Getting back into electronics...

Electronics was my first love but it has been ages since I was hands-on with it last. Infact, I don't even remember touching a soldering iron except for doing a few bits required for work at university. Hopefully, that's all about to change.

I am making a (really) concerted effort to get (back) into some practical electronics, partly motivated by a renewed interest in robotics and partly because I have a few ideas I want to try out. I got my old stuff out a week or so ago, only to find out that I no longer have most of the essential gear I need. Consequently, it has been a demanding few days for my wallet as I stocked up on components and some absolutely essential tools - including a new multimeter and a new solder station. I've opted to build a dual-polarity variable bench-top power supply myself (which is essential for almost all work) rather than buying it as these don't come cheap.

First on my list of things to do is get myself acquainted with the TI 16-bit MSP430 series of microcontrollers and the popular ARM 32-bit microcontrollers. I know I'm going to have a fun time tinkering with these MCU's - hopefully it'd be more fun than that I had toying with the Microchip PIC devices. For now, I'm still waiting for the chips to be delivered and for my exams (which begins tomorrow) to be over...

Wish me luck! :-D

Geek at work :-P

Equipment and component stock slowly piling up...

Me and electronics

I love electronics. I love it because it is a thrill to actually build something and see it work. The act of creation is overwhelming, especially when younger.

Electronics was my greatest obsession since the time I got introduced to the field by a book given to me by a beloved uncle. I had the habit of being fascinated by electrical/mechanical gear while I was even younger but this book series (Funway into Electronics by Dick Smith) lay the foundations to the real awakening to the subject. I was 11 years old then and I was totally engrossed in it. I spent day and night meddling with ready-made products, scrounging for components in broken stuff and doing further reading, albeit with little real understanding :-P But, the knowledge I gained was enough to understand how this and that worked. It was enough to let me repair and build on my own.

However, it was the thrill of building, of constructing various circuits that really had me on a high. It was by far one of the most enjoyable things I remember from my childhood. I built everything from silly LED light shows to neat "spy" gadgets. Directional listening devices that can pickup what the two gossipers at the end of the road are whispering to each other are a personal favourite. I built radio/tv transmitters and receivers. I had fun tuning into the world with self-built receivers and self-built antennae. Mind you, this was the time before encrypted communications began cropping up in Male'. I could listen into the police, cordless phones and even had the pleasure of listening in on the communications that took place when the First Lady got into some trouble in the sea (oops. classified?). I had fun building interfaces to the computer. Attempting to decode the then common 'pager' signals was an exciting undertaking. I had fun building high voltage gear. Voltage multipliers to get nice long sparks in attempts to build a decent Jacob's Ladder or a Plasma ball. Coil guns were amusing things too. I got jolted by electric shocks enough times but it was worth it - maybe except for the time I had a 400 or so volts DC, fully charged capacitor discharge thru my hands. I was careless and didn't realize the capacitor was charged. It had enough juice running through me to get me zonked out with birdies still flying around my head when I woke up... (Check out this image at How It Works to see how 'spectacular' it is when such a capacitor discharges)

Anyway, today, I fixed the TV that came with my apartment. I had so many (free!) channels piped down but with the 24inch TV refusing to utter a whisper of a sound, it was getting real dreary in here - just me, the laptop and food. It has been a looong time since I broke into one of these things and it felt good. The encounter inspired this blog rambling and I've just dug out all my electronics gear gathering cobwebs in the dark... Time to wield a soldering iron and do some serious damage!