Shameless Familial Promotion — Treetop Circuits

Dad has finally started a revenue-neutral hobby doing what he used to do for years as an employee. He’s an electrical design engineer, with an interest in amateur radio, especially old Collins equipment. Thousands of Collins radios were built and used in the war, and, as often happens, were grabbed up by the hobbiests. Then technology changed.

In Dad’s words:

In the late 1950’s, a newer technique known as single-sideband (SSB) was introduced, and became the de facto standard for amateur radio, military, and commercial service, although AM continues to be used worldwide for broadcast services.

Some receivers from the pre-SSB era, including the Collins R-388/51J series, have become collectors’ items. Their stability, reliability, and overall performance are considered excellent even by modern standards. They will work with SSB signals, but their performance in this mode falls far short of that attained by receivers designed for SSB service.

Dad’s device fits into the radio and improves the reception, or something.

Plug this into amateur radios for better SSB performance.

Plug this into amateur radios for better SSB performance.

So far it’s revenue-negative. He’s spent about $1000 on startup costs, including a small run of printed circuit boards, better light and magnifying glass for Mom (who does the fiddly bits of assembly), business registration, and — here’s where I come in — a website.

www.treetopcircuits.com

The site is still almost empty. Two directories with index files and one css page. It’s enough to justify his signature line in all the radio groups and on his business card. The plan is only 4 pages for the site, so a wiki is overkill. Server side includes for the skin would work just fine. I don’t think Dad will be fiddling with it, so that won’t sway the decision. He’s capable of learning HTML, but just not interested. (Yes, I’ve sent him to http://www.htmldog.com and ww.w3schools.com for lessons. I think he’ll be happier with HTML mode than wysiwyg. EBay decided his descriptive text is actually an anchor to a file on his computer. ) If in doubt, though, do the extra work so the project can be scaled up. I haven’t touched my own website in over a year, so I spent a few hours refreshing my memory and upgrading the pmwiki installation.

One of the concerns was EBay’s rules. Most people wanting this device will want the manual first, and EBay doesn’t have a place to put that up (at least not that we can find). They also don’t want you to link to your own website and cut them out of a sales fee. We set up www.treetopcircuits.com/docs/ for that. No links from there to anywhere else on the site. We’ll pretend people can’t google Treetop Circuits or decode the URL.

The file format for the manual took some thinking. Most of the clients will want a printed copy. Trust me, you don’t want to have a computer anywhere close when one of the radios is open and you’re trying to solder, even if the table were large enough. PDF makes sense for that. The only question was whether any of his generation still couldn’t read PDF. Eventually, though, the time to create a proper HTML version decided the question.

Still thinking about a logo. The sign to their cottage, named Treetop Cottage, is a silhouette of a lonely, wind-caressed white pine — think Tom Thompson — on a white background. Not sure whether the background should be white or transparent. Also not sure about a border or top of a hill. Pixellated or textured like a circuit board or otherwise tying in to circuit design is also a question, but I suspect it would be easier to do poorly than to do well. Monochrome is more versatile. Also a favicon. I’ve used favicon creators enough to know that shrinking a larger image doesn’t always work. Stuff to think about, but easy enough to design something that will work both with and without.

As always, comments and critiques encouraged.

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2 Responses

  1. Re the Shameless Familial Promotion — only one quibble — it’s not going to be revenue-neutral if we can help it!! We’ll pass break-even at around 25 units, and make a good wage at 50.

  2. From Dad:

    Five sales so far, all in the US (my little blow against “Buy American” policies), and three serious inquiries from overseas. I’ve been doing my homework re customs and shipping, and will be listing “worldwide” tomorrow or the next day.

    I’m convinced that the ready availability of the manual is responsible for most of the sales. It may also be deterring some potential buyers who aren’t comfortable with doing this kind of surgery on their radios — and that’s good, because we don’t need unhappy customers.

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