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Teach-In 2016 - Arduino.

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bwims
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Posted on Monday, 15 February, 2016 - 04:07 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I hate to be smug and say "I told you so", but...

3 years later...

http://www.chatzones.co.uk/discus/messages/12743/13997.html
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billy
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Posted on Monday, 15 February, 2016 - 04:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Maybe it has taken a while for Arduino to become available in Australia?!
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arw
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Posted on Monday, 15 February, 2016 - 05:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Proof, you see, that we do listen to our readers :-)
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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dreamrm
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Posted on Monday, 15 February, 2016 - 07:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That's a fascinating discussion thread and exactly expresses the concerns I've had for years about the direction that EPE was taking.

I built my first electronics project way back in 1975 (it was the electric guitar from the Oct 1974 issue of Everyday Electronics) and I went on to build many other projects culminating in the Maplin/E&MM Spectrum Synth.

Over the intervening years my interest in electronics waned (pressure of work and an increasing interest in computers and programming) but I've been coming back to it gradually over the last 10 years or so.

However, the likelihood that I'd build a project from the current pages of EPE is low. These days I only seem to buy it for the articles and Teach-in series such as the current one and the one on Raspberry Pi (last year's was way over my head and the use of maths formulas and Windows software made it pretty much irrelevant and impossible to follow.

Some years back, pre-Arduino and RaspberryPi, I did consider investigating PIC development but I was put off by the high initial cost and the insistence on the use of Assembler (all the published projects at the time only used Assembler). I've been a software developer since the 1980's, professionally and as a hobby, and my languages of choice are all C-based - C/C++/C#/Objective-C - I have zero interest in learning Assembler programming as I'm fully aware that it is far from portable and you have to learn over for every processor you work with - life is just too short for that;-)

My concern now is not just EPE's almost exclusive obsession with PICs but also with the increasing complexity of the projects. There is very little for the newbie.

When EE first started it was aimed at the new hobbyist with very little experience in the subject. You could start off reading EE, build a few projects and then progress to the likes of PE, ETI and Elektor.

With only EPE now available on news stands it must appeal to all levels of experience. However I see insufficient evidence that it is trying to attract newcomers into the subject. The Teach-ins for Raspberry Pi and Arduino are good steps in the right direction, as are a couple of the other regular features. However, where are the simple projects? Most of the projects published these days are complex and invariably aimed at the experienced hobbyist/professional - seriously, how many people tune or mod their cars these days?

For example, I’m sure you must be aware that people are still building guitar effects pedals (fuzz in particular), modding their guitars, circuitbending, building synth modules and mini-synths. However, they’re not coming to EPE for that - perhaps they could be.

If EPE wants to increase their circulation figures they will have to attract newbies and that's not going to happen if all the projects are too complex or too specialist.

P.S. a suggestion for a future Teach-In - analogue sound synthesis - take a look at ‘Make: Analog Synthesizers.’ for some inspiration.
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arw
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Posted on Monday, 15 February, 2016 - 09:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

You’re assuming that today’s up and coming hobbyists still want to build component-level projects like we used to in the 1970s, but I don’t think the dynamics of the 1970s+ era reflects the reality of what happens today.

It's fair to say that constructional projects today can be highly complex in their scope and capability – but in fact people DO build them and it just reflects what can be done with modern devices and techniques. Modern micro electronics is proportionately more rewarding for hobbyists, as you can achieve far more with fewer components but the designs themselves are non-trivial to originate.

I find magazine newsstands are a good bellwether of trends and interests. Recently in WHSmith's I counted TWENTY magazines dedicated to model railways (I guess it’s a dads and kids interest thing) but only ONE electronics magazine remains on sale (ours); kids today have never known life without a remote control, laptop, smartphone or the Internet. No grubbing about saving up pocket money and resourcefully soldering discrete projects together for them, like I used to do! Instead they buy a powerful, programmable black box (Pi, Arduino) for £20 and interface its I/O to something. Expectations have changed dramatically and component-level electronics isn’t even taught in schools like it used to be. Fact is, there is a lot more competition for a reader's pocket money and their free time. In decades gone by there were 200,000+ readers a month across the 'Practical' wireless and electronics magazines. Today a lot of stuff is available for free on a multitude of websites and YouTube, not all of it reputable.

