I just received an email from my chum Joe Farr in the UK. The subject line of this email was “What the Frack is This?” I instinctively knew what Joe meant, but still I was prompted to ponder the origin of the word “Frack.”

I had a quick Google while no one was looking and ran across a Wikipedia page on the use of Profanity in Science Fiction. (I tell you; there’s a Wikipedia page for everything these days). It turns out that the word “frack” was coined by writer Glen A. Larson for the 1978 Battlestar Galactica TV series.

I hadn’t really thought about this before, but the ability to use profane dialogue, with words that would be immediately understood as synonymous with the real profanities they stood in for, without falling foul of the network censorship and broadcasting restrictions of yesteryear, was obviously a clever move on the part of the writers.

Now, the alien expletive “shazbot!” from Mork & Mindy makes a lot more sense to me. This Orkan expression, which Mork frequently used, can be understood to reflect surprise, excitement, dismay, or bewilderment depending on the mood of the moment. In the days of heavy TV censorship, this was a means of sneaking the word “shit” past the censors, and Mork’s variation wound up becoming a popular catchphrase.

But we digress…

You don’t see one of these every day (Click image to see a larger version)

In his email to me, Joe spake as follows: “Hi Max, here’s a question for your legions of followers. I recently bought a faulty Farnell PG102 pulse generator as a fun repair project. I probably should have checked the availability of documentation before pouncing, but it seemed to have fairly standard components, no weird ICs, everything in sockets (except for this thing), and no surface mount, so it should be repairable.”

The ”thing” in question is shown in the photograph. Joe went on to say: “I suspect it’s a voltage regulator, but I would give both your arms for a data sheet, or even just a description of what the darn thing actually is and does. It’s a Motorola part… and I think it was made week 35 in 1988. I’ve got copies of some fairly old data books, but I can’t find any TY parts anywhere and the internet doesn’t seem much help either. I’ve run out of research options.”

I have to say that the “I’ve run out of research options” part sounded a little plaintive to me. I’d love to help Joe out because he’s helped me many times over the years. So, do you have any ideas as to what this little rascal’s role in life might be? (By “little rascal” I mean the component, not Joe.)