When sourcing parts for a RYO Paths module, I discovered that the Fairchild FJN3303R NPN Transistor is no longer manufactured. Searches on Octapart indicate that some companies still have the transistor in stock but they unfortunately only sell the chip in big batches. A company called Rochester Electronics would only sell me 12940 units and AVnet 16026. Both companies seem to supply electronic components for the manufacturing industry. If someone were to build over 5000 Paths this would make sense (the module requires three transistors). Modular grid indicates that around 700 users have the module already, so I imagine the market is saturated by now. The module seems to be from 2015 and there are dozens with similar functionality available. Perhaps 5000 sequential switches could be used to build a computer of sorts.
There are some potential substitutes for the transistor but I’m not skilled enough yet to confirm if the specs are a match. So I turned to ebay, aliexpress and other dodgy vendors. Some claim to be selling the same transistor but the price of a single unit is over 10€. It is also impossible to confirm that the chip is the right one.
Luckily the Modwiggler forum has a DIY Trade Thread [ Parts, PCBs, Panels ] where users announce stuff they are looking to trade with others. I found two entries both from 6-7 years ago from users indicating that they had some transistors to spare. I contacted one, got no reply, contacted the other and got a reply, and then the first contacted me too. Now I’m expecting to get 20 transistors in the mail! In a brief exchange we agreed that I’ll commit to distributing the extra units for builders/hobbyist from Helsinki. I got the units for free and I’m committed to distributing them further asking nothing in return.
It turns out electronics as a hobby is about supply chains, archivist practices and social commitment. Turns out hardware is about care. The module is interconnected by design and its manufacturing depends on the good will of other builders. For me the rarity of the transistor is now a facevalue of the module. It makes me a part of the Fairchild FJN3303R NPN supply chain, a member of the rare transistor-gild!
In the process I also learned of the phases of the ljunggrenaudio/RYO eurorack manufacturer. A few years back (between 2016-19) they gave up on business due to health concerns and disappeared. As their website ljunggrenaudio.com went down and got squatted, the schematics, technical notes, build manuals and patch notes were lost. In recent years the hobbyist community and their past collaborators have sourced the lost documents. They are currently housed on modwiggler and other sites. With out the documentation servicing and building the modules would have been difficult.
The short online-amnesia caused by lost documentations, the rarity of the transistors and the fate of ljunggrenaudio/RYO make the module build process more then a mere assembly (which most DIY kits are). It feels almost like a media archaeological excavation. I would like to learn more about the transistor thou and other things it is used for. I’ll distribute the Fairchild chips I was handed via Ore.e Refineries. I’m amazed by the realization that electronic components, chips and the logics, behaviour and functionality they poses are so finite. Already noted this when I started electronics as a hobby and it feel great to return to this with the Ore.e Ref. Fairchild supply initiative.