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Newbie components question

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Ceej100
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Posted on Monday, 27 March, 2006 - 08:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Hi all
just found your website today... looks good... next stop the newsagents for the magazine.

I'm an I.T. professional, but just got interested in electronics. I have just finished reading "electronics for dummies". A good read, but quite biased to the USA.
Now I'm looking forward to getting a solderless breadboard & some components (presumably from maplin or similar) & trying a few beginners projects. Can anyone reccommend their favorite vendor?
I got particularly interested in the chapter about microcontrollers, which featured the basic stamp 2 from parallax. So far I have only found one U.K vendor who sells this component (Milford in Leeds). This got me wondering whether U.K. electronics hobbyists use an alternative which may be more readily available.

Any advice about microcontrollers, or best ways to begin in electronics would be greatfuly appreciated.

Chris Johnson
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Magnum4
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Posted on Monday, 27 March, 2006 - 08:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Hi Chris,
God I think you just might have opened a can of worms
My Fav is the pic processor,From Microchip, Free development tools Etc., but im still using 84`s:-)
Epe has John Becker`s Tutorial on cd for sale, and I cannot recommend it enough.
There are a great many micro`s out there and you will have to try and work out what you want from it, For me the pic is everything I need at the moment anyway.
HTH.
Regards,
Jim
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Sounded_simple
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Posted on Monday, 27 March, 2006 - 08:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Hi,

Get to know some basics before you get stuck into programming.
- Electronics is very enjoyable as long as you dont bite off more than you can chew to begin with.
- Reading EPE is one of the best ways to learn.
- Pick a firly simple but interesting project for your first and build up from there.
- Dont get too worried about the theory - learn it as you need to apply it.

Good Luck
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Dave_g
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Posted on Monday, 27 March, 2006 - 08:52 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Chris - I second Magnum. 30-odd years of electronics as a hobbyist and I have to admit I was very, very reluctant to get into microcontrollers.

John Becker wrote probably the single most influential tutorial I have ever read, and some fantastic FREE software to go with it (TK3). Easy to get into, easy to program (only 35 instructions), PIC is the way to go if you don't mind assembler.

I've just completed a project with 3 PIC16F84 (old, but good) and my first PIC16F877A; and had a couple of articles published in EPE over the last couple of years (Rainbow Lighting Controller & Multicore Cable Tester) which were PIC based.

There are other controllers about, and everyone has their favourites. Some want to program in C - I've done that before but not with PICs; and in any case, the assembler isn't so hard to start with. I am at the point of moving to C shortly, I think, as my programs get more complex.

Good Luck - hope that helps!

NB - sounded_simple is spot on - the EPE Teach In series is excellent, start there with the basic principles....

(Message edited by dave_g on 27 March, 2006)
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Obiwan
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Posted on Tuesday, 28 March, 2006 - 03:54 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

I'm with SS, get some basics down before you start with Microcontrollers. You don't need to know a whole lot as they are more like building blocks. They may keep you more intersted in electronics as a whole. But you won't be able to do too much with them if you don't have a good background in the basics.

PICs are nice, but the more I learn about them, the more I don't like them. There are several to look at. I have the BASIC Stamps also, very good place to start as they're very easy to use, and only one step away from being a PIC.

Look into Zilog parts too, they're easier to use I think. The memory model is "straighter". With the PIC, you have to do a lot of bank switching and make sure your'e in the right place. With the Zilog parts, it's more like regular RAM, no real bank switching. And they have very nice parts too.

Then there's the "Rabbit". But support wise, I guess there's more on the PIC than anything else.

Just don't limit yourself to one processor, that's all. Sort of like saying "I'll only buy and drive Ford cars (or what ever local brand you might have in your location).

You'd be leaving out the BMW's, and the Lotus's etc... see what I mean?

It's great that you'd discovered electronics, I've been doing it for maybe 40 years or more and I love it, I never stop learning something! (and I always seem to keep RE-Learning stuff too!!)

And you'll find that it helps you in your job too. I was working in R&D for many years before I became a IT manager and the background was invaluble. From understanding the basics of PC's to the Ethernet tranmission lines.

And, it's just plain fun. Well, some times there are moments, or days of incredible frustration, but it's worth it for the Erukea! moments.

Welcome to the darkside.

I don't really have any tips for getting parts. YOu can salvage a lot from old equipment, and you might already have access to a lot of that. If you can, look for kits, where you get a lot of different values. But some of them can get expensive.

Buying parts as you go, as you need them, can be a pain. But if you do it that way, buy extras of them and start building up a kit of parts.

That's what I do. I've got tons of stuff down in my basement, but when I nedd parts that I don't have I purchase extras so I will have them next time.
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Ceej100
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Posted on Tuesday, 28 March, 2006 - 08:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Hi All

WOW!! Thanks for you prompt & considered replies. I'm humbled by your readiness to help!

