Limor “Ladyada” Fried of Adafruit has put together a really lovely colouring book called E is for Electronics. It has everything from A-is-for-Ampere to Z-is-for-Zener-Diode. You can buy it online for $10 or just print it off using the booklet setting of your printer. I printed one for our 8 y/o daughter and she is a big fan. I’ve just done another copy our 7 y/o son. I’ll order some as stocking fillers too.
Yesterday I also spotted a really neat set of products over on Sparkfun. They are paper projects like greeting cards and mini “night-lights” that use a conductive pen for the wiring. I’m going to order one today but in the meantime, I have downloaded the PDFs and will do a rough version of the night-light using wire and bits I already have.
This whole idea of Open Source hardware and designs really has me excited. Back in 1994 I built my first ever GCC cross-compiler and compiled an Open Source RTOS. In 1995 I installed Slackware Linux for the first time. That’s when I knew that everything in software was going to change forever. It’s exactly how I feel about hardware and electronics now. In fact, it’s fun to realise I have sort of come full circle in 30 years:
ZX Spectrum -> Electronics in College -> Embedded Software -> The Internet -> The Social Web -> Arduino+RaspberryPi -> The Internet of Things -> ????
So what is “????”? I think is IoT+Social. Everything and everyone network-connected, with all that data being crunched and used real-time, in ways we can’t even guess at yet.
I’ve always loved Mark Zuckerberg’s description of Facebook as “A Social Utility”. I don’t think FB is anywhere near that yet, but one of the big guys like them is going to have to be the enabler, if Social IoT is to work.
Meanwhile I have some spooky eyeballs to make for my daughters for trick-or-treat using LEDs and push-buttons.
I have a bunch of blogposts bouncing around in my head which I’ll hopefully start writing on my holliers, from Friday. Stuff around the tactile nature of hardware, Makers, having a Masters in Electronics I never really used, low volume production, crowd-sourcing solutions to problems instead of relying on guv’ment, moving production back to the first world, education, Kickstarter, doing vs learning etc etc etc.
There are a ton of companies supplying the Maker market and electronics people in general. Two of my favourite are Sparkfun and Adafruit. I just watched this video by the CEO of Sparkfun and I like them even more now. He has concerns about every project going into Kickstarter and why other models may be more appropriate in many cases.
The kids and I have a silly idea for an Arduino project involving doorbells. So I ordered some parts from Sparkfun in the US (love that site so much) and they arrived quickly:
Then I lashed together the bare basics to make sure what we want to do will work. Press the button:
Press it again:
Amazing to see the reaction from the kids, even teenage friends of theirs. I think it’s the tactility and physicality of the whole thing. If it was a piece of code running on a PC or phone, I’m sure the response would have been “whatevah”
Next steps are to add all the other buttons and then start on the Raspberry Pi part of the project.
Off we go to Maplins now to get a few more little things for it and my other far more serious project (if you can figure out what one of the parts in the first pic is, you may be able to guess)
In the middle of the Sparkfun video about Maker Faire, I learned about the Makey Makey. It’s stuff like this that made me want to be an engineer as a kid. It’s just fricking amazing (in my best attempt at a US accent). I’ll be ordering one as soon as they are available.