My buddy Rob Bowers sent me a link to a video entitled, “World’s smallest schematic.” I guess it’s better than no schematic (Figure 1). Rob notes, “I have a feeling that more time is spent searching for schematics than actually repairing aging electronics.” I am glad I have so many pals that work in labs full of test equipment. More than once I have had to ask to borrow their manuals so I could get the schematic for an old piece of test gear.

Realistic schematic 01 (cr) Figure 1: While there may be smaller schematics, this has to be one of the smallest meant for production high-volume consumer electronics.

Still, even with the schematic in this radio, it's pretty ridiculous to think anyone could use it back in the day. These days you could use a DLSR camera to take a picture and then blow that up enough to print out on a piece of paper that you can plop on your bench while you fix the radio. The radio itself is a Realistic Patrolman (Figure 2).

Realistic schematic 02 (cr) Figure 2: The world’s smallest schematic is inside this Realistic AM/VHF radio.

The fellow in the video used a magnifying loupe and the schematic is still pretty useless (Figure 3). That’s a Pentel pencil under the magnifier as a reference of scale. I guess the thinking at Realistic was that they put the miniscule schematic on the inside of the back cover, so you could look at it while you worked on the radio. All I can think of is that there was some law that required manufacturers to include a schematic in some states, so this is how they complied with it.

Realistic schematic 03 (cr) Figure 3: Even with a magnifier, the world’s smallest schematic is pretty useless.

This rates up there with an instruction “manual” I got with a Motorola pager a decade or two ago (Figure 4). I wish I took a picture of it with some item to show its size. The paper was about 1/8 of an inch tall and an inch and a half long. If I remember correctly, they stuck it on the pager. If the manual is this pathetic, I would rather they just mould it into the cover so it's always there to read.

Realistic schematic 04 (cr) Figure 4: Motorola used to include this miniscule paper as the instruction manual for its pagers.

While on the subject of ridiculously small items, I will include a picture of a toothbrush and pencil they used to give out at the Elmwood Correctional Facility (Figure 5). Note that the eraser did not come with the tiny pencil, I added that later as a joke. The inmates still could make a shiv from the toothbrushes by melting a few together, back in the day when smoking and Bic lighters were still permitted. Don’t ask how I came by these mementos, but it involved a 1962 Harley Davidson and a police chase down San Carlos Boulevard.

Realistic schematic 05 (cr) Figure 5: They give out these tiny pencils and toothbrushes in jail. Maybe you can use the tiny pencil to draw a tiny schematic.

This article first appeared on EDN.