I will certainly persue getting a command of the basics first.
It never occured to me to reclaim components. I have access to numerous PCs & monitors that I could canabalise. Would such components have long enough legs to fix into a breadboard?
I also understood that equipment such as CRT monitors & TVs have components (capacitors?) in them which could give a nasty shock, even when disconnected from the mains. Is this the case? If so how long after being switched off does this effect last? How do you identify such hazards and render them safe?

Thanks again
Chris
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Arw
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Posted on Tuesday, 28 March, 2006 - 10:31 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

The chances are that salvaged parts won't fit into a breadboard very well -- the legs may be too short, and if they have been soldered or snipped, this may damage the breadboard contacts.

Yes, high-tension capacitors can hold their charge for a long time, resulting in very nasty HT kicks if not wary. You could (carefully!) clip a resistor across any likely-looking devices. E.g. 1 kilohm or 10 kilohm, and let it sit there a minute or two.

Possible warning signs of hazards include -- uncontrollable frizzy hairstyle, crossed eyes, or the smell of burning. Best not go there ;-)

You could check the marking on the capacitors canisters for a clue, looking for anything over say 40V or 50V labelling. That is one sign of it possibly storing a higher voltage.



Welcome aboard!

Alan Winstanley/ EPE Online Editor
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John_becker
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 02:01 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Chris, I can certainly endorse the use of reclaimed components in your early learning days. Much of my early learning (over 40 years ago) came from salvaging parts from old tvs I'd bought down the markets, for about 25p (modern money). Taught me such things as resistor colour codes and checking capacitors, and the use of valves (long before trannies & ICs were readily available to hobbyists).

Heed Alan's warning (humourously said, but meaningful). I've had my fair share of shocks from high voltage caps if I'd failed to let them discharge long enough, or failed to discharge them cautiously with a resistor, as he recommends. And never work on anything powered, especially mains. Though these days you are less likely to work on high voltage stuff as I had to then.

The pleasures and benefits of microcontrollers can probably wait a while until you've grasped a few of the basic fundamentals. But I wont deter you from being ambitious - an excellent way to learn, get an idea and then try to implement it with the knowledge you've got, and you'll soon gain more as you need to as you progress.

And keep reading EPE, especially tutorials such as our current Teach In 2006 series.

So welcome aboard indeed!

John Becker, EPE Tech Ed :-)
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Obiwan
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 03:41 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

The tubes used to give you quite a nasty shock too, basically just a big old capacitor.

Yes, the leads will probably be too short to insert into a breadboard, but when I need the, I'll solder some wire onto them or some square pins I have. I don't use things like resistors too much, but when you need them.....

Chips can be salvaged, but there's not a whole lot that you can use any more.

It's a place to start though.
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Joe
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 07:27 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

I think most of us have salvaged parts at one time or another, and I still do. Usually for the big stuff like transformers, power transistors, large capacitors and any IC's/components that are in sockets.
However the item you are harvesting for goodies was scrapped for a reason and so it's quite possible some of your recalimed parts are faulty, and theres nothing more frustrating than building a project and it failing to work because of a faulty part.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that somebody gave me a peice of scrap and I noticed all that was wrong with it was the fuse was blown for example. They you can sell it on Ebay and buy new parts :-)
Do one thing each day that scares you – work here !
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John_becker
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 10:20 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

I've now got loads of boxes with reclaimed comps in, which I always used to say I'd sort out when I retired. Am now good as retired in many ways, but having learned my skills through reclaimed comps years ago, I prefer the reliability of new comps like resistors, caps, diodes etc, and those boxes are likely to remain ignored. Also comp styles, sizes, ratings etc change with the years and what once used to be reasonable for such has long since been superceded.

So Chris, although I commend reclamation while you're still in the early stages of learning if electronics interests you, when you've proved it does, always go for new where possble.

J
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Mike_b
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 12:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

"Possible warning signs of hazards include -- uncontrollable frizzy hairstyle, crossed eyes, or the smell of burning. Best not go there ;-)"

.... I now have a tea stain on my shirt due to convulsive laughter ...
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Arw
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 06:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Ah yes Mike, tea stains are another sign of a hardened electronics enthusiast (that plus the soldering iron burns, the matrix of 0.8mm diameter holes drilled into the dinner table and the arty ferric chloride splashes...)



-- ARW
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Amr_bekhit
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Posted on Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 - 08:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Oh god! Don't mention the ferric chloride splashes! I've got stains on ALL of my favourite trousers, my monitor and wall!

Oh and regarding the topic of the thread, I would recommend eBay as a good source of cheap electronic components. eBay has a special category for electronic components and related stuff. Look for Electrical and Test Equipment under the Business, Office and Industrial category. You will find lots of components at giveaway prices. I've ceryainly managed to salvage real bargains. Where else can you get 25 7815s and 25 7915s for £5.50?

--Amr}

(Message edited by amr_bekhit on 29 March, 2006)

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