Building Circuit Boards With Dynamite

detcom at detcom at
Sat Apr 13 22:14:45 MDT 1996

An excerpt from the book; "New Women in New China",
Foreign Languages Press, Peking 1972


The West District No. 1 Transistor Equipment Factory in Peking
used to be a neighborhood workshop where steelyards were made
and scales repaired.  Most of the workers had been housewives
and had little formal education, but in just five years they
have succeeded in turning out various electronic products which
fill needs in hundreds of factories throughout the country.
Some of these products have had favourable comments by friends
>from abroad at the Chinese Export Commodities Fair in Kwangchow.

It may be wondered how these women, who were housewives, are now
able to make this modern equipment.


In 1965 the workshop was asked to trial-produce a diffusion
furnace with automatic temperature control which had been designed
by the revolutionary students and teachers of Tsinghua University
as a project in their scientific research plan.  Hearing that it was
an important item for the electronics industry and had been on the
list of the imperialists' embargo against China for a long time, the
women workers determined to take on this task for their motherland,
though none of them was an electrician, let alone a technician or

When a skeptic scoffed that it was nonsense for housewives even to
think of making a diffusion furnace, the women were adamant.  "Why
can't we women add a brick to socialist construction?"  they argued
back.  "Men and women are equals in the new society."  And backed
by the Party branch, they decided to try.  Li Hua, Wang Chin-tsai,
Sung Chin-lan and some other women workers and a few newcomers who
had just completed secondary school were put in charge.

The Party branch sectretary, Ti Jung-hsueh, called them together to
study Chairman Mao's inspiring essay, The Foolish Old Man Who Removed
the Mountains.  "What if we haven't a higher education?  We're people
of the new era with the spirit of the Foolish Old Man."  Li Hua, a
child bride in the old society, whom the Party rescued from her
sadness after the liberation, was impressed.  She said with conviction,
"With Mao Tsetung Thought to guide us, we can overcome our difficulties
and make that furnace!"

Relying on their own efforts, they started out in cramped quarters--a reed
and clay cabin with asphalt felt roof, ten square metres in area.

The first step in making a diffusion furnace is to solder a device with
almost a thousand components.  This initial technique requires ability
to read the circuit diagram.  It looked to the women that they would not
be able to make the first step.  They went to Tsinghua University for
advice.  To Li Hua, who had never been to school at all, the diagram was
just a maze of spider webs. With the warm and patient help of the University
students, however, they soon learned to read the diagram, and they began
to work.  Soldering is a simple job, but when Li Hua took up the small,
light soldering iron, her hand trembled, for she was used to handling
20-kilogramme weights.  Following Chairman Mao's teaching:  "What really
counts in the world is conscientiousness, and the Communist Party is most
particular about being conscientious,"  she practised with great care.  She
first cut the soldering metal into very small pieces and soldered them
one by one over the lead holes, finally becoming quite skilled at it.

Wang Chin-tsai, mother of three children, went to the university to learn
soldering in the daytime; then in the evening she returned to the workshop
where she practised what she had learned and exchanged experience with others.
Thus this housewife, who had only two years' schooling, became one of the
skilled technicians in this line.


Having finished their study at the university in a month, the women returned
to the workshop where they were warmly welcomed by their fellow-workers.
Trial-production of the diffusion furnace was to begin.

Li Hua and the other women workers had learned to make the furnace controls,
but none of them knew how to make the furnace body.  They studied the problem,
and also sent several workers to other plants which were equipped with
diffusion furnaces.  They were told that it was impossible for people who
knew nothing about thermodynamics to make a diffusion furnace.  So they
invited an expert from a research institute to teach them about that.  The
expert was enthusiastic about helping them, telling them basic principles so
that they learned a lot.  But how to apply the principles and make a furnace?

"Let's learn while doing," they said.  "Chairman Mao teaches us: 'Our chief
method is to learn warfare through warfare.'"

"That's it," they agreed.  "As the saying goes, 'To see something once is
better than hearing about it a hundred times, but to do a thing once is
better than seeing it a hundred times.'"

They tried again and again, and finally worked out methods and made many
parts of the furnace.  Still they couldn't set up a constant-temperature
zone without which there could be no diffusion furnace.  The women worked
on it day and night, but failed to solve the problem.

They reported the trouble to the Party branch comrades, who called a meeting
of all the workers to put their heads together.  Woman worker Kuo Ching-chih
outlined for the assembled workers their progress and their difficulties,
and asked for advice. There were many suggestions.  When someone mentioned
the long tube in the furnace and how a furnace was not like an ordinary
cooking stove, Kuo suddenly got an idea.  It was true, the two were different
in structure, but the principles of the furnace and of the cooking stove were
the same.  It was easier to maintain constant temperature in the stove because
the stove had no cold air in it, while in the furnace, it was hot in the
middle and cooler at both ends.

Someone added, "If we change the winding of the heating elements so that
there're more coils at the ends and less in the middle, that might stabilize
the temperature."

This method was tried and did in fact lessen the difference in temperature
inside the furnace.  After over 30 experiments, they worked out a rational
winding of the heating elements and produced a constant temperature zone.
Thus, after more than a hundred failures and setbacks and seven months hard
work, these former housewives, who could only make steelyards, made the first
high-precision automatic temperature-control diffusion furnace of advanced


After crossin the threshold of the electronics industry, the women did not
stop.  The furnace they had made used electronic tubes.  During the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution, they proposed to the Party branch and the
Revolutionary committee that they try to make a transistorized diffusion
furnace.  The leaders supported the proposal.

They studied the diagram carefully in the light of their experience, broke
through old restrictions and introduced bold innovations, overcoming one
difficulty after another.  The result was their first transistorized
diffusion furnace, simple but of advanced level and with special features.
After tests by various departments, the diagram was selected as a standard
pattern in China.  Tsinghua University included it in their textbooks.

The news that this small factory has produced modern diffusion furnaces,
and furthermore that housewives have become electronic technicians, spread
throughout the country.  People have come from factories in other parts of
the country to study its experience.  Foreign friends have also been welcome
visitors here.

     --- from list marxism at ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list