Bitten by the -- Bug: To develop a passionate interest in something: "Bob became bitten by the engineering & technology bug when he was 7 and received a Heath Kit."


The element14 community is about you, you generously give your time and energy to keep us alive, and enrich the lives of everyone by sharing your knowledge and passion for engineering & technology. At element14, we're always looking for creative ways of paying it forward to show our love and admiration for your contributions. One of those times was over this past holiday season, when we collected stories to discover what led you to develop a passion for engineering & technology, and to show our appreciation, the element14 team sent out a random gift of love along with a gift wrapped CodeBug.


Even better than the feeling you get from receiving a gift is the feeling you get when you give to others. In addition to the gift of sharing your story, the CodeBug was one more way for you to pay it forward and share your passion for engineering & technology with others.  A gift belongs to whoever you give it to so many of you came up with creative ways to use the CodeBug. Some of you decided to give it to your kids, others donated them to schools, some offered it as a gift to a loved one, and others kept the CodeBug to explore the hardware on their own.   Whatever you chose to do with the CodeBug, we're grateful you shared your experience with us!


'Bit by the Bug' was an idea everyone came up with at element14.  A gift wrapped CodeBug had to obviously be a part of the promotion!


Soon, you'll be doing something with Boards and the Perfect Pair for Valentine's Day!  Feel free to tell us what you think that means in the comments below.


Hint: Valentine's day is a time to make someone you love feel special.   Here are some stories, pictures, and videos:



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I got into Electronics in the 1960's as a toddler when the Masonite back of our Black and White TV was off.

I saw pretty glass tubes and pulled them all out to play with them.


Also as a toddler I wondered how a power point worked so I inserted a wire between the two top sockets and flipped the switch to find that wire went on fire.



Half a century later we find that this experiment is still done frequently although involuntarily with mobile phones that spontaneously burst into flames.




Here's the joyous moment of the EMI Guru giving the present to his friend the Siberian Gizmo Tzar.

CodeBug Presentation

He responded with a great big thank you to Element14!

Within moments he had a Codebug program up and running - but it would have been even quicker if he'd follow the tutorial walkthrough first.


"What the Heck!?"


Many thanks for the BeagleBone Black!

It's a new friend for my BeagleBone.

Video # 1

beaglebone Qiki underpants


Video # 2

Beaglebone QiKi Underpants


jkutzsch :


Bit by the Bug...


profile-image-display (10).pngAs I have been reading through many of the Members posts on how they were introduced/bit by the bug, I have been encouraged and excited with what I have been trying to do with my children and other youth within the school system so they can share the fun and excitement of tinkering/hacking/making!


I personally do not have any specific person I can call upon that affected me directly by introducing me to electronics.  I grew up a Stepchild in a small Coal Town and my family did not see any value in such luxurious items like computers or other high end electronics.  A single television, a single corded phone, those were the most that could be found in our home.  Well there was the old HiFi stereo with 8-Track and LP that my Mother had in her bedroom but it was many years before I would ever have a Cassette Deck or similar as a youth.


I did have a close friend who had an IBM computer that his Father let us use occasionally, so that quickly caught my interest and had me pursuing Computer Programming in School.  So much so that my last years had me taking Independent study since I had exceeded the public school offering for Computers.


If I were to call upon a specific memory that made me believe that tinkering was not only viable but a great thing to do, it would have to stem from that Classic Movie back in the late 70s.  I am sure some of you may recognize this scene where Luke's tinkering had started R2's recorded message.




I think many a child was captivated by the idea of taking something "old and not very valuable" and being able to find a treasure within it.  Something that could potentially take you out of your dreary and boring existence (because honestly very few children regardless of their situation fail to think something better must be out there!).


I quickly realized that Computers were the thing that would take me into my unknown future, away from Coal Town, USA working Grill at the local McDonalds.


I joined the United States Marine Corps a Cobol Programmer straight out of High School and was quickly introduced to the world of Mainframes and DASDs, Dumb Terminals and Modems coaxial cable and impact printers.  One of the facts about the Marine Corps is due to a limited budget, you made due with many repairs and upgrades from scavenged parts and what was at hand.  The Mission was always priority one.


Eventually Personal Computers came more into play with the Corps and this allowed me hands on access to chip level diagnostics and modifications.


It was a great time!  It seemed every month there was a new upgrade with more memory, smaller sizes, constant improvements.


On the non-military side I built my own IBM 286 clone and started playing with my 300 baud modem.  Bulletin Board Systems provided a wealth of information on how to tweak items and custom make tools that seemed like Science Fiction.  2600 the Magazine was even publishing some of this for anyone to read and organizing meeting groups for like minded people to meet in person.




(Interesting fact, have an article published in the 2600 Magazine and they send you a Shirt!)


As I grew older and worked in various Computer based jobs, hardware tinkering has always been of interest.


Now that I have my own children and they have expressed interest in learning how to make things, I feel that I have been Re-Bit by the Bug!  All thanks to Element 14!


This incredible source of hardware and information is truly a Digital Treasure-Trove and I enjoy sharing it with anyone I think who would enjoy it, but especially my children.


From Raspberry Pis and Scratch Programming to Codebug and wearable applications my children are fascinated by what is being done by members of Element 14 and will sit next to me in the evenings as I peruse the various posts and projects.


While Luke Skywalker and R2D2 may have opened my imagination to the potential of The Making Bug, I feel that Element 14 is a true inspiration in today's Age of Easy Access Information and will continue to bring adults and children into the world of creating and making, the same as so many of us here enjoy!




Thank you Element 14!




Meant to get this posted a few days earlier but was trying to get a video shrunk for site and decided to at least post the pictures.  :-)







Huge Thank you to Element14 and tariq.ahmad, Got a surprise page from UPS during the week.  1 Arduino Uno, 1 cool blue dude, some stickers and a wrapped code bug!


One of my daughters, Kenna, was home sick that day and just happened to be the person who I wanted to give the code bug to.  She was quite happy!




Here is a picture of her the next day after she finished coding her first Codebug program!  She remarked on how similar to Scratch it seems and is already making plans for taking multiple codebugs and linking them as wearables.  :-)


The bluedude is quite the hit with my Son, the only reason it isn't in his bedroom is he wants a Red one.  :-)  But he is making noises about being able to paint this one!


gregoryfenton :


I was bitten by the bug as a child in Music Class of all places. The music room normally contained triangles, recorders and drums.

One day I went in there and the school had got its first computer, a BBC model B.

Nobody knew anything about the workings of the computer and I asked if I could play with it as a reward for doing a task.

I was told I could and grabbed the user guide and started to learn.

Within a few minutes I had it displaying my name

10 PRINT "Greg";
20 GOTO 10

A few minutes after that I had it printing my name in colour

10 MODE 5
20 COLOR RND(30)
30 PRINT "Greg ";
40 GOTO 20

After that, the sky was the limit. I had a device that I could tell it what I wanted and it would do it. I rapidly got into Turtle Graphics (the BBC version of LOGO) and was sending a robot around the floor.

To me, a child that had never been able to cope with an unstructured world I was suddenly in a place where I made the rules, and I could retreat whenever the real world became too noisy for me.

I was an undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome child and finally I found the universe where I fit in. A place where teachers and students alike would come to me for help and advice. Some people call it cyberspace. I call it home.




Mine just arrived - a BeagleBone Black. You have no idea how long I have wanted one of these boards

Bitten by the bug


I love the little robot man, that guy is teaching me how to dance

Dancin' Foo'


I am donating the CodeBug to my local infant/junior school, (3-11 years) I just had a quick chat about it to the Acting Headteacher who is very pleased about it and looking forward to seeing it in use in the computer classes.


Thank you very much Element14 and the team behind this latest logistical and organisational nightmare

atillad :


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I used too play tball as a kid till my mom first gave me an electronics kit. It was one of those 30 or so in 1 electronics kit's. The first thing i remember (with) me and Dad building was a burglar alarm. As I remember it one of the wires (was) not on the right spring so i pulled the entire thing apart and put it back together. Ever since then i have been learning and progressing much more then when i had first started. Its easily been 30 plus years since i first started playing with electronics. I've had favorite people i learn from such as Ben Heck and jhons arcade on YouTube. I learn and find new ideas and projects i can do and learn from.




Pictures from my fiance opening the CodeBug. I helped her make a beating heart on its 5 by 5 screen.


mconners :



When I was a kid, i was digging through a spare room in our house and I found an electronics training kit that had been my step fathers from a long time previous, it had to be from the 50's or 60's. It was a bunch of individual components mounted on blocks of wood with captive terminals on each end. They were huge. There was a power supply module that had a tube, resistors, inductors, capacitors, everything. Each individually mounted.


Along with the components were manuals that contained connection diagrams and schematics. I was a curious kid (about 12 at the time) and I leafed through the volumes and found the instructions for a low power FM transmitter. I'm not sure how I figured it out, but I built it, and tested it before my parents got home from work. When they got home I tuned the radio to the appropriate frequency, and called out a message when they were in earshot of the radio. I said, "Watson, come here, I want you", which were the words  I had heard Alexander Graham Bell said to his assistant over the telephone for the first time. I don't even know how I figured it out, but I had used a speaker as a microphone, as I didn't have one. My parents came into the garage and saw what I had built. My stepfather remarked that the kit was from a correspondence course he had taken, and he had never been able to make anything useful out of the kit, and he was amazed at what I had accomplished.


I was very pleased with the result and I went on to build many of the projects in the kit. After that I would wander into Radio Shack and browse the kits and components and build whatever I could afford to build. I was fortunate to have been a teenager when the first home computers became available and that further cemented my interest in electronics and computers.








I got an Arduino Uno, and I plan to give the gift to a local elementary school that has a budding electronic/robotics club.

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rpbruiser :


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I've always excelled in STEM areas and love tinkering and getting my hands dirty. This coupled with a father already in engineering and teaching me at a young age really introduced me and got my love for engineering kickstarted. Since my birthday when I was gifted a Raspberry Pi, I took off running and never looked back. From learning Linux, to participating in a Design Challenge, to getting internships due to my experience with dev boards and single board computers. I have also began learning C, C++, Python, etc. in order to create useful applications with such boards. I am so glad that I have had these opportunities and the gift of coding and learning is a priceless one!





So I just received my gift today and it brought back the joy and excitement of being a young child on Christmas morning! I received a Beagle Bone Black, which I have only been able to experiment with once as I do not have one, so I am thrilled to add a new board to my collection! I also cannot wait to give my little brother the CodeBug for his birthday next week! Hopefully he will get bit by the bug too (though I already know he has as I let him play around with my BBC Micro:Bit and he absolutely loved it)!



pettitda :


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My love affair with electronics started with an issue of Boys Life.  The October 1986 issue had an article by William O'Connell entitled "Get on the Air".  I was enthralled by the idea of tuning in radio stations from halfway around the world.  I just had to have a radio.  So, that Christmas my annual list had a RadioShack DX-360 radio at the very top.  I think my parents got tired of hearing me talk about how much I wanted that radio.  I was not normally a talkative kid, but I wanted one and I let everyone know.  Luckily, that December I received one of those radios under the tree.  I spent many a night listening to Deutche Welle, RNW, and others.  I was hooked.  That shortwave radio turned me on to ham radio which turned me on to electronics in general and led to me apply to the Electrical Engineering program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  The rest is history.




Element14 Freebies


Thank You Element14!  Yay!!!


jgerred :


I would have to say that my fascination with electricity, electronics, and how the world works started when I was less than four years old.  Old family stories tell about how I was fascinated with the night light in the living room.  I got my butt whipped more than once for playing with it.  Finally my father decided to let me learn on my own and just watched (while reading the newspaper) as I would unplug the night light and plug it back in.  Eventually I got my tiny little fingers on the prongs of the nightlight as I plugged it in and got a good zap.  I have no recollection of this, but according to the stories I then proceeded to get about a foot away from the outlet and tried to throw the night light back into the outlet while carefully looking around periodically to make sure I didn't get busted.  Eventually (after about 15+ tries), I lifted up the edge of the carpet and neatly tucked the night light under the carpet and wandered off.


As I got older, the fascination with how things work got stronger and I ended up taking apart many devices (radios, blenders, tape decks, turntables, etc) and usually would end up getting them back together and still having them function when I was done.  That got me into actually repairing broken items (successfully more often than not).


Eventually a family friend got me one of the old "160 in 1" electronics kits from Radio Shack (still have it!) and I started to learn about circuits and electronics.


Throughout my teenage years I continued to learn about how things work and ended up in the IT industry as a Systems Administrator (specializing in UNIX/Linux) with a hobby of working on just about anything (electronics, automotive work, small engine repair, woodworking, construction, etc) but my go to entertainment projects have always been working on something electrical.


I find it mind boggling that getting shocked from fiddling with a night light got me into a career that has taken me to numerous places around the globe while working in a job that also happens to be my hobby!





I was pleasantly surprised to receive the package from Element 14 with the swag in it, the little dancing robot is sitting on my desk at work.  I am giving the codebug to the daughter of a friend of mine who is in middle school.  Recently her class had an experiment that was accepted for sending to the space station Middle school science project headed for space - News - The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS - Leavenworth, KS so I look forward to see what she creates with the codebug.




