I was just trying to remember when I first came into contact with Alan Winstanley, who currently pens the Net Work column in Practical Electronics (PE), which is the UK’s premier electronics and computing hobbyist magazine.

It must have been before 1998, which is when my mate Alvin and I undertook the task of publishing an online version of the magazine (it was called Everyday Practical Electronics back in those days).

One of the many tasks Alan performed at that time was to offer suggestions for hard-to-find components. This was primarily due to the fact that one of the problems with an electronic hobbyist magazine is that readers submit really cool project articles, but their cunning creations are almost impossible to replicate because their components were sourced from the author’s treasure chest of “bits and pieces.”

In many cases, these parts had gone end-of-life years before the article was written. Sometimes, even identifying the type of component could be “interesting.” I remember it took me many months to track down an appropriate ferrite rod for use in an Atmospheric Monitor project (the author had based his original system on whatever came to hand).

Alan is a great writer. He penned The Basic Soldering Guide Handbook, which is one of the best soldering guides for beginners featuring fantastic photos that he took himself. He also wrote Introduction to Gas Soldering Irons, which was the first time I discovered that there was such a thing as a gas soldering iron.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found changing out a watch battery can be a pain in the nether regions, which is why I usually take mine to the local jeweler. Much the same applies to adjusting watch straps. Some of them can be easy peasy lemon squeezy, while others can be stressed depressed lemon zest, as it were.

The reason I’m waffling on about this here is that I was just chatting with Alan, who informed me that he recently self-published a new book, How to Fit Watch Batteries and Adjust Watch Straps, which is available from Amazon in the UK.

I have to get a copy, which I will keep here in my office next to the classic How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants by David Rees

At the end of the 1960 film version of The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux, our hero George (the time traveler) bids his dinner guests good evening. His best friend, Filby, returns shortly after to find George and his time machine gone. George’s housekeeper, Mrs. Watchett, notes that nothing is missing except three books that she is unable to identify, leaving us to ponder which books we would choose to take on a journey into another age.

Although I would probably opt for loftier tomes as my primary choices—a selection that would almost certainly include How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North—I may well be tempted to find room in my backpack for How to Fit Watch Batteries and How to Sharpen Pencils, not least that I would feel really stupid if I left them behind, only to discover that a working watch and a sharp pencil were key to my survival in whatever age I found myself.

How about you? What three books would you choose? Do you think we could count all of the volumes forming the Encyclopedia Britannica as one book (similarly for the unabridged version of the Oxford English Dictionary)?