Since a PIC microcontroller is now cheaper than a 555 was in its day, using microcontrollers is just the way technology has gone and we’ve followed it. A hobbyist magazine could not possibly cover every device and we therefore decided 20 years ago to do a good job on one family, the PIC micro. We later majored on Raspberry Pi, which is used in British schools. We do our best with what we’ve got, but no hobby magazine has the resources to deliver the kind of pan-industry design and unlimited, free technical support that readers doubtless want to see.

A funny thing, following a recent request a few minutes ago I uploaded some (ropey) scans of a 42 year old PE project wallchart, the 1974 PE Sound Bender:
http://www.chatzones.co.uk/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=7845&post=55815#POST55815

I sense a possible upsurge in interest in 'vintage electronics' from the 70's onwards. Yes they were the days!

- ARW
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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dreamrm
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Posted on Tuesday, 16 February, 2016 - 10:57 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I completely agree with you that the world, and the electronics industry in particular, has changed.

I first became interested in electronics as a hobby back in '74/75, prior to that my main hobby was making model aeroplanes from kits. I believe at the time there were just one or two magazines devoted to kit building but at least half a dozen devoted to electronics. On a recent visit to WHSmiths I noticed that the situation had completely reversed with just one electronics magazine and I lost count of the number of magazines devoted to kit building (and Airfix is still alive and kicking).

I'm certainly not objecting to EPE publishing PIC based projects or complex ones. However, I do miss the simpler, component-level ones and it is a pleasant surprise when the occasional one pops-up.

What I do disagree with is the idea that nobody wants to build component-level projects. I believe they do, how else do you explain all the electronics kits for sale on the Make website (http://www.makershed.com/collections/electronics) and others? Make is doing a great job encouraging beginners into electronics and that's what Everyday Electronics magazine originally set out to do - there's an opportunity there for you to increase your readership.

By the way, I think you'll find that the 'upsurge in interest in 'vintage electronics' from the 70's onwards' started some time ago, in fact at least 15 years ago. My renewed interest in electronics started when I read an article in Sound On Sound Magazine - http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan00/articles/netnotes.htm - in the January 2000 edition. Over the years I've found hundreds of sites devoted to building analogue synths and effects pedals, etc. Some have now gone, while others have sprung up since. I don't believe that interest has waned significantly if at all. Check it out for yourself.

I can let you have better high resolution images for the PE Sound Bender if you want, minus the sellotape and scribbles:-) I fully intend to build it one day;-)

Gareth
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james
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Posted on Tuesday, 16 February, 2016 - 08:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Think More About The Novice


I sit here, it’s mid-February and I’ve just finished reading the last of my March issue of EPE. (For the first time at least)!
I must say that the more recent general direction and content of EPE has given me some cause for concern as well and an impression that has motivated me to put finger to keyboard and write this.
My impression also is that EPE doesn’t contain enough content for the beginner, the novice or the teenager who thinks that he/she would like to become more involved in the world of hobby electronics and is therefore looking around for sources of information from which to educate himself/herself in the direction of this subject, the type of person who is also considering what projects to undertake to gain further early circuit understanding and building experience.
This class of person is ripe for the picking by EPE. These people are EPE’s customer base for the future who could ensure the long-term survival of our magazine, and to a certain extent the survival of electronics as a hobby long after the current more mature section of the readership have been dispatched to that great electronics laboratory in the sky!
My writing is out of genuine concern for the long-term future of EPE.
I am an ex-professional Electronics Engineer in my early fifties. I have been involved in hobby electronics for many years and during much of this period I have subscribed to EPE. I think we have an absolutely excellent electronics magazine when I consider how appropriate and relevant EPE is for myself and others like me who have been involved in electronics for some time and therefore have a good general electronics knowledge and ability at the hobby.
Whilst I find the more recent Australian ex Silicon Chip Constructional Projects are of top quality and I very much enjoy them, I’m also under the impression that they are much too frequently of too complex a technical level for the beginner, particularly when considering the ”How it Works” and “Circuit Description” sections of the articles. I question the amount of basic circuit knowledge obtainable by the novice from this level of Constructional Project. These awesome articles are obviously produced by Engineers of a very high Electronics ability.
To name three of the more recent projects which I feel fall into this category and are therefore highly suitable for furthering the ability of the more seasoned electronics hobbyist but I would say less so for the novice.