I am putting the RPi3 I received to good use.  Since I am such a Star Trek nut, I decided to build a Tricorder from the original series that does more than just make noises.  I am using a (roughly) 2.5" display that someone else on here pointed out .   I have a friend that printed a 3D model and am using that for the case, the RPi3 is the brains of it, and it will have a camera, a speaker, bluetooth connectivity, temp/humidity sensor, and a couple of other sensors if I can fit them into the case.  It isn't complete yet, but coming along nicely.



danielw :



I was always interested in 'quipment from a young age so I'm told, I remember getting a big book called electricity and magnetism, I think by usborne,  and another on how TV programs are made. and this got me experimenting with bits of old torches switches and batteries.  I built robots using bulbs paper fasteners, wire, tinfoil and tape so that when it rolled the wire would couch tape then tinfoil on the wheels to make it's eyes flash.  I spent more time hacking about cardboard boxes after Christmas and Easter making robots and tanks, than is probably healthy.  This ended up with me getting electronics project kits and science kits which seemed so good and futuristic at the time.


One set of grand parents had a drawer full of old meccano, and also got me helping working on the car. (I now have his classic mini.) My other grandparents had a farm where there were lots of things including the excitingly named battery house which was full of bits of broken farm equipment in need of further disassembly. Imagine my disappointment when I later found that the battery house used to be for chickens!

after using a BBC at school. I saved up for a ZX spectrum 48K+ and also got input magazine which was like a bible of information and got me into programming. I just had to have it though because it seemed so exciting, at the time you tended to get in trouble if you deviated even slightly from the teachers class in school.  I think more out of worry on their part as some of the teachers knew less than I did, and were worried about the equipment.


There were also loads of great tv shows. Tomorrows world, video and chips, whiz kids, knight rider, even Metal Mickey, that just made electronics and mechanics seem so good!

I couldn't help it really. I had to be an engineer.  Since being a responsible grownup,(ahem) I've helped out at school and done demos of seeing electricity using a scope, and modifying a program to make messages change.  After one event as my sons school he came round with friends who hadn't seen my demo at a YR6 careers fair, and I ended up setting another demo for his friends.  To be fair, getting the school children to interact and discuss electronics has been one of the best experiences of the last few years.







I got these in the post the other day, and finally got round to uploading the image.  The clockwork man is awesome, a beagle bone black to play with, some stickers and a code bug which will be shared between my kids!  They glazed over a bit when I started describing how to make a simple scrolling game, I think this weekend will be a busy one!


Thanks, for the late Christmas prezzie!





let24365 :


I always had a thing for math and science since high school. When I applied for college I didn't know which major to choose. I couldn't decide between electrical or mechanical engineering. I ended up choosing electrical engineering when I watched a clip of the Ben Heck show. During my time at college I found out about Maker Faire. I attended the 3rd annual World Maker Faire New York event and that's when I got "bit by the bug". I learned how to solder that day. I found out about Arduino, 3D printing and drones. Later on I built my own quadcopter and used Arduino for my senior project. I just love learning and making things. I motorized a bicycle. Even took a course in manufacturing processes so that I make things in the future.






Thanks @element_14#element14 #beaglebone#beagleboneblack #electronics#programming


kenfloyd :



My interest in electronics was primed when I built an analog temperature gauge for an 8th grade science class. It used a thermistor and a volt meter, with an electric train power supply. I was given an 'F' because the instructor did not believe I designed and built it. The thermistor was not water resistant, so I used a Bic Pen plastic sleeve and embedded the thermistor in epoxy at the end of the pen and calibrated the voltmeter by sticking the pen in water of a known temperature.


I joined the Navy and became an ETR, Electronic Technician Radar. While I was in, it was the period of time when the Navy was converting  in analog to digital and I worked on some crazy hybrid systems.


After I started college with an Electrical Engineering major, I switched to Computer Science. Most of what I learned is now somewhat obsolete. I had one professor guarantee it was impossible to build a hard drive bigger than 750K.


Now I was designing temporary traffic lights, for use in moving work zones in road construction or rehabilitation, and I found the Raspberry Pi. That's why I am here.


rsc :



profile-image-display (13).pngWhen I was about 7 or 8, I took apart all of my moms watches to play with the little gears.

She was not impressed.  I even managed to put one of them back together!


When I was 11-ish, one of my dads friends was moving to Florida and gave me several boxes of Ham radio equipment.

I spent hours figuring out how to light up the filaments.  After that, it was a challenge to fix broken TVs and radios.


My dad and his brothers used to race cars, so I learned how to rebuild motors and how to weld frames.

[insert 30 years of stories here]


Now I work on motorcycles, and embedded controllers, Lasers and Radars and LiDars and Tesla Coils, Fusion, VR, and anything else mechanical or electrical ......


I like to give boxes of parts to kids for Christmas, motors, LEDs, protoboards and stuff, I can still remember the first time my son hooked up an LED to a battery, priceless...

I think his eyes lit up brighter than the LED.



linuxgnuru :


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Ever since I got a VIC 20 back in the 80s (I think I was 8 or 10) I've been into writing programs that did things; even got a BS in computer science.  But it wasn't until 2014 when I got my first raspberry pi that I asked "what do all those pins do?" and when I wrote a program that just turned on a LED; that something I wrote actually changed something in the physical world that my mind was blown.  Before then, programs just counted things or did something if you clicked a button on the screen.  2 months after that moment I got my first Arduino.  Now I have spools of wires, boxes of resistors and the like and tomorrow I'll be creating some 555 toy electric organs with some speakers and buttons for some kids for christmas.   Oh yeah; I've also been using Linux since May 1995 and haven't touched windows since ...



jancumps :



... when our class (age 11-12) visited the technical school. We visited all schools in the city at the end of that schoolyear to help us choose our future studies.


When we enterded the electronics lab, *that* exact moment I knew  I was going to study electronics.

... Had to impatiently wait 3 more years because electronics started at age 15-16.




oisinogorman :


My earliest introduction to technology was probably the day I discovered what was going on inside an old radio in the cave of wonders that held so much (my father could be classed as a hoarder) that was our shed. From one device to the next, they were all dismantled. It all didn't make much sense at the time but it was intriguing to say the least and lead to years of  every piece of electronic technology I could get my hands on and much to the disdain of their rightful owners, the ability to reassemble it all didn't come until later in life. I simply had to know how it worked, this was the spark that has led me to where I am today.

Now studying for my final year exams in Industrial Automation and Robotic Control Technology, working with PIC microcontrollers has opened a world of possibilities and this would make an amazing christmas present for me and a friend.

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jlangbridge :


Like most people here, I started off by accident. I was born in Singapore, and my parents travelled a lot; And I mean, a lot. I was let alone pretty often, i suppose that explains a few things today. Anyway, details.


I found their home computer at age 6, an Apple IIe. There wasn't much you could do with it, my parents tried a few database programs, but I was fascinated with its capacity of storing data. Then I learned about programming, using the BASIC interpreter. My first program was written at age 6. It didn't doo much, just a vague copy of CeeFax, something you don't hear about much today, but before Internet, you could get information about TV programs using CeeFax on your TV. This was a machine of pure logic, it did everything I told it to do, no more, no less. If something went wrong, it is because I did something wrong, and I could correct my work of art, perfecting it, or tear it down and remake it again.


I went through a few computers; ZX80, ZX81, Spectrum +3 and a few others. Aged 8, I had a BBC Micro at school, and a few real lessons that went with it. My teacher was into computers, but also electronics. However, he was heavily into radio, and analog just wasn't my thing. It still isn't.


I finally got an Amiga 2000. It was then that I started assembly programming, which also taught me a lot about low-level programming, knowing what information is sent on which wire. It didn't take me too long to get into electronics. Remember the entry phrase from Tron? "I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways?" Actually, that sentence sent a shiver down my spine, because that was actually pretty close to what I felt.


One day, the trusty Amiga 2000 and 500 died, and I had no other choice but to use PCs. My assembly programming stopped dead; x86 assembly is a nightmare compared to 68k. I therefore concentrated on electronics, and my student flat had computer controlled heating and automation, despite being run by a 306SX25 with the whopping 200W power supply. Not exactly embedded by today's standards. Still, I had my own ISA card, with digital I/O, and it was fun. With that, I had a basic system to close the blinds, start the kettle (I'm British), and setting up my radio to wake me up in the morning. I did miss a few lessons, but that wasn't because of my setup, it was because of, umm... other reasons. Yeah. My home controlled system worked fine.


ISA was replaced by VLB, PCI and then PCIe, and I stopped. I couldn't make a simple PCI board for hobby electronics, it just wasn't possible. I almost gave up, but apart from using a parallel port, I did relatively little with the computer. I went more into simulation with different software titles.


I went for a few other exotic computers; the Acorn Archimedes was my favorite. I also had an Alpha at one point, tearing along at 300MHz while the bad boys were using 486s at 66MHz.


My student years were spent learning everything I could, both academically and personally. I went to the dump to get old circuit boards to desolder them, figure out how things worked, and make other gizmos.


Flash forward a few years, and here I am, almost 40. I'm still into electronics, but I'm more into teaching people about my love for the systems, going to different schools (secondary to engineering), and writing books. I've done a few YouTube videos, I've played with Minecraft Lego adding Bluetooth functionality, I've created strange and awesome gizmos, but more importantly, I can remember where I came from. You see, we didn't have Arduinos, we didn't have Raspberry Pi. We had 68k processors, and we had RAM, and ROM, and interrupt controllers, and we had circuit boards that we made ourselves, soldering all these components on, and that was before we even started writing any software at all. Oh, life was fun. You have no idea how lucky you are to buy a $10 Arduino and plug it in. We had UV lightbulbs just to clear the flash of EEPROMs.


Today, I'm a maker, teacher, and tester. I receive cards from different makers, and make tutorials on how they work. I was playing with a Silicon Labs Zero Gecko once on a bus. The original firmware came with a home-made version on Space Invaders. That bus had a lot of students, and one of them looked at my board, and asked me what it was. I explained a little bit about the Cortex-M0+, what the board was, and in theory, what it could do. Ten minutes later, I was amost fighting to get off the bus to get my daughter, they wouldn't let me leave. They had ideas like I've never seen before, So today, I'm making tutorials and lessons for the young generation, because they have some really, really good ideas, but I'm also doing it for a more personal reason. Have you ever seen that flash in someone's eyes? When they find something new, something awesome, something that will probably change their lives? I see that often in electronics, where students find out just how easy and fun it is to program something that lights up when something happens. I love that look on their face, because they remind me of myself, so many years ago, and for me, every day is the same, I feel like a kid when I fire up the oscilloscope. Tron all over again...



There was a parcel waiting for me today. I hurried back home to see what it was. The fact that it had "element14" written on it made me even more excited! And here is what I got:


I've just moved into a new house, so some geek decorations are more than welcome! The dancing element14 man is going to be a perfect fit (but I will have to be careful of my daughter, she already wants it!). As for the Raspberry Pi 3, I have a lot of ideas. My RPi 1 isn't fast enough to run Redmine for my books, courses and other teaching supports, so maybe this will help!


There is something missing from this picture, a gift wrapped object. What is inside? Well, the printed piece of paper says it all: Spread the bug with element14! It's a gift, for me to give to someone else, to teach them about programming. Now that is really kind, thank you, from me. Now, here comes the hard part... I had a look at this object on Internet, and the IDE is simple to use; just connect to the web page, and you can start making visual programs within seconds, no need to learn C, assembly or anything like that. There is one problem... The website is only available in English, and I live in France. Kids in France aren't very good in English, and this could be a problem... So, dilemma, what do I do? Well, element14, tell me if I'm wrong, but I've come up with an idea. I'm going to try and make a few courses with this, and I've contacted the maker to see if I can help them translate something to French. I'd love to be able to go to a French school and show this to kids, I think they would love it. I've already been to schools with Arduinos (and donated the Arduinos I got whilst writing my Arduino book). So, at the risk of element14 shouting at me, here is the content of that gift wrap (don't worry, I'll still find a way to give it to someone!).


Hidden inside is probably one of the cutest objects I've seen in quite some time. I mean, if kids don't fall in love with this, then I don't know what could possibly work!


Time to make a few blogs or videos, and see just how good this is! I'm excited!

My sincerest thanks to element14 for this parcel! I shall see that it is put to good use.


So, I got #BitByTheBug. I posted something quick on Twitter and G+, and once again, thanks element14 for your support!


Before actually showing this to anyone, the best thing would be to test it myself, and see what all the fuss is about. It looks cute, it looks well designed, and the website is pretty well done, but how does all that fit together? The "Hello, world!" application took, literally, less than a minute, and I'm (apparently) an expert in "Hello, world!". I've been cited on Wikipedia's Hello, world! page. Anyway. Details.


So, applications. Having "Hello, world!" written on the tiny screen is pretty cool, but it isn't the most useful application ever. On my sofa, nice and snug, I didn't want to go upstairs and get any components, beside, the cat wouldn't let me get up, so I had to use what I had - just the bug. There is a nice 5x5 LED matrix, so let's use that. My daughter wanted to play a game, something she got for Christmas, with about 20 unicorns on it, and so glaringly pink that even someone as colorblind as me can see it. In order to play, you need a dice.


Easy enough. Connect to the CodeBug website, and start coding! If the button is pressed, then I need to do this. It literally is that simple; drag the "If button A pressed" block. Next, I want to wait until the button is released; while button A pressed, do nothing. Okay, done! Next, I need a random value between one and six, and that is, also, is in a block. The value is then assigned to a variable. And so on, and so on...


