vetus plumbum

I was just doing some soldering in the garage. I use a fine gauge solder for ICs and similar small connections (not the lead-free stuff, by the way), but I had to solder a number of larger components with much thicker leads. So I dug out a spool of solder I probably bought at Radio Shack in the mid 70s. I’m sure this stuff is illegal somewhere.

Let me tell you, the moment that old solder hit the iron the smell of its rosin brought back a lot of memories. Modern solder is weak and pale and seems to lack some essential quality; maybe it’s the reason we can’t put people on the moon anymore. I took a deep and slightly toxic breath.

Suddenly I was back in my basement bedroom in Colorado. It was 1978. I was putting together another board of RAM while watching a weekday afternoon rerun of Star Trek on the old black-and-white tube set I’d repaired. My high school homework was in the corner, in my backpack, and I wasn’t planning on doing it because I was going to have a computer working in a couple of days. After soldering another 2,000 connections or so. After which . . .

I’m just returned now. I changed history, a little. I hope you don’t mind.

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4 Responses to vetus plumbum

  1. C'est moi says:

    “and I wasn’t planning on doing it because I was going to have a computer working in a couple of days.”

    The younger you had his priorities in order. That’s all I wanna say.

  2. MagerValp says:

    I love the smell of rosin core solder in the morning.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I know I’m not supposed to breathe it in, but I do love the smell of rosin core solder.

    It’s total Pavlovian conditioning… I’ve trained myself that the smell of solder means that I should be excited about whatever thing I’m making (and hoping it works).

  4. Chris B says:


    I took a deep and slightly toxic breath.

    It’s OK. What you are smelling and tasting is the rosin. Which is made from Pine sap. You’ll be fine.

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