Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Interview with Alexis Kotlowy

Q:               I’m sitting down with Alexis Kotlowy.  Alexis is a jack of all trades in regards to the work he does with computing and electronics. 
                   Alexis, could you tell us how it all started?

A:               To be concise as possible, I started in year three at school.  I found a book about electronics, an Osborne book about electronics – an old U.K. publication – and it just sort of stuck; I got hooked on it and it snowballed from there.

Q:               What happened next, after you did that?

A:               I started pulling stuff apart and tinkering with things.  It got a bit dangerous at point because I started fiddling around with mains equipment and my parents had to have safety switch installed, which is still installed now.  Yeah, just pulling stuff apart and figuring out how it worked.  Apparently, I always used to pull stuff apart but it wasn’t really until I discovered electronics that I started pulling apart electronics things.

Q:               I’m assuming you’re referring to a Clipsal Safety Switch?

A:                Yes. Yeah, RCD switch.

Q:               What would you say your favourite thing is that you really love engaging in?

A:               Just design of obscure and unknown pieces of technology.  If it’s obscure or if it’s, I don’t know – odd, I suppose would be a good word for it; unexplored would be the word for it – areas of electronics like using analogue electronics to do things that you don’t expect to do on digital electronics, which is one thing I’m working on at the moment.  That’s the sort of thing I like to fiddle about with.

Q:               Sure.  Now, I understand that you have designed some bits and pieces.  Are you happy to go into how that happens?

A:               Yeah, sure.  Usually the ideas either comes to me when I’m trying to go to sleep, which is very inconvenient because I’m trying to go to sleep or alternatively, if someone comes to me with an idea, saying “Look, I’m trying to do this. It’s not working very well” and I usually know how to solve it that requires redesigning an entire circuit. 
                   Let me think – when the ideas I came up with was to convert the output of the chip, which runs the MSX series of computers and output it so it has a high resolution RGB or component output.  A friend of mine came to me and said “Look, can it be done?” and I said “Yes, certainly” and I went ahead and designed it, made some PCBs up.  Sold him one PCB and still had a few PCBs leftover to sell.

                   Another thing is, I noticed deficiencies in existing products, like an Atari 2600 composite mods.  I don’t think the resolution of the output is as good as it can be, so I redesigned my own composite and s-video mod, which is all in one unit and importantly, you don’t have to drill out the case to install the mod.  That’s another deficiency I found in the existing mods; you have to drill out the case to put holes in the case to install new sockets.  My mod, you don’t have to do that.

Q:               Did you envisage that you’d be doing all this work that you do?

A:               Not really. It just, sort of comes naturally.  I often say I can’t see more than two weeks ahead into the future, but it’s just something that’s always been inherent in what I do.  I always like to tinker and I always like to explore new ideas.
                   It’s interesting that the course I’m doing – we did the personality test and my personality type is just that I’m very creative – but it’s interesting because the professions that are listed underneath, which would be not suitable for my personality type included electronics, electrical work, stuff that involves heavy mathematics and stuff.  Even though I’m not that great at mathematics, I still manage to get around with electronics quite proficiently.
                   It’s interesting because I’m a creative mind, I can often see around interesting roadblocks that most other people will probably get stumbled; most other people stumble on.  It gives me an interesting advantage but at the same time, I’m not so good with mathematics, so I can’t figure out stuff that’s very complicated in the sense that I can’t simplify a circuit diagram with mathematics.  I have to do it visually, for example.

Q:               Thank you, Alexis for your time.

A:                No problems.