Within 5 minutes, I had a working project, something my daughter could use. Want to have a look? Here is the program:


CodeBug – Dice


I added a little more to it, making it a little more exciting; random values are flashed before showing the final result, something you could expect to see if rolling the dice.


Flashing is even easier than programming; press button A, plug the device into a USB port, copy the binary downloaded from the CodeBug site, and copy it onto your CodeBug, detected as a USB device. And away you go.


The good news is that my project was up and running in 5 minutes. The bad news is that I had to play "dress the princess" a few times. Still... Electronics and family, what could be better!


Next step? Get some croc-clips, some components, and maybe their ColourStar. There is just so much you can do with this...


bwelsby :   profile-image-display.pngAs child I wanted to know how things worked, how they were designed how they were built. At the age of 6 my father gave me a set of tools and with my trusty screwdriver and pliers I would dismantle anything I could get my hands on... old radios, TVs etc. I would carefully remove the components but then I would take it a step further and de-construct the components themselves, Capacitors full of endless rolls of paper and foil, valves (vacuum tubes) had wondrous shaped pieces of metal.  As I grew older I was given some great construction kits for Christmas, and one year it was a  Philips Electronics Engineer.  With that I started building my own designs.   It was only natural therefore,  that I would persue a career in Electronics. I am now retired but I still have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of anything scientific and technical.


last night I was faced with this dilemma


Hmmm I am sat here at home and I have in front of me the following:

1 x Parcel addressed to Mr Spanner Spencer Brian Welsby  From Farnell Leeds

1 x Parcel from tariq.ahmad - Chicago

1 x Parcel from Amazon  - I know what that is.

1 x Bottle of Jack Daniel's


Which one should I open first?


mcb1 quite rightly pointed out that it should be ...  my eyes

tariq.ahmad was quick to suggest going with Jack

but then violet asked

Is it Honey Jacks? Thats lush (but not as nice as the Jim Bean one)

At this point the discussion split , a typical occurrence with Top Members

mcb1 suggested Honey Jack  should be kept in the freezer and served deeply chilled.


anyway meanwhile back to my problem.

Yes with eyes wide open Jack was the first...

Then I opened the Amazon parcel as that contained a flashair memory card for my camera so I can easily wifi pictures to other devices. I installed it and spent a short while configuring and getting the wifi link working.

Then a hello to Jack, just a little sip

Then the parcel from Tariq which was in response to How Were You 'Bit by the Bug' of Engineering & Technology?  It was a very kind gift. Thank you tariq.ahmad and Element 14.  I love the dancing robot and a BBB, stickers and the wrapped up codebug to give to someone. Here's a picture

Bit by the bug

My eyes then turned to good old Jack or should that be Jack Old No 7,  another sip or two

So finally

Secret Santa

Ooo thats a big one..  this was from my Secret Santa and contained


The top two tubes contain 2.3inch 8x8 LED matrix displays, 5 red and 5 green (Christmas colours)

The small box is a Logi-Pi LOGi FPGA Development Boards by ValentFX

Both the little blue guy and myself were dancing with joy, lots of great toys to play with.

What shall I tinker with first -

     Oh no another dilemma -

          pass the Jack


Thank you my Secret Santa whoever you are

Thank you spannerspencer and E14 for facilitating this.


So back to keeping spirits in the freezer what do YOU think?



dweb98 :


"My Love Affair" With Electronics

profile-image-display (4).pngI have loved Electronics, since I was a kid. I learned how to fix my Transited Radio, that I got for my Birthday (back in the 60's). By heating up the Cracked or Loose Solder Joints on it's Board, with my Weller Soldering Gun - Iron (inherited form my Dad). When my Radio or Walki Talki or Train Set Controller... Stopped Working or only worked intermittently. I figured this out, just by inspecting the Board and by moving and shaking it around a bit. If it made any noise or if the speaker began working. Then I figured that there must be something loose inside. So, as I did with everything... I took it apart to see what was inside:) Re-Soldering the joints, would usually make them work again. If you held it and your tongue just right, that is;) It was quite exciting to be able to fix my Beloved AM Transistor Radio and other toys, all by my self!:) Growing up I had a Reel to Reel Tape Recorder and a Realistic Cassette Recorder. Which I figured out how to Wire a Big Speaker to. By connecting it to the Speaker wires inside. Or by wiring up my own 1/8 inch male plug to go into the Head Phone Jack (if equipped). Don't do this with a 1950's TV that has a big Transformer wired up to the Speaker. That thing runs on 110V AC! Not Low Voltage DC!:O It Blew my Speaker a Box that I made, trying that!:O I still have those two 1950's TV's in the Garage:) Our first TV and my MaMa and PaPa's too (Mamaw and Papaw, ok... Grandma and Grandpa;). And I had some, now Antique, Tube Radios. That I took apart and Discarded later. You, could often get those Tube Radios or HiFi Amps, working again. By wiggling or unplugging and plugging the Tubes Back in again. Sometimes they just weren't making a good connection, in the Socket. Too bad I thought those things were worthless, back then!:O I wanted to go to school for Electronics. But in Junior High, someone (a teacher if I remember right) told me that I had to be Good at Math to do that!:( I was not, good at math and still am not, good at math. In 1975, I saw a DOS PC, at our High School Job Fair. They guy showing it. Was trying to recruit, young people. To, go to School for Computers. He said, Computers were the coming thing. And they would soon be a Big Deal, in our Lives. I figured he was right. But, I didn't see my self remembering all of those DOS Commands. I did know how to type. I took a Typing Class, in Junior High. I almost bought a Radio Shack TRS80 Home Computer, in about 1983. But, decided, that $500, was a bit too much to spend on a toy. The myself or the kids, might only play with for a short time. In about 1992, I was introduced to Windows 3.1 and I liked it. I learned how to make Spread Sheets and Address Books, in MS Works. I did look around on the Internet, a bit, back then too. But, there was not allot to see. No Yahoo, Google and I didn't happen to even fine the Government Gopher Data Bases, at the time. So, I soon lost interest. And I didn't have a Computer or my own, at that time, either. But, since 1998. I have worked with Computers allot. Every day, in fact. I love to Install and Try out Linux Distros on Old and New PC's. My favorite Linux Distros are Fedora and Debian. Over the years, I've learned to trouble shoot hardware problems and build new Computers too. And I've really learned allot about Software. Both Windows and Linux. But, I'm not a Coder and Can't write Programs at all. I did take a free Python Programming Class, from Google, a few years ago. I learned a few basics. But, still not a programmer. So, I learn by installing and trying out, the Free and Open Source Code that others have Shared on the Internet. And maybe learn to do a few changes for my purposes too. I have also worked with allot of Audio Video Gear over the past 35+ years. Mostly in the Operation and Installation Areas. I mixed for Concerts for 13 years. I installed Telco Equipment for a year in 2000. That was a good Paid Learning Adventure:) I did AC Electrical Trouble Shooting as a Maintenance Mechanic for Buildings. And I'm pretty good with DC wiring in Cars too. So now, with the coming up of Open Source Software. Which I have been heavily into, since 2005. I've also discovered Open Source Hardware. And I am really wanting to learn about Micro Circuits and Prototype Boards. I read about these projects almost every day. I usually Post what I find on my Blog at,, along with other things that I find interesting. I've seen many types of Prototyping Boards used in some very interesting Projects. From TI’s MSP430 Launchpad, STMicroelectronic’s Discovery, The BeagleBoard, to the ever popular Arduino and Raspberry Pi. I'm really still, in the research and discovery mode now. Figuring out What Development Board to would be best for me to learn with. And which Projects I would like to do and can do...


One of my Projects...  Building a Bench Top Power Supply without altering the ATX PSU and Making a 24v Power Supply with 2 - 12v Power Supplies

I have 2 Computer Power Supplies (PSU's) that I hooked together in Series to make a variable Voltage Power Supply. Going from 3 volts to 24 Volts DC. In Positive and Negative Ground, either way. But, it just sits under my Desk. Without an Enclose. With wires going everywhere. And it would be difficult to even move it, without the connections falling apart. Since my Resistors and Wiring Connections are just Bare Wires jammed into the Connectors. It works, just fine. But, I would like to do something like what Chris Osborn has done in this Project. His, enclosure is made of Wood. And it was fast and easy to build. He had Dado's in his pieces to make it easy to slide in the Front Panel or even replace it later, when he makes changes. I'm not sure if he cut his own Dado's. But, looks to me like some Pre-Made Drawer Stock would make this job even easier. And he actually found the Connectors and Parts to make the Connections easier too!:) Check out, this Project and more info and links...

Another of my Projects and Road Test Reviews for - The XBMC Raspberry Pi Solution Bundle from - Review and First Experience by Don Bishop



   (Updated info in Article, on 03-10-15)
  (Updated with a new Video and Pics, on 12-07-13)
  This is a Review, which quickly turned into a larger than expected Project. The XBMC Raspberry Pi Solution Bundle from Review and First Experience by me, Don Bishop. When I first saw the Road Test on for the The XBMC Raspberry Pi Solution Bundle. I almost didn't apply. I didn't have a Raspberry Pi. Though, I have been wanting one, since before they came out. I had followed the Pi's Progress, since I first read about it. When it was still in the development phase. But, still didn't have one, at the time. I have been wanting to setup an XBMC Computer for my Mom to watch Web Shows on her TV, for a long time. I have a few older PC's that would work just fine for the task. But, they all need more memory, which cost more money. And one, doesn't even have a AGP Video connector. So, it would need a PCI Video Card, to be able to connect it to a TV. And that's the one that I really would like to use. Since, I am using the other one my self, as a backup computer. So, with the price of the Raspberry Pi being low. And the built in Composite and HDMI Video Outputs. As well as a Stereo Analog Audio output. Her TV is a Big, older Standard Analog TV. She does have one LDC TV. But it is a small 15 inch, which is in her Bedroom. And I have already bought an HDMI Cable to hook up her computer in her room to that TV. I Just need to find my Round Tuit and hook that thing up;) So, the purchase of the Raspberry Pi, seemed reasonable. Instead of buying memory for the older PC's. So, I signed up for the Road Test. Deciding, that, if I were chosen to do the Review. I would go ahead and buy the Pi. And low and behold... I was chosen!:) Thanks so much Element14!:) I have done a couple of other Road Tests. Here, Beginners View of the TI 430Boost-CC110L AIR Module BoosterPack Kit. And here, Beginners Guide to The TI MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board. And I wanted to do especially well on this Road Test. I hadn't done any Videos, in the past. Because I didn't have a Video Camera. I only had two old Web Cams, with very low Resolution. I've used them to make videos, before. But, don't like the low resolution video quality. But, since my last Road Tests. I was given a Laptop, that was broken. I fixed it and it has a fairly decent, built in Web Cam. So, I set out to do Video as I went, during my Testing and Building or Reworking of an Enclosure for the Pi. I spent as much time as I could. Since I received the XBMC Raspberry Pi Solution Bundle from profile-image-display (5).pngElement14, on doing this Project and making my video as I went. Well, of course making videos. Takes allot more time. And just as soon as you start a task, that has any kind of Deadline. Unusual things come up and get in the way. So, at the present time. I am about half finished with altering an old broken HDTV Tuner Box, to be my Raspberry Pi Enclosure. But, I have done ample Testing and Setup on the XBMC Raspberry Pi Solution Bundle. I have four Videos Edited and uploaded, as of 10-21-13. With several more to come. Long Video Warnings here. I did my best to Edit down the rough videos, to make them, watchable videos. I spent a week on Editing just the first three videos and I' still going. Not to mention the time it took to make them in the first place. But, I just couldn't bring my self to cut out all of the pertinent info, that I worked so hard to put in these videos. So, feel free to Skip Ahead, if you are in a hurry or just skim the Text and Pics in this Article...


So, that's jut a little bit, about "My Love Affair" With Electronics:)






Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! I received a package, in the mail today, from Element14!:) I got an Arduino Uno - R3. And a Code Bug, that was gift wrapped. Also, a Wind-up Robot and some cool Element14 Stickers. It's Christmas in January!:) I'm reading up on the Uno, right now. And already thinking of the projects I could do with them both. I wonder, if I could make an Analog to Digital Audio Converter. To send a Mic Signal, from my Shure SM58. Into my Alcatel A845L Android Phones. The Mic input, on those things, is very weak and none of the Camera Software, I've found. Can adjust the Audio input volume levels. A Mic Input Board. Sure wold beat. Having to fix the Audio in Post Video Editing... I mad an unwrapping video, too:)


Thanks, so much. To everyone who worked, do this Giveaway!:).

Page 4

toukomputer :



As many of you forty-year-olds or more… I was lucky enough to live in the 70’s and the 80’s where any piece of electronic equipment was a treasure.

As a child I always dreamed of robots so my poor toys suffered being dismantled at first occasion. Then came the 8-bit home computers but that was another history that led me to discover what my vocation would be for the rest of my life and to take a degree in electronics and then in computers.


But, I want to share with you a little anecdote from my childhood. As I said, my dream was to have a robot, so I remember collecting pieces of electronics trying to build something similar to a robot; the problem was not having any theory in electronics without even knowing what a resistor was.