1) Isolating High Voltage Probe For Oscilloscopes.
2) Currawong Valve Amplifier.
3) 6 Digit Retro Nixie Clock.

As is typical, I would expect these projects to all be useful, highly functional pieces of kit when built and working, but in my opinion, when considering the novice particularly, the educational value of the project is as important if not more so than its final versatility.

I do appreciate that the regular Teach-In series are aimed specifically at the beginner and Mike & Richard Tooley’s recent excellent Jump Start series went a good way towards catering for the novice, as did the previously running Raspberry Pi series and also Robert Penfold’s Practically Speaking, but even so when considering the more recent issues of EPE, there could have been more Constructional Project content included which would have had a greater relevance for the novice whose interests lie beyond the Pi. I would suggest that electronics enthusiasts at all stages of the learning curve would be pleased to see more practical applications of, for example, a D-type flip-flop, a 1 of 8 Decoder and a Johnson Counter etc.
When I was a teenager and just starting out on my electronics journey, occasionally purchasing the former versions of EPE off the Newsagent’s shelves, the Constructional Projects were suitable for hobbyists of a wide range of abilities, written by the likes of Robert Penfold. I can appreciate that the technology has advanced since those days but the Constructional Projects based around standard ICs, Transistors, Resistors and Capacitors were more simple and certainly grabbed my interest as they were readily understandable by the novice, much more so than the complex internal workings of the dedicated chips often included by the Aussie contributors.
It is important that newcomers to our hobby lay down a solid foundation by serving an apprenticeship that teaches them about the functionality and practical uses of these more basic circuit components.
It was this more simple lead in to electronics that held my attention, gave me a good grounding in the subject and generated what has so far been a life-long enthusiasm for Electronics leading to a Degree in Electronic Engineering followed by a career in Electronics and also, which might be more relevant to the magazine, a desire to repeatedly subscribe to EPE!
Although a BSc came in due course, it was the forerunners of EPE, (Which eventually merged into EPE), Everyday Electronics and Practical Electronics that planted the acorns of interest and knowledge within me. I am grateful and wish the youngsters of today and tomorrow to be afforded the same opportunities.
I am not suggesting that you should reduce the technical level of the Constructional Projects across the board. I am just suggesting that you could aim them to a larger extent towards a wider spread of ability.
A couple of past EPE features that contain plenty of more basic electronics circuitry and therefore fall into the category of what I would consider to be highly suitable for the novice are the “Back to Basics” series published in 2005 and the Cranial Electrical Stimulation Constructional Project (EPE June 2014).
So EPE, my simple message is that I believe it would be a wise policy to invest in the future and cater a little more for the novice by including more of this type of content which would be likely to draw fresh blood into the hobby, thereby helping to assure the long term survival of our terrific magazine.

James
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james
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 02:48 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh and another thing... please please bring back Ingenuity Unlimited.
In recent times the magazine has become more and more isolated from the readership and the relationship between the magazine and the readership has become less and less symbiotic.
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dave_squibb
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 10:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Totally agree about Ingenuity Unlimited James. I miss Thomas Scarborough's clever ideas.
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arw
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 11:41 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Firsly (James) I wanted to thank you for spending a long time articulating your personal opinions, and although I am neither the Publisher nor the Editor I will ensure that your views are forwarded to the powers above mine.

The increased page count we currently have is hardly a sign of diminishing reader symbiosis (as you put it).

As regards Ingenuity Unlimited, in a way you have actually answered your own wider question. Problem is this: at no time was Ingenuity Unlimited ever withdrawn!

I managed to get the column re-started again in the mid 1990s, when readers started submitting their little circuit hints and tips when I inherited Circuit Surgery from Mike Tooley (who's idea Surgery was to begin with). I could easily fill 6 or more pages of Ingenuity ideas, though copyright theft and dishonesty became a bit of a problem. I recall we ran an IU special supplement at one time to clear the massive backlog of readers’ circuit ideas. There were also some very generous prizes to be won.

