Computers and Electronics

Warning:  Any work you do on your own is at your own risk!!!

Hobby Electronics has always been both a curiousity and a pleasure for me and I have even managed to complete a number of Heathkits.  Unfortunately I never had the chance to study electronics formally and so I learn most of what I know through reading and experimentation.  That can be both costly and dangerous at times but if you start off by learning that there are two types of power, AC and DC then you should also know that DC is safer at voltages of less than 12 volts and less likely to damage expensive parts and equipment.
While I still dream of creating a fantastic circuit, I will settle for the latest and greatest ways of testing them and that is using the computer.

My latest investment is a microcontroller bread board known as Basic Stamp by Parallax that provides an experimenter with the advantage of using both electronics and programming to create and control modules.  This is what the super-programmers are made of, learning how the integration of programming controls the actual logic circuits that can be used to control external devices, a combination of analog and digital.   This combination also provides the hobbyist an easier method for experimenting with robotics.

A simple example that most people take for granted, the simple act of pressing the letter "A" on your keyboard is a process that involves the herdware and software of your system to display that "A" on your screen.
What happens is that when you press a key on your keyboard, the operating system translates that key to binary and that is sent to one of a number of controllers of the system hardware transferring it to the cpu and then to a video card that again translates the binary code into a character that is displayed on your screen.  There is more to it than what I have detailed here but I think that you recognize the logic pattern and the speed that this all takes place due to what is now much simpler circuitry than the first computers.

There are controller boards, other than Basic Stamp such as PIC, on the market and I think that they can be a terrific gift for those who are interested in learning electronics.

Here is a picture of one of the experiments included in the Basic Stamp manual and connected to my system using the RS-232 serial port, although a USB version is now available.  The unit uses a simple 9 volt battery and I have added a separate bread board along the side for additonal electronic components.

The Basic Stamp educational package

the basic stamp package

The addition of a separate bread board makes working with more components easier by adding connections between the two.

bread boarding using basic stamp

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