So I asked for help to a teacher in order to have some notions of electronics. When the day of his class finally arrived, with great enthusiasm and anxiety on my part, the teacher's first words were:


“Ohm's law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points. Introducing the constant of proportionality, the resistance, one arrives at the usual mathematical equation that describes this relationship

I = V /R “


Imagine my face of misunderstanding and disappointment .... I was waiting for some experiments with lights, valves and x-rays ...








Thank you very much!!!! This is a really interesting package to spread the bug!


My daughter plans to take the “codebug” to her classroom to expose it and do some kind of workshop with the teacher and classmates.


Note: no resistors have been harmed in the taking of this photo!


beacon_dave :


For me it probably all began with one of these round peg square hole and a hammer type toy sets


Then there was a progression to classic Lego and the plastic Meccano. However there was probably a pivotal moment a few years later when a friend of the family (a chief engineer of a cruise liner) noticed that I had a tendency to play with his son's Fischertechnik construction sets every time I visited. There was obviously some conversation between the parents as for the next six years I received Fischertechnik construction sets at Xmas.


Around that time I was interested in the William Heath Robinson cartoons, 'how things work' books, and science encyclopaedias. I also used to watch programmes like 'The Great Egg Race' hosted by Heinz Wolff on TV, and the Royal Institute Xmas lectures. Perhaps keep in mind back then, access to technical information was pretty limited unless your family shared a similar interest.


This progressed into an era of taking things to bits to see how they worked, and if you could fix them or not. Old radios, TVs, office word processors and storage retrieval systems fell victim to my growing tool kit and spare parts collection.


With an interest shown in electronics I was given a Philips Radionics x40 kit at some point which was probably my first formal introduction to building basic electronic circuits from scratch.


Looking back, the school years were pretty disappointing from a technology view point apart from technical drawing and engineering science which were the few subjects which appeared to be taught with any real world context. I can only recall one enjoyable school outing relating to technology and that was to a manufacturing exhibition where robotics and process control systems were being used to demonstrate automated production line technology. The only other places at the time to visit were the likes of the local technical college open days.


Around this time the BBC started their computer literacy project and the rise of the home computer started. However there appeared to be very little supportive educational content to go along with it, and my school appeared to be very slow to get on-board. So there was a reliance on watching TV programs such as The Computer Programme, Making Most of the Micro, and Micro Live hosted by Ian McNaught-Davis. However this was easier said than done as the programmes were short and there wasn't much time to take notes of the code samples shown. They were listed on Telextext/Ceefax however not all TV's had support, and the Teletext adapter for the BBC micro was an expensive peripheral that no-one appeared to have access to.


My interests grew in robotics, CAD/CAM at this time and with a copy of Richard Pawson's 'The Robot Book' I was able to connect some of the old Fishertechnick construction kit parts to the BBC micro and start to make things move under computer control.


I enrolled into a technical college and studied electronics before getting employment as a technician. There I worked on projects using the industrial versions of the BBC micro but then moved onto the IBMPC where I ended up using CAD for schematic design and mechanical drawings.


From that point on my computer skills accelerated and I ended up moving away from electronics into IT  type roles. Around this time however the original concept for IoT was emerging and low cost development boards like the Netduino started appearing. This eventually lead me into AV control systems and then digital AV technologies, and also back to CAD.


I think it must be really great to grow up in technology today as this time around the likes of the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BBC Micro:bit home/educational computers are accompanied by a wealth of easy to access information and the cost of peripherals to expand them is now within reach of so many.


Look what arrived in the mail today !

Receiving bit by the bug goodies


Thanks Element14 !


And now to find a young and eager maker-to-be to pass the CodeBug onto.


petergloor :


profile-image-display (6).pngIt all started 2015 during a camping holiday in Italy. Because I did not want to risk that my expensive laptop gets damaged or stolen, I bought a cheap tablet to cover my needs for email communication and access to the Internet.



For many years, I have been an enthusiastic user of virtual worlds such as Secondlife or Opensimulator and the 3D graphics software Blender. These systems require a lot of computing power.


On vacation I was amazed from the computing power of my cheap tablet and came up with the idea of using this after the holiday as a simulator. Quickly I noticed that this is not suitable and I was looking for a solution that let me build a small blackbox, optimized for the purpose, which requires as little power as possible and can be operated without fan.


I started the search for suitable devices for my project and bought a Minix Neo, which I disassembled at first and started with some programming. The box was too 'closed' to achive my goals but I soon found the ODROID XU-4. A great box from a performance point of view, but it required a fan and was too expensive to reach my project goals. So I've given the Raspberry Pi 2 a try. It turned out that I was too optimistic with regard to my project idea.



The dream was out, but my interest in miniaturization and the technologies available today remain. I have learned that much can be realized for little money and it was really fun to experiment with my Raspberry Pi almost day by day. I loved it and this never stopped!



As my son, he is an artist, asked me how to synchronize several Kodak Carousel projectors from the 1990s for a show, I didn't know an answer but wondered how to do that with a Raspberry Pi. And soon later I entered another new world, the world of micro controllers and I bought an Arduino.



I had 6 weeks available to create a multi projector controlling device for my son's art project at an exihibtion in Switzerland. I never  worked on real projects with electronics. I studied the possibilities to control the projector and made a plan. I was faced with the challenge of coupling 30 years old technology with today's technologies, things like pairing 24 volts with 5 volts. Due to the kind of the project the challenge was not only in technology, but also in its visual design.


I found the whole thing so exciting that I wanted to do it all myself. Yes, even a stripped-down Arduino. I found a kit with all parts needed, spent a weekend to disassemble and resoldering old electronics, just to learn soldering as quickly as possible, and finally had built my first working Helvetino. Then I ordered the relays, potis, DIN plugs and sockets for my project, as well as diodes, capacitors, resistors and other small parts that I still needed.


Just one week before the vernissage I had finished everything, but the projectors used were in Berlin and I had no projector to test the real thing. Since I could never be sure if my plan was going to go up, I bought relays shield for my Arduino. Plan B would be to replace my controller part by a Arduino Uno and a ready for use relays shield. The rest could be maintained.



Only 36 hours before the vernissage I had the first opportunity to test the control on the real object. At first, everything went well until we discovered a small mistake in the regulation, which I could not explain. Then I noticed that the Atmega-328-P got very hot. Since the only thing I changed was the external power supply I could imagine a problem with it. And unfortunately it was the case! The cheap power supply was bad and its voltage far too high. This has destroyed my regulation, so that the microcontoller got a unregulated voltage of up to 11 V instead of the usual 5 V.



Now, Plan B was the only option left. It was a hard decission to take. I needed around four hours for the conversion. I had thought of everything, but not that in case of the solution with the Arduino the relays shield will not fit into the housing because the potis are in its way. However, finally with some skill and a few tricks I managed to get it in and just 24 hours before the vernissage the first real test worked flawlessly.


Finally the project was a great success for both, me and my son. Everything worked fine and without any problems during the exhibition over 4 weeks. It was an exciting project with a lot of fun in any aspect!


If you asked me to do that 18 months ago I would have answered: "Are you crazy"? Today I would say: "Sure we can, let's try"!




The doorbell rang on Monday. Nobody was out there. But to my big surprise I found the great gift from Element 14 in the letter box.


Next week I'll travel to Denmark where I'll meet my grandson. Of course, not without the Code Bug, the Arduino and the stickers in the luggage. I'm sure we will have a great time.


Unfortunately the Dancing bot didn't survive its journey to Switzerland and arrived broken. I fixed it as good as possible and placed it next to my first (and only) burned out LED.


The cubes to the right on the picture are from my first experiments with a 3D printer.


Thank you, Tariq and the Element 14 team. Keep-up the good work.


anderson7420 :


profile-image-display (16).pngAs a little kid I'd always liked science. I would sit for hours and paint little Styrofoam balls to match the pictures of the planets from one of the encyclopedias we had laying around. Jupiter's red spot sticking to the floor we just had put in, quickly covered by an oddly placed nightstand and a less than efficient diagonally placed bed that made the room "more open."


I had a teacher in high school though that that brought a warm, human centric science and engineering to me. Some of her lessons reverberate even louder today than they did then. Her name was Ralma, and she taught chemistry at our rather rural PA high school. Ralma had this way of giving, with a bubbly laugh, a warmer meaning to colder equations. She would instill trust in you, and leverage that to focus you into working harder.


In tenth grade, my best friend and I went to her after a particularly interesting lesson, and asked her if we could do a science fair project on redox reactions. I remember that hesitant but curious look as she asked us to elaborate. We told her we thought it might be interesting, and scientifically relevant, to look at the temperature profiles of different thermites and how to exert control with inhibitors for the reactions. Her eye just kind of went curiously up, she paused for long moment, looked at both of our hoping faces, and then started asking us what kind of lab safety we were going to use. She must have used some special teaching funds as two weeks later, two high temperature thermocouples and logging equipment showed up.


Many lunches and days after the bell rang were spent in her little lab, exploring something I'm fairly certain other teachers would have stressed enormously over. There was something about her trust in us that connected the equations with the person. We wouldn't do something unsafe to break that trust. This connected the science back to the human and she leveraged it to push our curiosity further. I do remember one day we made a bit of a mistake with our procedure and rather badly melted the glass of our safety hood. I remember her quickly walking over to the hood as it was melting, and me looking at her with a beat red face waiting to hear the pending punishment. Calmly, she summoned the class she was teaching "Class, look, Anderson messed up and made green fireworks for us!" After class, she sat down with us. I was sure some kind of restrictions were coming, but gently she asked, "I want a write up of what went wrong before we proceed again." A couple years later, with a little more knowledge about how the system works, the trust she put in us seems even more… larger than life. Unfortunately, I'd never get the opportunity to ask her how she felt she could trust us that much, or other questions about her pedagogy.


While I didn't stick with chemistry in college, the lessons I learned in her lab did: good laboratory practice, safety, and an analytical mindset. More specifically, having the opportunity to work with the thermocouples and logging software gave me that initial push towards engineering. I finished engineering in undergrad and ended up moving to Germany for more in grad school. After grad school, I worked in an engineering company for a while designing electronics/mechanics for spacecraft design and learned some fantastic technical lessons. However, the deeper the technical knowledge I gained, the more I felt myself missing that human connection to the technology itself. I missed that bubbly laugh of Ralma that came with letting students explore something new, and trusting them to do it with integrity and safe curiosity.


I ended up leaving that engineering job recently to practice teaching back in Philadelphia. I picked up a few high school teams to mentor with hopes that I can figure out a way to emulate Ralma's impact; not just on the technical STEM side, but also with her human centric approach. I think it would be a life's dream to take Ralma's human based STEM approach and deliver it on a scale like Bill Nye did in the 90's. The more technical I get, I think it becomes even more important to remember the human aspect of engineering for people, how to cultivate curiosity instead of crushing it upfront with too much theory, and teaching others how to safely explore their own technical interests. Thanks Ralma.


jack.chaney56 :


profile-image-display (17).pngTurmoil... Love, hate.  Anguish, frustration, and heartbreak. All these were countered by passion, longing, sacrifice, and intense attraction. This is my love affair with electronics and computing. The metaphor is quite appropriate, because I get jealous when someone's system is working better than mine.  When things get slow an dull, I experiment with new and different algorithms. Always I wonder about the choices I made, and never consider leaving what I know I really love.

I'm pretty sure in one of these things, I told my tale of growing up with an EE father, who was also a ham radio operator, who did a lot of experimentation with side-band and antenna experimentation resulting in a patent that got us shipped to "the labs" in New Jersey. So the exposure to engineering is very old indeed.  I still wax nostalgic when I get a whiff of rosin solder, or that particular ozone smell of dust on warming tubes.profile-image-display (18).png

I tried to avoid it for a long time by working in restaurants, and got to be a pretty good cook, but, like in the Godfather, got sucked back in, by the lure of mathematics and puzzle solving. Finished my degree, and landed a job programming video games, learned that embedded systems is all applied video game practice. So I have done lots, learned lots, suffered lots, and now I get to play with the grand kids (next generation of programmers) trying to explain being productive with a 300 baud modem, on a standard phone line. Explaining punch cards and batch stations. Explaining why UNIX is better than DOS, and why you still need to understand assembly language, so you can understand what the processor can and can't do.

Finally, like any great love, I will be with it, enjoying its company until I am no longer here.



Page 5

jagness :


profile-image-display (7).pngAt the tender age of 4, early 1970's, in some village in western Europe, my father brought home a broken piece of furniture. I sat around him as he tinkered behind the unit, enthralled at the complex circuitry, wondering what this thing did or if he could ever got it to work. Of course he would make it work, he always made anything work, from cars to toasters, but this was something I'd never seen before - a piece of furniture with weird parts inside.


It didn't take long before we had a working black and white TV set. I had never seen one before. No one in our small town had a TV set. The entire block would come over to our home to watch TV. It was amazing. We were poor, but through my father's ingenuity a discarded item became a treasure trove of entertainment.


A few years later, I happened upon a broken transistor radio, shattered and discarded in the street, but relatively whole. I brought it home to my father and he made it work. I was the only kid in the entire neighborhood with a working transistor radio. I listened to that thing for hours, wondering how it all worked.


We emigrated to the United States in the mid 1970's and the move was eye opening for me. Everything in the US was so large! Huge vehicles, large open roads, huge buildings, this huge magical place called a shopping mall, and or course the jaw dropping beauty of an entire store filled with toys (Toy's R Us). And next to the toy store was my favorite of all, a Radio Shack.


