My buddy Rob Bowers over at Brocade told me about this video channel for home made (aka Maker) electronics projects. It’s produced by Alan “W2AEW” Wolke. You can see by his nickname and video channel name, he is a Ham radio enthusiast. I never got that bug, my projects were more like a wire wrapped around a nail to make an electromagnet.
The video above is what got my buddy Rob excited. He enthused, “Wow electronics for everybody! There may be hope for me. I watched the one on completing the noise source on the Ham It Up! convertor. He builds it, tests the basics, and the shows a simple use case. I feel .031% less stupid. I wanted to know if I should purchase the noise source parts. ‘Yes’ is the answer, after watching this.”
This is the cool thing about the Maker Movement. Rob is not an engineer. He did software QA in the past and now works at Brocade in the IT department. He is technical, but not formally trained. But the Maker movement is about the fun stuff, and the dreary classrooms and boring lectures are dispensed with in favor of learning with a specific objective in mind. It’s all the fun of engineering without the tedium. We invented computers. They can do the tedium, and the math, for that matter.
You can see from Alan’s bench the passion he has for radio and electronics in general. Any person with a Metcal soldering iron and a Simpson 260 analog voltmeter is OK by me. The extended CRT (cathode ray tube) housing on that scope makes me think it is the 400MHz Tek 2467B, the fast glitch capture version of the Tektronix 2465B. The CRT is longer to add the plates needed for persistence.
Another cool tip from Rob was about Brocade where he works. He told me the labs have vending machines with cables and mice and other day-to-day engineering essentials. The engineers can just swipe their badge into the vending machine, pick out the cable and be on their way, no requisition forms or hassle. What a class outfit.
Knowing I worked at Atmel, my pal wanted to point out the above article about Arduino by Joe Pardue. Nuts and Volts is a subscription magazine, so you have pay 27 bucks a year for print and digital, or only 20 bucks a year if you don’t want the print magazine.
Even without subscribing, you can download the code samples for the Arduino 101 article, and if you upgrade to the mysterious un-priced “preferred subscriber network” you get access to all the old issues of Nuts and Volts. This is a great complement to Circuit Cellar magazine, which is also a subscription magazine, but for $250 they can also give you a memory stick with every single article they have ever done. I recommend both these magazines since they are aimed at system design. The trade press, where I have worked, is fine to learn about the latest chip or test method. But Circuit Cellar and Nuts and Volts both show you how to hook up the chips, and do the code and everything else to get a working product. They even touch on 3-D printing and the stuff to put your gizmo in an enclosure. No wonder they can charge for a subscription. All they lack is articles about FCC, CE, and UL approvals, and those might happen one day for all I know.
So keep watching those YouTube videos and reading articles, but more importantly, keep hacking on circuits and code. That is the fun stuff that gives real satisfaction and happiness.