Steve Cobham, 41, technical director at IT and cloud service provider Stack Computer Solutions, has a passion for all things electrical
I’VE spent most of my life ski-ing, sailing, climbing, windsurfing – you name it, I’ve tried it. Right now, I love heli-skiing and spend my holidays in the Alps with mountaineering friends. This Christmas I’ll be in Cape Verde kite surfing and scuba diving with my wife.
But ask me what I’m doing at the weekend and there’s nothing I like more than building and repairing anything electronic, from antique stereos to amps and radios.
I do have things going up in smoke from time to time and I think my friends have an image of Doc from “Back to the Future” surrounded by tools and inventions. As a result, there is a rumour persisting that I am trying to build a flux capacitor in the attic!
The hobby started from an early love of electronics in my teens. I started repairing computers for shops and set up a business creating memory expansion units and it was through this work I met the directors at Stack.
I then went on to university and gained my degree in electrical engineering, but it was always something I did socially as well as academically.
I also have a great passion for music. Earlier this month, I was at a Gotye concert, in Manchester, and I love everything from Crowded House to Lady Gaga. I enjoy anything that’s innovative and interesting – I hate the X Factor.
My love of music and my engineering background led me to an interest in hi-fis and amplifiers – in particular, antique, valve-based audio equipment that is no longer made today.
Almost 15 years ago to the day, I built my first valve amplifier using a do-it-yourself kit. Since then, I’ve gone on to making an 845 Class A model which uses radio transmitting tubes at 2,000 volts.
This is 10 times the voltage of what you’d normally find in mains circuits and can be highly dangerous. The device glows bright white and gets extremely hot when used. It’s my most impressive creation yet.
My best mate is really into hi-fis and music amps, too. We’ve known each other since we were four and he was best man at my wedding. He often takes equipment I’m not using or commissions me to make and repair stuff.
We sometimes have music evenings where we’ll introduce new CDs and music collections. Even the neighbours have started getting involved and the shared love of music and electronics has turned into a bit of a boys’ night.
My wife is very supportive and she’s great at putting up with my tools, wires, valves and amps taking over the house. I do subject friends and family to my hobby, but I think overall they’re pretty impressed – and, if they ever need a hi-fi restored, they know where to look.
There’s an obvious theme running through my work at Stack in technical electronic design and my hobby at home but I try to keep the two separate and not let work encroach on leisure. It’s more a case of colleagues wondering “What on earth is Steve building now?”
But, as soon as I’m outdoors, hitting the slopes or surfing over waves, I feel more like Bear Grylls than Bill Gates.
Most projects I pursue take between four and six months to complete and I can spend up to 10 hours at one time in my purpose-made workshop in the attic.
Many of my ambitions and future plans take the form of my next ski-ing or mountaineering endeavours, but I’ve always got an electronic venture happening on the sideline.
This, teamed with the fact that I’m a granddad of two, means I’m never short of something to do outside of work.