I could spend hours in a Radio Shack without getting bored. My first Christmas toy was the basic Tandy electronics kit. I built every circuit in that kit, twice. I asked for books with electronic and science experiments instead of toys. My mind was blown when I built my first crystal radio and actually heard AM stations! To this day, I still remember how shocked I was that this could be possible - to hear something in that small earpiece with absolutely no power source connected.


My father was an engineer and my mother an accountant, so I excelled in science and math. There was never any doubt I would pursue something in the STEM field. At the age of 13, I stood in front of a Commodore Pet computer at a local Sears store typing gibberish onto the screen. One of the sales guys showed me how to write a small program (10 PRINT "HELLO"      20 GOTO 10    RUN). I stood there, at that terminal, until the store closed, writing endless variations of the same basic code. I begged my parents to go to Sears every day so I could play with that computer. I learned a few more BASIC commands and would spend hours standing there writing code, oblivious to my surroundings.


After about a month, the Commodore Pet computer went away and they replaced it with a Vic 20 with a color TV screen. Mind blown. I begged my entire family to pool all my present and future birthday and Christmas presents for the next ten years into buying the Vic 20.


Christmas 1992 was the greatest moment of my life! I tore open my one special gift and spent two entire days hacking away. I did not stop to eat, play with friends, go to the bathroom, bathe, sleep, etc. Just sat there going through the entire manual, learning all the commands and applying them to my program when necessary. Once my program was finished (and I was completely delirious from exhaustion), it dawned upon me that there was no way to save the code. I had no printer or external drive! The Vic 20 also has a problem overheating, which was clearly evident when my left hand touched the chassis. It was not going to last very long being kept powered up.


In a panic, I begged my grandparents to buy a tape backup device. It was on sale for $199.95. They obliged, having witnessed first hand my intense dedication to learning about computers. The Vic 20 had been on for almost 4 days straight to that point, the outer shell too hot to touch. When we arrived home from the store and I plugged in the tape drive, the computer blew a fuse and turned off. My first ever program was gone forever.


That was many years and many programs ago. I went on to study computer science for my A.A. degree. Electrical and computer engineering for my B.S. degree, and Computer engineering for my Master's degree.


My proudest moment as an adult was taking an old broken transistor radio and completely repairing it, knowing what every component was, why they were on the board, how signals are modulated and propagated, demodulated, selected, and amplified. It connected me to my father, more than 40 years ago, sitting by the kitchen table fixing that broken radio I found on the street. It meant more to me than programming state machines on an FPGA or building my first robot using a PIC microcontroller programmed in assembly language. It was the realization of a childhood dream, converting magic into understanding.


I found a bunch of broken toys hidden under my son's bed a few days ago. He is mischievous, but honest when his misdeeds are discovered. Apparently he likes to take toys apart to see how they work. He only opens toys with electrical or mechanical components. Then he tries to "fix" them. The toys he can't fix are hidden away, under the bed, until he can learn more and try fixing them again. He is good at math and science too.


I tried to reprimand him, but I couldn't - I was too proud of him.





Package arrived yesterday afternoon.


My son was like, "Wow dad, another electronic thing in the mail for you."




Turned to him and gave him the mystery gift.


"This one's yours."


His eyes opened wide. "For real?"


"Yep, yours."


He tore into the gift wrap, revealing a Codebug.


"What is this?"


"It's your own electronic thing. Get your laptop."


He flew into his room and came back in record time, laptop in hand. Didn't give me a chance to read the instructions. Dropped his laptop on the table and plugged in the USB cable right away, the other end into his shiny new Codebug.


Nothing happened.


"Let's go online like the paper says."


He launched and the programming interface came up. He was familiar with the interface. Said it was similar to a class project he took in robotics. I was amazed. My son is only 8 years old. I guess public schools around here aren't as bad as people think if 3rd graders are being introduced to robotics and coding.


With a little help, he coded a routine that displayed his sister's name, letter by letter, and then scrolled the message "I love you". It was really cute. He saved his little code, causing the web page automatically upload it to his laptop. We followed the instructions on the quick-start guide and loaded his program into the Codebug. We put a battery into the Codebug and the letters started to appear. He was so excited!


He ran to his sister's room to show her the Codebug message. She thought it was adorable. He grabbed his laptop and ran into his room to program more messages. One for mom and one for me.


He took it to school today to show his friends. I'm afraid to ask what message he programmed for his friends.



Thank you Tariq and Element 14 for the wonderful gift!


jdlui :

profile-image-display (8).png

I must have been bit by the bug of engineering when I was a child.


I still remember several some of the random, creative, and dangerous I got into as a child. Learning to siphon water in the sink; building a bow and arrow; building my first PC; I remember the overarching theme to my exploration was curiosity. I was always taking things apart, and trying my best to put them back together again. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes less so. Either way, it fueled my desire to learn more about the world around me.









I remember being a bright kid who was gifted in mathematics and sciences. In my boredom, I was not always the best student. But I was always addicted to solving and understanding. I loved science and math problems, and I quickly began tinkering with and breaking my computers. As I learned more about computer, machines, the natural world, and physics, I finally the topic that absolutely captured my attention: outer space. I was just astonished by the size of the universe beyond our grasp, and amazed that humankind was taking its first tentative steps to becoming an interplanetary species.


I was never really sure what it was about space travel that made me finally say “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up”. I think it was the requirement for intelligence and technical excellence and the thought of exploring an unknown so vast that few would ever truly experience it. When I was eating my freeze-dried astronaut ice cream and wandering around the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, I felt truly at home in the shuttle exhibit and underneath the Canadarm robotic arm.


The dream of making this happen was enticing, but motivating myself to take steps to better myself was difficult as a young man. I was still lazy due to the fact that I was naturally good at math and science; and I had never given serious thoughts to the intermediate steps required to get my career in gear. I distinctly remember the point where it already felt too late to join cadets. My parents were supportive of sports but were not interested in paying for flying lessons. I went into university in Engineering without much thought of what I wanted to do after I graduated. I plodded through my degree and 5 years later found myself in a respectable job. But it was a job without thrills. I was not challenged to improve my technical skills and I quickly fell into a rut. I was not sure what I was doing in this job, and not sure what my goals were for my career.


I was really spinning my wheels and trying to figure things out when I remembered what the nine-year-old version of me had breathlessly told a reporter at a LEGO robotics event: “I want to be an astronaut”. I didn’t even get the airtime to mention why, how, or when I would achieve this. Just that I wanted to fly in space. Someday. Any day.


I realized that it was a very unlikely career goal to fulfill but also something difficult for me to repress and ignore for the rest of my adult life. I’d be lying to myself to ignore it. Space was something that excited me since I was a child.

First thing I did was reviewed the basic screening job requirements. Applicants should have bachelor degree minimum in science or engineering. Check. Although I realized that my chemical engineering bachelor’s degree was not likely to be competitive all on its own. I did more research and read through the profiles of hundreds of Canadian Space Agency and NASA astronauts. What I found wasn’t overly encouraging: most of them had military background and were pilots, the vast majority were up to their eyeballs in PhDs in the most cutting edge engineering imaginable. I did a thorough analysis of the skill sets that most engineers brought into space industry and realized that mechanical, materials, and electronics were the largest fields. Having done a chemical engineering degree, I hoped that I was set for materials. The decision was whether to try and augment my mechanical or electrical skills next. I thought about this and was really not sure where to go with this. My bachelor’s degree had really not given me much depth in either of these topics. How would I be able to get into a master’s degree and work on either mechanical or electrical work?


I started cold calling and knocking on doors at professor’s offices at the University of Toronto. Most of them were quite welcoming, and frank in the advice. They wanted good marks, and they wanted past experience. I was looking for something like an aerospace materials master’s degree or something that would directly support aerospace and space industries. I realized that I could maybe get in with some of these professors but that I’d be very behind the eight-ball if I even got accepted.


At this point I was again wondering how I could break this problem down to make things a bit more bite-sized and achievable. I was unsure what the right trajectory was to get my career moving in the direction I wanted, but I knew I wanted to learn more astronaut related skills. I assumed this would start with electrical or mechanical schooling and work, and maybe move directly into aerospace industry someday.


Enter Peter Oakes. He was an external consultant working on the same project that I was working on in Toronto. As we made small talk and go to know each other, I realized what a wealth of knowledge he had on electrical engineering. He’d worked for years in industry and also tinkered in his spare time. I saw the Youtube videos he was making, the website he was running, and he showed me some of his past and present projects.


In one of our discussions, he suggested that I check out the site that he was an active contributor to, element14. He showed me the Holiday IOT lighting roadtest and eagerly suggested that I register and propose a project.

What a pivotal moment that was!


I was elated and ecstatic to later discover that I was going to be one of the lucky recipients of the test hardware. I still clearly remember receiving the packages and eagerly opening them. The excitement, the shiny new boards, the stickers. All of it was exciting. Until I had to make plans on how to actually put the hardware to work!


So much pretty stuff


I had done a single course in circuits in undergrad and literally nothing else outside of that. I felt completely lost. It was my first time with the Arduino system and I was feeling very lost.

Peter saw my frustrations and helped get me on my feet, but explaining several things to me, and giving me some extra hardware to get myself started.


I finally started getting my feet and figuring out how to hook up basic components and get the code working. Get the first few sketches working elated me. It was amazing how versatile these little microcontrollers are. I could tweak any timing, any colour. I was hooked.



Being the Holiday Lights IOT challenge, I got many chances to get distracted by pretty lights.


I remember really struggling through the first review. I felt that I had moved mountains just learning to read the code and get things hooked up. I really enjoyed myself and felt that I had accomplished something. I was so happy to be part of an accepting and welcoming community that supported my small victories but also showcased mind-blowing projects put together by people like Peter and others in the group. The element14 community is really great in that respect. You can ogle other people’s projects and revel in their experience, and get ideas for future projects. Looking back on that experience from about 2 years ago, I remember so many terminologies that were just another language to me back then. Fast forward to now and some of them actually mean something to me finally. I’ve finally learned something!


This experience in element14 really helped to jumpstart my learning of programming and electronics. As this project wound down I went back into my career searching with renewed vigor. I found a professor working in a biomedical robotics lab and I realized that I would get an incredible selection of skills under his supervision. I could work on electronics, mechanical, and software all in one master’s degree. I still remember the incredible nervousness when I phoned him. He practically answered the call before it had a chance to rang and we quickly talked about me doing research in his lab.


This was it. This was really it. I was about to leave my job and go back to school. I was really scared.


But I was excited. I knew that this would move me in the direction of my career passions.


Next thing I knew I was moving across Canada to start a master’s degree.


One year later, I’m loving my degree, and still active in element14. I’ve learned much more about Arduino, and I’ve also picked up some Python programming, digital image processing, machine learning, electronics, and optics. I’m absolutely loving the new things I’m learning in this career.


Peter and element14 was really a catalyst to remind me to keep challenging myself and learning new things. It helped me to learn the skills that I am currently applying in my thesis research. I use the Arduino Uno I received in that roadtest in my master’s thesis prototype hardware.


By taking the leap and going back to school, I'm learning topics I love, met some amazing people, connected to more people in space industry, and even got involved in a space engineering club. We're now building cube satellite technology. We even launched a weather balloon recently. More microcontroller experience there!



High Altitude Balloon Team


I was bit by a bug of curiosity when I was very young. I loved taking things apart, and had a real love of the sciences. But I also bit by a bug when I first picked up that Arduino Uno. That bug was a reignited passion for electronics. I truly believe that element14, Peter, and that roadtest played a pivotal role to getting me to where I am today. It immersed me in a world of electronics and programming that I was previously too intimidated to delve into.


Thank you element14 and peteroakes for being such a life changing influence!





Got my stuff in the mail today. Thank you element14!

Going to find an eager young mind to give the codebug to






lime918 :


profile-image-display (9).pngI was planning on pursuing the arts after graduating from highschool, but I decided to challenge myself and enroll at the local tech institute, taking a program encompassing the two things I understood the least - electricity and math. I was instantly hooked and have been studying electrical/electronics engineering ever since.


I ended up working for a utility doing telecommunications and power system protection equipment commissioning and maintenance, which has "fuelled the fire" and allowed me to discover more sub-fields and technologies within the engineering field of study every day.


I used to find myself unchallenged in school and unmotivated, but ever since I started my first  day of technical college I've been excited to get up in the morning and learn more every day - going on 7 years now!






Look what arrived yesterday evening! My 3 year old son was ecstatic about the dancing bot, and has named him "Robo-Buddy." I'll be sending the Codebug to my nephew to spark his interest in the vast and exciting fields of engineering and science.


Thank you!tariq.ahmad

Page 6

grs86 :


Well I've always had a little bit of the bug crawling around me, but wasn't totally bitten with it until recently after I turned 30. When I was a kid, I got my start programming on the Atari ST520E and the Amiga 500. I've always done a little bit of electronics work, nothing fancy, just replacing things when they break, usually my old Atari and Amiga that I still have! I'm a software engineer by trade and I've been looking to improve my skills and get into electronics design and start making my own things. The thing that really got me bitten with the bug was after an event that happened on new years eve. I wasn't doing anything this year and just decided to have a quiet night in and watch Netflix, only my Zyxel router decided to blow up one of its chips. I have no idea how it happened, but it did. Most likely it was the cheap power supply that was included with it. I wasn't caring how it happened at this point, it just did. I had to find a solution.




