UT Bram Nauta

Bram Nauta is a professor of IC design at the University of Twente.

23 May 2023

Celebrating his 25th anniversary as a professor of analog circuit design, Bram Nauta reminisces about how his love for electronics started.

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, I started to tinker with electronics. Together with a friend of mine, I built my first FM radio transmitter circuit, for which I bought the components at an electronics store in my town. After a few hours of soldering and fiddling with it, I didn’t get it to work. I was disappointed. But then a neighbor barged into our kitchen, saying: “Hey, I hear Bram on my television!” My mother was shocked and stared at me, but I was excited that my transmitter did work after all! A bit of re-tuning of the air inductor took me to the FM radio band.

For my next birthday, I got a Philips EE 2003 electronics kit. Step by step, the components were explained in a book, and I built circuits directly from the diagrams supplied. This way, I got to know transistors, resistors, capacitors and inductors, and I realized I could build anything with those components, although I didn’t understand how it all worked.

After that, I wanted to build more electronics stuff, but I had no money, so my friend and I took our bikes to pick up old TVs that were collected by the dump once per month. We brought them home to harvest components. My mother didn’t like it, but I thought it was beautiful! All those weird devices. I didn’t recognize all components, but I started playing with them.

I knew the black thing with three legs was a transistor, and just by tying all combinations with a resistor, light bulb, transistor and headphone jack, I made a light that flashed on the beat of the music played by my cassette recorder. I built loudspeaker boxes from TV loudspeakers and transformed a broken record player – which I got from my school’s headmaster – into an audio tube amplifier.

ASML special

I read some more magazines, and I built a voltmeter, a power supply and a function generator. All in wooden boxes that I painted black. In one of the magazines, I found a schematic of a Volgate-controlled oscillator outputting the TV line frequency (15.625 kHz) and by connecting that to the TV’s antenna input, I created a vertical oscilloscope – without trigger – on an old black-and-white TV! That was helpful. I started to repair amplifiers and fixed all kinds of household apparatus for the neighbors. I even earned some money this way. I still have the components and test equipment I built myself; I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.

This month, I celebrated my 25th anniversary as a full professor in analog circuit design. I still get to play with transistors, resistors, capacitors and inductors and even get paid for it. And yes, I still love it! Technology is amazing, and the possibilities of chips are endless today. Together with my colleagues, we educated many students, did fun research and attracted a bunch of analog chip design companies to the Twente region. Hundreds of students came to my 25th-anniversary party, some with their families and kids. We had a lovely time, and those with kids of the right age got an electronics kit (Spektro Starter, really cool!).

I hope those kids get excited by the endless things you can build. I hope they get curious like me at that age.