombs
engineer in 1971. Having had the pleasure
started the California Circuits Association
sees it, about 70-80% of each new edition
to meet and get to know Clyde Coombs in
to bring people together to talk technology.
has material that is common but updated;
the years since, I have come to appreciate
While many folks thought they had
the other 20-30% is new material or
how much thought and effort has been
proprietary processes, through Clyde, who
improvements. Actually, one of the
put into this book and keeping it current.
was a non-competitor, they learned that
important and highly valuable aspects of
This is, in fact, what makes this book
they were all doing pretty much the same
Printed Circuits Handbook is that the roots
so important to the printed circuit and
thing, and Coombs saw the need to collect,
of the printed circuit industry can still be
electronics industries. The earlier days of
organize and present in book form the
found in each new edition. The importance
printed circuit manufacturing were rather
extant printed circuit knowledge base, not
of this resonates in the words of philosopher
chaotic and certainly colorful. Coombs
just from within HP and this initial group
George Santayana who said, “Those who
lived the early experience with a printed
but form across industry and ultimately
do not learn from history are destined to
circuit career that began a half century ago
around the world.
repeat it.”
in 1959 at Hewlett-Packard, building single
The names of those individuals who
Continued on page 35
32 – Global SMT & Packaging – October 2009
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