I had a separate VDSL router kicking around, a BT HomeHub5 that was locked to BT Infinity Broadband, but about six months ago I switched ISP. I had no other options but to hack the router and flash it with OpenWRT in order to use it with my new provider. Most of my electronics gear was packed in boxes, and my main soldering iron got broken in the process somehow, so I had to settle for the backup 30W AC iron I had kicking around that had a tip that was way too big for the job. I had no flux and could only find cheap solder that I had from Maplin. As one could imagine, these were not ideal conditions but I was a man without a connection, bored and a bottle of Honey Jack Daniels to work through. I assembled all that I would require, and I got to work.




To obtain the software that I needed for this project, I had to pull out my US Robotics 56k dial up modem that I was planning on using for a retro remote dial in server and put it to use for this endeavour. As one could imagine, this process was slow, tedious and annoying as hell. Appreciate your fast internet connection folks. Life is hell without it.




I followed a marvellous guide on the OpenWRT wiki on how to go about this process for the BT HomeHub5 and where the UART headers were. I made a small network from a useless old ADSL router for my ThinkPad and my original Raspberry Pi that I was going to use to flash the router's firmware with using the GPIO pins on the Pi. Quick, simple, dirty and I had most of the software that I needed on the Pi anyways. There were a few (thankfully) small packages that I never had, but manually downloading them with the 56K modem and then just transferring the Pi took care of that.




I soldered on some wires I ripped off of an old PC case that I didn't need anymore and soldered them on to the board, followed by a liberal application of some electrical tape to keep it all in order. Black and red are the RX and TX, the white wire is a boot selector that when shorted to ground (orange wire), it tells the device to boot up in UART mode, rather than its normal boot process. I hooked the RX and TX up to the Pi, started the HH5 in UART mode and then started sending the u-boot bootloader to the device to flash the new firmware to it.



Once that was done, I got the device to boot over the network from the RPi using tftp. Just a simple network between the router and the Pi, with the Pi setup to have a static IP address of the expected for U-Boot.


IMG_0905.JPGIMG_0912.JPGIMG_0913.JPG connection.png



Success, the image is downloaded and the Linux kernel is booting. All that was left to do after that was install the firmware on the device, after taking backups of the stock ROM and any other pieces of data for the device, such as the calibration data. After that, all I had to do was configure my VDSL modem on the device then just install whatever software I wanted on to the device (admin web interface, openvpn) In all, it was actually a long tedious process that was helped along by a bottle of Honey Jack and my tired assistant. A situation I bet we all know all too well!




Ever since this event, and from many long nights talking with my best friend who is a genius electrical engineer in my eyes, the bug has definitely been caught. So, I'm now in the process of converting one of my spare rooms into a proper hardware lab where I'll be exploring many new projects and sharing them with people on YouTube, letting folks learn as I learn more and sharing the experience. Booze and helpers, and all!







Thank you tariq.ahmad and Element 14! I'll need to find a home for the codebug!


khedoros :


My Grandfather worked as an engineer for IBM, starting with designing circuits for their tape drives, and eventually playing key roles in projects like the IBM 1620 "CADET". Early on in my life, I had access to an IBM PC Jr, and a grandfather with lots of stories about working in the technology industry. Honestly, my first interests in using a computer were games, and that was primary for a long time, but even that led to learning. Like mixing+matching sections of the autoexec.bat and config.sys files recommended by boot disk utilities for different games, trying to get them to work under DOS. That's also how I learned my first command-line stuff. I began to wonder about the details of how things worked. Poking around the computer, I discovered Qbasic. By talking to people at church, I became the proud owner of a 15 year old book titled "BASIC Computer Games: Microcomputer Edition". I spent weeks typing programs in, hunt-and-peck style, not really understanding the code, but amazed that it represented human-readable instructions that the computer was following. I made some progress, but being in about 4th grade, I hadn't been introduced to the concept of mathematical variables, so the complexity of what I could write on my own, without examples to follow, was pretty limited. Eventually I became frustrated, and kept the experience at the back of my mind.


This whole time, my Grandfather gave me little pushes. Radio kits, little remote control robot toys, a 300-in-1 Radio Shack set that was *huge* fun for years (and that I've still got at my parents' house). He taught me to solder, some basics with electronics, and so on. He's been a huge influence on me for my whole life. Years later, I picked back up with programming when some school classes were available to me. We covered QBasic (yes, even around 2000), Visual Basic 6, and C++. I loved what I could make the computer do, and the depths that are there to explore in becoming a better programmer fascinated me. I knew for certain what my path was going to be when I went to college.


Games->curiosity->experimentation->knowledge->loop back to curiosity. There's no way to escape the loop; it's got me (happily) trapped forever!




Yesterday, I got an absolute load of awesomeness in the mail!

BBB Toys


The Beaglebone Black is actually exactly the goodie that I was hoping for! I've got a bunch of Raspberry Pi's around the house, and I've used Arduinos before, but the BBB is a board that I've never had the opportunity to explore. I've got to say that I've been really impressed by the beginning of using it. It's pretty slick that it can be powered by a PC's USB port, and it presents its starting documentation as a self-hosted set of files, as soon as you plug it in.


I've got some ideas of who might be able to benefit from the CodeBug. I've got a coworker with kids between 5 and 12, and I think I'll talk to him about whether he'd appreciate the gizmo.


This is awesome, guys!


ghstridr :


Wow, you are taking me back a ways. "Sherman, Set the wayback machine for 1978 and all the bell bottoms you can stand!". "Yes Mr. Peabody!"


Some where in the late 70's, while my grandfather was visiting. I found an old transistor radio in the garage that my grandfather said was broken. It didn't receive anything except static. So me being the kind of kid that pulls the fire alarm on the first day of kindergarten to see what it would do (true story), I felt that was a challenge. I grabbed a small flathead screw driver and started looking for things to poke at. Eventually I found some colored top screw looking things encased upright in little silver boxes. I turned the radio on and proceed to 'adjust' them as I listened for something. I started to hear voices (not in my head, at least at that age) and worked until I could get them as clear as I could between the adjustable cores (I think that is what they were) and the tuning dial. Then I proceeded to play with something that had what I found out later in high school was a couple of adjustable capacitors. Bingo! Everything started working! Audio was clear as a bell. My grandfather was so pleased, he gave $10! A fair amount of money for a 10ish year old kid. I had him drive us to the drug store and I bought us some ice cream cones. Mine was chocolate!


From there I was hooked. A neighbor's kid showed me Pong and then later a Atari 2600 of which I figured out all the cheats for Tank Battle on my own by accident.


I got a job at 13 pressing clothes on a steam press for a dry cleaner's to earn money for some future gadget. Little did I know it was to be an Apple II+ with dual 5.25 floppy drives, 48k of ram plus the 16k ram expansion board. I was in heaven. I had all the manuals, one of which gave a complete disassembly of the Applesoft Basic and Machine Code roms. Along with that was a fold out schematic of the mainboard. I soon figured out how to drop to the machine code shell (called 'monitor') and play with the cpu/registers and ram. Writing directly to hi-rers display ram was always intriguing as I could use the extra two pages of ram to store values and code while using text mode ( graphics and text mode pages were mapped to different places). In high school I played around with a couple of electronics kits from Radio Shack, building various things like a crystal AM radio, FM transmitter, and a alarm (noisemaker) using a photocell receptor. Went into the US Navy out of high school to train as a ET (electronics technician). I had been playing guitar all through high school, so I got interested in everything that made the guitar work all the way back to the amplifier. I even designed a few simple tube circuits, using tanks for eq sections. Eventually, during the Navy, I discovered computers again. So out of the Navy, I tooks some classes and continued on to a career of being a tech support to systems admin to most recently devops architect. I've been turning back to tube theory and other electronics while building guitars. I've wanted to build a small pickup winder that was able to wind X number of winds on the bobbin and exercise an armature across it's plane while winding to a specific pattern. Different patterns can make noticeable changes in the tones a pickup produces. I'm thinking a small SBC like a RBPi or Beagle would be a great place to start. So help a fella out? Thanks for the opportunity!




Got this earlier this week! PDE(pretty damn excited). I'm going to find which one of my extended family members want the code bug. If no one wants it, I'll lookup the nearest electronics class and donate it. Thank you very much Element14 and Crew!

My BeagleBoneBlack!


gentlemanwolf :


So, here's where it all started.


One sunny afternoon a long time ago, I was sitting around my house as all nine year olds would do. Staring at a speaker. the reason behind this, was that I was trying to figure out how sound was being produced from it, and what was inside of it. The next thing I did, being the smart nine year old I was, was take the speaker and throw it as the ground as hard as I possibly could in a vain attempt at opening it. Breaking it in half like an IPhone getting thrown off of the top floor of a parking garage. (I didn't know screwdrivers existed then.) Believe it or not this is what got me into engineering.


After dealing with the consequences of destroying a $20 speaker I was still curious as to how on earth speakers could make sound, so I fished the speaker out of the revolting garbage and went to work in my room in secret. This time instead of throwing the speaker on the ground again, I proceeded to pull it apart piece by piece, through a process I would later learn was called reverse engineering. I unfortunately I never did manage to put the darn thing back together, mainly because I lost all the screws and the coil snapped, but, whatever. Anyway, after losing the speaker for good, that curiosity stuck with me. I would begin to look at everything i passed, and wonder how did someone accomplish that?


So, with this newfound curiosity, I would try to reverse engineer anything I could get my hands onto. It was also because of this curiousness, that I Learned new skills, like how to solder wires together, how to avoid breathing it toxic gas from the solder, and the ability to repair things like the wiring in computers, or other things. These skills were certainty very useful. if it wasn't for me throwing that $20 speaker, I probably wouldn't be where I am now. Starting a potential family business creating arcades. programing Raspberry Pi's, and going to a technical school to learn more about engineering. That is how I first got into the amazing world of engineering.




Sorry it took a bit longer than I hoped to upload this. My friend somehow shot the video upside down so I had to flip it right side up. Either way thank you so much! She LOVES the code bug and the boogie bot. And I can guarantee the beagle bone black will come to some great use! Thanks! Also sorry about the video quality she was using her old iPhone 3gs.


computerguy101 :


   profile-image-display (11).pngMy adventure in science and engineering started when i was about 4 or 5 and me and my dad sat around connecting any batteries we could find around the house to little speakers, LED's, and motors. This really got me interested, and for the next couple years, whenever I was bored, I would get some batteries and some LED's, motors, switches, and speakers, and just play around with them, no real goal in mind.

     Around 5th grade, we were assigned to research anything we wanted and make a presentation about it. As it so happened, just a couple days ago, I had been on a laptop and wondering how it used electricity to store information. It really baffled me, how an idea, could be stored with a physical object. Naturally, I made my presentation on how microprocessors and RAM actually worked. After researching this, my life was really changed. I moved away from watching pointless YouTube videos in my free time to coding and learning more about computers.

     I started coding things like small websites with my new knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I then moved on to programming TI calculators with BASIC that I learned along the way, but I really couldn't get what I wanted out of programming, because I couldn't really control actual things like Ben Heck could (I loved the Ben Heck Show but it never really occurred to me to do a Google search on I/O pins for some reason).

     When I got my first Raspberry Pi, I was so happy. It was all I ever needed in a computer. It had a decent OS, some memory, but best of all, THE PINS! GPIO pins were they missing puzzle piece in my electronics "career". It combined my two favorite parts of electronics, computers, and circuitry. I could finally use computers to control real life things.

     At some point, I was doing projects that really didn't need an OS like the RPI did, but needed more I/O pins. This is where I started to use Arduinos and more complex PCB's and MCU's.

     Now, don't think I'm saying that my engineering story stops here, but after starting to use Arduinos, nothing really major has happened in my so called "career". I'm hoping that the next big milestone will be college. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.





Thank you Element14 and Tariq Ahmad for the wonderful gifts, I appreciate it so much! It's so nice of you to hold contests like the "Bit by the Bug Challenge". I'm thinking about giving the CodeBug to my friend's 5 year old brother for his birthday, so he can learn electronics and programming in a really cool way. His dad is a programmer, so I'm sure he'll get some really good advice and support. Once again, thank you so much Element14 team and tariq.ahmad14thx.png

Page 7

koudelad :


Since childhood I loved dismantling all kinds of things. Back in the nineties, me and my brother got a metal building kit (Merkur, made in Czechoslovakia) that my father and his brother played with. I still have many of the parts (most of them is about 40 years old) and use them to quickly build something mechanical, simple robot, etc.

When we got our first computer (with 300 MHz Celeron), I didn't just play games and used the common office software (by the way in 1997, there were about 5 computer shops in Prague). My friends at high school showed me Quick Basic and we were competing, who writes a better program or a game. I have a tear in my eye when I remember one old hobby magazine that published a game in Basic once a month. It was rare to have a photocopier to make a copy of the program for the friends before rewriting it to the editor manually... As soon as the computer warranty expired, I started exploring the PC internals (no one from the family could have known about that, of course ). From what I've learned by doing, many friends requested help with SW and HW setup. I helped them, they burnt a CD for me (CD burner was the same price as the whole computer)...