Then the supply of usable, publishable little ideas gradually dried up from dozens a month to maybe one or two if that. That was a direct reflection of the fact that hobbyists had stopped experimenting, constructing or dinking around with discrete circuitry and little linear chips like they used to. Instead they started submitting - cough - source codes for PIC projects, and the web kicked in too. At the time, no-one ever complained that our coverage of PIC microcontrollers was too complex or irrelevant though.

The lack of IU projects was not our fault for not publishing them, it was the readership's fault (if you want to put it that way) for changing direction and not creating them any more. So I guess the column ran its course. I wrote more about this on my own website at http://tinyurl.com/h3sggt8 )

I am still in regular touch with Thomas Scarborough in South Africa. I would have loved to see a regular column from Thomas too, as he did embody the spirit of IU before reader interest dwindled away. Having lost his wife, Thomas has remarried. Life is a bit basic but hectic, and last I heard he was figuring out how to generate solar power for his new countryside maisonette (which he largely built himself). Apart from hobby electronics, Thomas is deeply involved with philosphy and metaphysics and doing extremely well for himself as a published philospher. I can share this link --

http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/thomas.htm

Must get back to my postbag – a reader in Serbia is building 2 x CDI Multi Spark systems for his Honda motorcycle, another asks for a 1974 PE Sound Bender chart, another needs help finding and running the late John Becker’s Toolkit TK3, and so on...

-- Alan W
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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james
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 03:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi Alan,

Thankyou for your well worded and lengthy reply Alan and for taking the time to respond, I do appreciate that you must be a very busy man.

I last submitted a candidate for Ingenuity Unlimited in early July 2014.

I received an email reply from Matt(Editor) promising that my submission would be published.

To quote from Matt's email - "note that at the moment IU is a bit intermittent and there is a small queue, but I hope you will not have to wait too long."

Since then no IU articles have been published.

Matt's email is hardly evidence to suggest that "The lack of IU projects was not our fault for not publishing them, it was the readership's fault (if you want to put it that way) for changing direction and not creating them any more." or "at no time was Ingenuity Unlimited ever withdrawn!"


I write this post in the hope that it will effect the publishing of at least "the small queue" of IU submissions and who knows, the restarting of publishing IU submissions may generate a higher level of motivation in the readership to submit further articles once they realise that there is a chance that they will be published.

Cheers

James
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arw
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 05:11 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That's a different question, James: I was referring to the decline over many years of IU submissions caused by a change of reader interest, and I'm clear that IU hadn't been withdrawn. I no longer host the column, but if your own item had not appeared it's likely been down to the pressure on available page space. It's regretable if it's slipped from the radar and I will ask Ed. to check it out.

-- Alan W
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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james
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Posted on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016 - 05:58 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks Alan

James
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james
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Posted on Thursday, 18 February, 2016 - 03:59 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Found this published in READOUT (EPE Sept 2015), a reader's letter was published enquiring about the current absence of Ingenuity Unlimited from the pages of EPE and enquiring about its possible return in the future.

Matt Pulzer replies:
You are right. IU was/is an excellent series. It hasn't actually been 'dropped', but (temporarily) crowded out by other material. I do hope to find space for its revival in the near future - thanks for the reminder!

Cheers

James
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dave_squibb
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Posted on Thursday, 18 February, 2016 - 08:31 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the link regarding Thomas Scarborough Alan. He has certainly led a very interesting life.
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zeitghost
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Posted on Thursday, 18 February, 2016 - 10:40 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I built a replica of the Sinclair Micro 6.

In approved fashion, it doesn't work. :D
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atferrari
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Posted on Thursday, 18 February, 2016 - 11:52 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the link regarding Thomas Scarborough Alan. He has certainly led a very interesting life.

Definitely.

From the four forums I participate regularly, he is the only member I know personally.

I met him twice when going/coming SA/USA with a short stay here in Bs. As.

So many different places he has been to and things he did, still doing!
Agustín Tomás - Buenos Aires - Argentina

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