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A Good Beginning November 19, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Toys.

When I was a lad I would have killed for the internet’s ability to connect me to the world.  I was interested in electronics and found nothing in my local library that was really helpful for a youngster.  It never occurred to me to ask the librarian about interlibrary loans (didn’t know they existed at the tender age of ten).  Consequently, my self-education consisted of tearing apart broken radios and TVs and such for components, and hacking them together randomly (nearly).

I would have loved LucidScience.com’s little tutorial on building an FM transmitter for the breezy, forgiving tone that it sets: “many of the parts only need to be ‘close enough"’, you will probably be able to salvage all that you need from any old radio, TV, or RF based circuit board. Even the two transistors used are generic, and practically any small signal NPN transistor will work here.”

After that, it goes on to say which parts you can skimp on, how to wind an inductor easily and how to not worry if something doesn’t work right away: “I have built many versions of this transmitter using all kinds of varying scrap parts and it usually works. Most times, errors are due to wiring, not the parts used in the circuit.”

What really helps it to make sense is the Zen-like simplicity of the teaching method.  For example, look at how he relates schematic to layout:


Isn’t that beautiful and comforting?  What beginner would be intimidated by that?

Even more importantly, he’s left clues on how NOT to do it:

Figure 11 - This circuit almost worked...but barely!
Figure 11 – This circuit almost worked…but barely!

“A look at the underside of a solderless breadboard shows that it is made up of multiple metal strips that join the holes together in rows. These metal strips actually act like small value capacitors, often with more capacitance than some of the capacitors you may actually need in your circuit.”

Finally, as an inspiration for the perfectionist who may want to stretch herself a bit, he shows an example of patient assembly:


I feel like such an underachiever.


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