In the age of 13, I met a high school teacher (former scientist) who saw my interest in electronics. Thanks to him, I got my passion in electronics. He pointed me towards Microchip PICs and the wonderful world of 8-bit MCUs. So I bought a programmer and PIC16F877 and started a new level of exploration. Datasheet was the only documentation (later I bought one local book about a different microcontroller). No one in my neighborhood was interested in microcontrollers, so I experienced quite a painful way before writing even simple programs. The only place where I had access to the internet was school (connected with one 33k modem for all the pupils and teachers). You can imagine how did an installation of a new IDE go. I only had 10 pcs of 3,5 floppy drives and the IDE required about 23, so I spend three afternoons in a voluntary computer course, downloading the IDE. (Of course, at least one of the floppy drives was always unreadable, so I had to wait till the next day to go to school.) I learned quite a lot by learning by doing - soldering, breadboard prototyping, PCB etching. The more mistakes I made, the better process I had for the next time. I subscribed my first electronics magazine to regularly read about new ideas. I visited a local electronic components store quite often and was amused by all the components - a catalog was something like a dream list for me, I wanted to have a piece of everything at home


I went to EE university, but didn't finish it. Don't blame me , I just couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. All the subjects like Mathematics I to VI, Physics I to III... literally killed me. I wanted to program microcontrollers, but the only subject I could take was about what I have learnt myself. I had less and less time a give up on electronics in general. At least I have friends from that time - also electronics enthusiasts.


Over the time, the technology has been evolving rapidly. 8-bit MCUs are pushed away by 32-bit MCUs. Single board computers are available at low cost. Ebay and others offer ready made modules with all kinds of electronics. Arduino and Raspberry Pi is everywhere, but not many people know about the internal workings. I was quite lost in the new technology and tried to combine going to work and staying in the field of electronics.

Now, I've been working for a few years in IT and got that passion back. We all have high speed internet connection, so I run across some wonderful MOOCs like and and of Course a Ben Heck show. It is so much easier to get and share any information! Chips are very cheap and powerful, on the other hand, more complicated. I bought a few PSoC development kits and started all over again.




Yesterday, I got a present from element14:

element14 gift

I don't have any kids yet, so I asked a few friends about their kids and what interests them. After a few conversations a final decision has been made One of my former coworkers has six children (aged 2 to 15) and has already been looking for a way to introduce programming and electronics to the older ones. I will give him the CodeBug and the wind-up robot  tomorrow and I personally believe his family will treat them well (and hopefully buy a few more bugs later ).


Thank You element14, especially tariq.ahmad .



clem57 :


Thinking back to my earlier years, I was destined to be an engineer. I was a loner and preferred books over sports. Some of the gifts for birthdays were a computer in plastic with 3 bit of 0/1's and a radio shack 50 in 1 electronics kit. I can remember books on sub atomic particles and hot flux over magnetic poles creating electric currents. By the time six grade arrived, I was understanding imaginary numbers and other high powered mathematics.I became more social only later in life with much difficulty. Chess was a distraction from a life of school and homework. My first computer class was in high school along with calculus which was both a real challenge. The odd thing was getting elected to the prom attendants which was weird for such a geeky pencil carrying guy with a pocket protector. I can even used the slider ruler before the TI calculator. Life was moving fast and I found the ground floor in computers. At the university I even got a part time job in the computer center as a systems programmer. What a great learning that was. So really the progression was natural fit for me. Thanks for reading my post and I hope you get bitten by the bug in whatever career fits your personality. Mine was surely engineering!




What  a shock, when a knock at the door. Looking down, UPS had a package for me. Grabbing nearest sharp instrument, I opened the package to find all this:


     I just had too much fun with the moving robot. In the meanwhile, I will find a person to give much attention to the code bug.








As far as I remember, I was always fascinated by technology. When I was kid I used to tear apart toys and was interested in how they works. Thanks to my mom and dad they have supported me always along the way. As a kid I love electronics stuffs like walkman, radio etc. I started electrical wirings and small equipments connections at an age of 10. But the only issue I faced was I was not having anyone to guide me so I learned many things from observations only. The love towards electronics grew with me and luckily after my inter I went for Engineering. There where I studied also the scenario was same noone was interested in practical appl;ications and tech so I managed to learn things from internet. That's how it continued.




Thanks for the awesome gifts E14 and specially Tariq. Received a couple of days ago but hope not late to publish a video. It's really amazing. Going to pass teh codebug to my nephew who is actually too much inspired towards tech. Once again thank you.






cageycruz :



What got me hooked was Popular Electronics magazine. I had a subscription from the time I was able to read. I desperately wanted to build the 6m transmitter and receiver and managed to get $20 for a birthday. I went straight to the Lafayette Electronics store with a copy of the magazine and told the clerk I wanted to buy all the parts in the parts list. I think I was about 9 years old. But my mom wouldn't let me spend the money on that so that project never went anywhere. Maybe that was the start of my habit of unfinished projects.


Like others I took stuff apart and (sometimes) got it back together. My dad used to build Heathkits and as soon as he got bored with one I'd take it apart. Sorry Dad.


When I was 12 I did make the Digital Logic Microlab, of April 1970 Popular Electronics

It's a 4 bit plugboard "computer" of sorts. What can you do with 4 bits? Well you can count (in binary) from 0 to 15. If you're clever you can count backwards. You can make pseudo random numbers. Hook up a speaker and you can make tones. One thing you can't do is win the science fair because none of the judges had a clue what it was. Today I volunteer as a judge in our county science fair to right how I was wronged.


Later my interest shifted to photography and I set up a darkroom to develop my own film. Any darkroom needs a good timer, so I set out to build one which doubled as my wood shop project in 9th grade. I built the case in shop class and the electronics at home. Three 7490 decade counter ICs, with BCD to 7 segment display decoder drivers, and incandescent filament 7 segment displays.  I hand drew a circuit board with a resist pen and etched it. I had trouble keeping the holes straight while drilling with a hand drill so I had to bend the leads of the ICs to make them fit. It looked horrible. But it worked and really impressed my shop teacher who in 1973 had never seen a numeric digital readout.


A year later I made a 5 function pocket calculator. I never found a way to make a decent case for it so it remained 2 circuit boards stacked on a breadboard with 2 9V batteries (bipolar power supply needed in those days.) I still have that and it still works. Here's some pictures:

My calculator DSCF8027.JPGDSCF8028.JPG


Other projects included a digital clock with a very quiet alarm and 2 displays for my parents who slept in separate beds. A sound maker that had about 30 knobs and switches and could make all kinds of sounds. A stereo amplifier. An attempt (unfinished) at a programmable scientific calculator. And a 32 bit CPU unit made from an early bit slice chip set from Intel. (I never finished the microcode.)


Then college: DEC PDP-10 and PDP-11, Lisp Machine, Z80. An attempt at an "ebook" reader which flashed the words one at a time onto an 8 letter alphanumeric LED display.


First job at Hughes Aircraft Company. Did a lot there but my favorite was the descent control processor (1802) for the Galileo probe that went to Jupiter. I scratched my initials on the case so now my initials are on Jupiter. Taggers beat that. Well at least they went there before an entry estimated to end at 6000 Kelvin and 25 G impact which surely smashed them to smithereens.


Today most of my life is software and management. But I still enjoy tinkering.


dragonstyne :


Well, I was happy to receive a package from E14.

The CodeBug, I will give to my granddaughter.  She is 7.

I put a bug in her ear and she is excited.

Thanks guys.


Page 8

ntewinkel :


My start in technology was when I was still in my single-digit ages, starting with a 10-in-1 kit. It may have actually started with a Radioshack 120-in-1 kit that belonged to my brother which led to a "decoy" being bought for me, not sure. I do remember buzzing through the circuit examples for both and feeling like it was all a whole lot like magic!


In school I was introduced to computers = more magic. I thought of them more of fun and toys so I went into University aiming for a chemistry degree. That soon changed to Computer Science after a work term in a computer shop made me realize how much I enjoyed programming them, and how much easier (and cleaner!) it was than chemistry!


Now I'm in my mid-40s, working as a software engineer, and I'm still enjoying learning and tinkering with software and hardware







Thanks for the care package, e14! I too was very pleasantly surprised


I gave the CodeBug to a newbie to electronics, but a lifelong maker (very skilled at it too). So unlike others inspiring the young'uns into electronics, I inspired a 40-something to get into it!

Turns out he had been thinking of one day maybe trying Arduino, but never had the time yet. CodeBug will be an easy introduction for him, and I'm hoping to be able to post some cool pics of how it gets integrated into the already amazing projects he normally builds

I think he'll also be a big inspiration to others, so this could have a domino effect.





dwinhold :


The bug got me in grade 3 (I think). The school I went to got an Apple computer (1 for the whole school). I always looked so forward to getting my turn to play learning games. The one game that stands out in my mind was called "Lemonade Stand". I didn't get to serious about computers and electronics until years later. When I turned 13 I got my first computer, Texas Instruments TI99/4A. It was a fun computer to play games and learn basic programming on. In grade 12 is when it really hit me, back on the Apple 2E I learned Pascal language at school. The computers had a Z80 card so we could run the language. I picked up the language fast and soon after had to come in to school early to tutor my computer science teacher on how to program. The same time I was messing with whatever electronics I could get my hands on.

Surprisingly when I graduated I didn't go to college and pursue computers, I became a cabinet maker. This is still what I do for a living, but I also run networking and build computers on the side. A few years ago I had a life changing injury from work (Hand in table saw) which helped me focus on the electronic interest.


When I joined Element14 I never thought it would change my life this much. I have learned so much from everyone and appreciate everything Element14 has done for me and my daughter (Chrystal). I have been teaching Chrystal as much as possible and have her as part of my reviews and projects. We have been rebuilding non-working computers and giving them to families who can't afford to buy one. They might not be the best but it is a start for the family. This is done anonymously as we don't want any recognition, we just want to give back.


Thank you

Dale & Chrystal Winhold




What a nice surprise waiting for me at home!! Code Bug, Arduino Duo, Dancing robot and stickers. Luckily I got to open the package or my kids would have claimed it all I wish I had the camera going when my daughter (Chrystal) wound up the robot, when she set it on the counter and it started to dance; the whole family started to laugh and couldn't stop. This was a great start to our evening!!


The Code Bug will go to my co-workers son, he wants to learn programming and robotics (I will get my friend to get pictures of him opening it). The Arduino will go to another friends son who is interested in robotics, he loves Lego and Mindstorm, this will be a great next step for him. The dancing robot is staying with us, we just can't part with it. The 2 stickers will go with the presents.


Thank you Element14 for making my families night and the opportunity to make 2 kids very happy. This will be a start of 2 future stories of how they got "Bit by the Bug of engineering technology"


Element14 is the best!!

Dale Winhold


cyberkryption :


I have always been fascinated by how things work. I am told that as a child I regular took things apart to see how they sometimes much to my Dad's chagrin as he tried to put them back together. My interest has carried on when computer were first available when I got a dragon32, after a few months I learnt 6809 assembly after being bored of typing opcodes in. I started working life in a bank in IOT but became unhappy and left to be an electrician and later an Enginerr. For 15 years I worked in Air Traffic control as an elecronics and radio engineer before things changed again. I retrained in iT security with a bent towards ethical hacking / penetration testing. My engineering skills have stood in good stead in a number of ways from problem solving to discipline when trying to make things work. in my current hacking role. Recently , I entered a hackathon with a modified air quality distributed sensor (modified hardware and software) coupled to a custom built of android, it is safe to say that without my engineering skills I would not have completed on time in 36 hours.






shabaz :


So many interesting stories to read here!

I was always into science and technology; at the age of 9 or 10 I chose a science encyclopedia for my book prize (it was a tradition that maybe many schools no longer do - It was a gift of a small sum of money (maybe £5 or £15 from memory) if we'd done well in the year, for us to purchase a book which would then be awarded to us at a school ceremony.knowledge.jpg


Also, one of the classrooms had a stack of ancient science magazines, called 'Knowledge', I'd borrow some of those (or I'd borrow the Charlie Brown books, depending on mood : ).

By 11 I was lucky enough to have one of the Tandy/Radio Shack X-in-1 project kits, it was the best thing in the world as far as I was concerned : )

Long story short, I was hooked on electronics and my father would walk with me for miles searching for businesses or stores that had some parts to sell me (generally things like transistors and ferrite rods). He was never too busy not to do this with me, he always understood the desire for knowledge and experimentation.

Also, like many people here, I stripped a lot of old hardware to pieces to understand it!

The local radio store was my source for light-bulbs and batteries. My first electronic component was a red LED from Tandy (the second was five resistors).

The staff were so friendly, they would let me (probably a 12-year old by then) solder and troubleshoot my projects in their office, while they got on and served customers.

At 12 I also discovered the famous (it still exists, although now it's more CCTV stuff that they sell) 'Henry's' in Edgware Road London, which was like a treasure-trove of electronics, it was a train journey away (but then kids like trains too : ) and my first breadboard was from there.


image source: ebay




michaelwylie :


I believe I told this story on e14 before, but here it goes anyway. I was always a bright student, just never really passionate or motivated. I had a natural talent for science and mathematics, but they were just subjects in school to me. When I finished high school I enrolled in Electrical Engineering at university and I lasted about 2 months before I dropped out. I was sick of more Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics that had no purpose or application; after all, I'd applied to Electrical Engineering, not Science (heavy sarcasm). So, after a year of studying music and a failed audition to a nice music school on the east coast of Canada, I'd found myself having to decide what to do with my life. I decided to enroll at a local community college in the Electronics Engineering Technology program. The program offered three areas of specialization - computer, telecommunications, and industrial electronics, and I thought the computer option would be a decent fit. As a bonus, the program was only 2 years!


