Several years ago in Dr. Avery’s college class on digital logic (fun coincidence – this is post number 2^7 on this blog), or maybe it was a required “freshman projects” class, a question got asked along the lines of “why do we need to know this stuff when there’s fancy part X that already does Y and Z?”.
I don’t remember the specifics of the question anymore, but part of the answer involved a quip about tearing apart TVs at the South Pole to find a replacement part. Of course, at that point I was just a couple years separated from my first gig on the Ice, and so we had a fun little chat about Antarctica after class.
A few days ago, the Dobson (a very specialised instrument used to measure atmospheric ozone – more at NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory’s page) out at ARO broke, and the failure was traced back to a small bearing that had worn out. This is a really bad time of year for the Dobson to fail, as the ozone hole over S Pole opens up around our dawn, and one of our purposes here is to monitor such things.
A few days ago, I found myself hacksawing apart spindles of dead hard drives to get at the bearings inside, and the Dobson is now back to running.