It was the first week of classes and I was in Math class, ugh. The instructor wheeled into the classroom a cart with some equipment on it before class started. He began his lecture ... Trigonometry ... again. Honestly, I'd grown tired of calculating the minimum angle a ladder of a given height could make against a 20 foot wall ... useless. After his lecture he paused and gave a talk, "Now, let me SHOW you why Trigonometry is important for you to learn". He then proceeded to connect the equipment he brought into the classroom to the wall socket. He turned the gear around and showed the class that a sine wave was being traced on the screen of the gear. Turns out, the gear was an oscilloscope and he was showing us the 60 Hz power lines signal. Then he said, "If you can't do trigonometry, then you can't do any of the math associated with the power grid". Something clicked inside me, and I started to make connections in my mind about the engineered world around me. I got a taste for learning with passion and motivation. Just over a decade later I obtained a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and I've never looked back.


Thanks Mr. Martel.



I'd love to show what I got, but my son swiftly confiscated the dancing man and the codebug when I opened the package! I got a beaglebone black, thanks!


nicholaslee :


profile-image-display (12).pngI think I would have to attribute my initial interest in electronics to the Ladybird book entitled "Learnabout... Simple Electronics"

This book was first published in 1979, so I would have been 9 years old.



My father gave me the book and put together a kit of all the parts needed for me to build all the circuits in the book, including making me the (literal) breadboard shown on the cover. (I love my dad so much)

This book made my favourite word "Astable-multivibrator", which was so much better than any word Mary Poppins ever sang about.

Thanks to my dad starting my interest in designing electronics, I have never had a boring day at work, I never had to work in a factory-job, or ever been poor since.


Life has been good as a design engineer.

Page 9

RovertScott :



My Gateway Into Engineering:

Obsolescence, Failure, and a Few Successes


Growing up I loved technology, I was fascinated by the inventors who created our modern world. The insight and creativity of inventors like Edison, The Wright Brothers, Philo Farnsworth and others, inspired me to become like them. I was the only kid in grade school who was excited to watch documentaries on History Channel, Discovery, TLC, and etc. My mind was a sponge and I was compelled to learn all that I could about the world of technology around me. I always imagined I would someday become a great innovator like my heroes, inspire others through my inventions, and change the world. I remember spending third grade making paper airplanes every day, trying to discover the perfect design. These were the dreams of a child, whose imagination knew no bounds, but had no ability to make those dreams a reality.




Although I was interested in technology, I was still ignorant in why things worked the way they did. I knew that circuit boards did something with electricity, but I didn't know the actual function of their individual components. Resistors, capacitors, transformers, and etc were all just clicks and buzzes to me. As photo film began to be phased out, they stopped producing the micro-film for my first camera, so I took it as an opportunity to learn. I wanted to turn it into a prop "Nueralizer" from the then released "Men in Black" movie. However, I received a terrifying shock from the large flash capacitor and fried it instead. Like a thunderbolt of inspiration, it guided me to try and actually learn electronics. Through Scholastic I ordered an electronics kit and began experimenting with the various preview circuits. Buzzers, alarms, led flashers, graphite theremins and etc were cool at first, but I wanted to do more. My imagination was still greater than my patience and so I wired everything together... and fried it.



At this point, I moved away from electronics and focused on Film and Television. Through Junior and High School I devoted my time to filming, editing, and showing film projects. I had abandoned my initial curiosity with electronics with something less volatile. Thanks to the rise of home video editing programs, Mini DV-Camcorders and DVD-Burners, I had an outlet for my imagination. By High School, I was helping film, edit, and broadcast morning video announcements and I never really thought about designing electronics. However, it was during this time that I stumbled upon and his gaming portables that re-sparked my interests in inventing. I was still just an outsider looking into a mystical and exclusive world of engineering. Yet, it was DIY inventors like Ben Heckindorn and Jeri Ellsworth that now inspired me.

BenBen Heck PortableJeri



When I went to Junior College, I took an introduction to Audio Technology class. My professor made it a point that we learn how to solder electronics as part of our understanding of audio technology. Part of our final was to put together an audio amplifier with a microphone pre-amp and enclose it in a case. This was the moment that I truly fell in love with electronics and engineering. The ability to walk into a Radioshack, talk to the regular old guys for advice, and hold the parts that I needed to build my device, was exhilarating. The experience let me know, that I could make the inventions that were once reserved for my imagination. I even adding a photo-diode and a laser pointer to my audio amplifier, to include a "laser microphone" option. At this point on, I continued my studies in film and television, but electronics became a side hobby of mine. I also began scraping broken radios and alarm clocks for the additional parts I may need for future projects.


My first project to bridge my love for electronics and video was when I took the CRT viewfinder from a broken camcorder* and wired it up to a battery pack with a voltage regulator. I had hoped to make a night-vision device with a Sony Bloggie as the video source, but mistakes were still made. I melted a soldering iron tip in the process, the solder joints were cold, and the Altoids Tin created terrible RF interference when the regulator got too close to it. However, it was my first personal project and it laid the groundwork for my continued development in electronics. *It was my Dad's camcorder, which I dropped after attempting to film my own Star Wars movie when I was 7.



Upon taking a Live Broadcasting class, I had to direct a scene from a movie, so I set my sights on the opening scene from Ghostbusters. I ran into an issue though, I needed a way to cue the actors that they were being shocked. The simplest way for me to accomplish this, was to just make a prop that would actually "shock" the actors. So, during thanksgiving break, I spent days designing electronic schematics in order to achieve my goal. With a surplus of RCA cables I built a hobby box that looked like it could shock someone and could cue an actor to pretend when they were being "shocked".

(I did intend for it to actually shock the actors with a disposable camera flash unit, but it was too complicated)




As I furthered my efforts in learning Film and Television, I continued to look through the endless drawers of electrical doodads at Radioshack for my next project. I have found a hobby that aids my interests in film, and might allow me to innovate the film industry through it. Perhaps I can follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Douglas Trumbull, who built and designed computerized camera rigs for "2001 Space Odyssey". And although Radioshack is no longer around, my hobby in engineering has looked to sites such as Element 14 and Amazon for parts and guidance. And I certainly don't miss Radioshack's cheap soldering iron bits. However, after I finished wiring up a helmet for this years Halloween costume, I am in need of a new soldering bit. I guess until I stop melting them, I still have a lot to learn.



fozdik :


The story of how I became hooked on technology is a long one, covering nearly 40 years.  But, I’ll do my best to condense it into something readable.  Sorry, If I am a bit long-winded!  This is much like creating a resume; how can you condense 30+ years of work into 2 pages?  Anyway, here goes ...


I began my interest in technology at a very early age.  My Dad got me interested in electronics when I was about 10 years old.  He wasn’t a very good teacher, but I was intrigued by the things he was doing and I liked doing them with him.  LED’s and a 555 timer could keep me dazzled for hours.  And Forrest Mims was quite readable and understandable, even for me.


Wanting to take electronics further, but not having the funds to do so, I discovered that the garbage bins out back of the IBM building were full of discarded circuit boards that were loaded with digital ICs sitting in IC sockets.  An enterprising kid such as myself could save a lot of money by popping those chips off the boards carefully.  I made most of my early circuits this way.  Later on I discovered an electronics store that sold kits and parts at reasonable prices, and my allowance was suddenly less of a hindrance to my interests.  I bought an Apple IIe kit and cut my teeth learning how to solder all the parts on.  It was very cool when it was finished and worked!  Now I needed to learn how to program.  That led to a Commodore Vic 20, and later a Commodore 64.  I still enjoyed dumpster-diving, though.  At least I did until IBM caught on and started locking their bins.  Hmmph.


When I was in the tenth grade at High School, they introduced their very first computer course.  We used PET computers that had, I believe, about 2k of RAM and a cassette tape storage device similar to one I had used with my Vic 20.  Then came the 5.25” single-sided floppy disks that would store 170kb.  After that, in a big step forward, came a 10MB (yup, Megabyte) hard disk that we shared by using a manual data switch to connect it to our PC when we needed to save or load a program.  At that time, I actually knew more about digital electronics and logic than my teacher did, even after the school sent him on courses to learn about it (it was just so new).  There were some other guys in the class that were really into computers as well and they knew how to program.  Together we used assembly language to create a monochromatic version of Pac-Man that used ASCII graphics and the arrow keys to great effect.  We had a lot of fun with that.  Unfortunately, that was the only such course available in the school and there was nothing for us in the latter grades.  Not being very strong in math, I was unable to prepare myself adequately for a degree in computer science and failed miserably at it in University, so I switched to Sociology instead.  There were no other tech courses in existence that I knew of, and I still wasn’t thinking about college.  Sadly, during my time in my High School, the thinking of the day was; if you are academically adept you go to University; if you aren’t that adept you go to college; and if you are just short of an idiot you go into the trades (boy, did they get that wrong!).  Thus, I never even considered anything else but university and Sociology was about all I could handle at that level.


During my time in university I had to use computers, even if I wasn’t learning about them specifically.  That led me to learn of the Bit-Net, the predecessor to the Internet that was used by academic institutions.  After learning that I could send a text message to a student (and occasionally ALL of them by accident) in another university, such as the University of Heidleberg, Germany or the University of Tokyo in Japan, I became fascinated by the fact that two computers could actually TALK to each other over vast distances.  I was fascinated.  I tried to learn everything I could about this and bought my first modem which allowed me to communicate with the university from my home at a whopping 300 baud – a huge leap from the previous standard of 75!  30 years later, my home network currently enjoys 35MB down, and 3.5MB up.  Not directly comparable, I know.  But you get the point.


Before I finished my degree, I was introduced to the IT Director at one of the largest law firms in the country by a friend of mine who had made it into Computer Science.  This fellow said he thought I would make an excellent IT Analyst, and he offered me my first tech job.  I took it.  I fixed printers, which were networked.  This allowed me to learn a great deal more about networking and data communications.  After I lost that job, I wasn’t able to work directly with networks again until I went to college at the age of 30, but I was still fascinated so I studied Computer Programming and Networking.  After graduation, the college helped me land a job with a large telecommunications company that provided a data network connection to the home via coaxial cable.  I answered phones in the call centre and solved technical issues.  At home, I scrounged together a 19” half-rack and every used PC I could lay my hands on.  I ran linux on all of them, networked them and ran everything I could get my hands on; Border Gateway Protocol servers, Proxy servers, Squid servers (intrusion detection), Apache web servers.  You name it, and I tried it and learned as much as I could as quickly and as deeply as I could.  It paid off.  In two years, I rose through the ranks to become a project manager of a team of 21 techs and got involved in some very cool projects like implementing an Interactive Voice Response system that was the first to answer incoming customer calls.  Not long after, I bumped my head on the ceiling.  Realising that I could go no further with that company, I took a job with a large utility company as an IT Analyst and helped them replace their entire data network with newer equipment.  I had to work closely with the engineers from the telecom company providing the new equipment and, after doing so for a number of months, one of them was promoted to management.  He offered me an opportunity that I could not refuse and I joined them only five months after starting with the utility company.  Just a side note; my manager at the time (utility company) had no idea how to process the paperwork for me to exit the company as no one had ever quit the company in his 25 years there.  It was a union environment, and no one really had to work for a living if they didn’t want to.  Who would quit that?  Me.


Now working for the new telecom company, I found that despite having over 100,000 employees worldwide, the engineering team that I was a part of operated much like its own little business.  There were only nine of us and we were constantly on the move, and I was constantly learning.  I LOVED that job and that team!  Unfortunately, little did we know that the higher-ups had been engaged in some questionable activities for some time at that point, and the company went into a tail-spin.  I was let go with tens of thousands of others as part of an emergency down-sizing in an effort to save the company, but to no avail.  The company itself ceased to exist not long after that.  Once again, it was time to go back to school.


Having realised that I was well suited to engineering and technology, a fact that my High School counsellors were incapable of noticing, I decided to stick with it and went to college.  From that point onward my life has been a cycle of employment, unemployment, school, and back to employment (including self-employment) as the tech industry has changed, the economy has changed, and I have changed.  For a guy who was told that my generation would not see the cradle-to-grave work life that my father did, but rather would have two to three different careers, I am now on my eleventh different technical career!  I have also gone to college to study technical subjects such Computer Programming & Networking, Robotics & Automation, Biomedical Engineering Technology, Electronics Technology, and Energy Systems Engineering Technology.  I also went through a four-year apprenticeship as a Millwright which I enjoyed immensely; though due to a military injury (did I mention that I was in the military?) I am no longer able to work as a Millwright.  I am currently considering another trip to college for Electrical Engineering Technology (quite different from Electronics Technology) as I work with a company that does electrical sub-station design and maintenance and I’d like to learn, in detail, some of the more esoteric elements of this field.  I am also a Certified Thermographer and very much enjoy the science of this discipline in general, but especially as it is applied to the electrical field.  I am even looking at learning about ultrasonic technology, as applied to the electrical field, because it is really cool.  Oh yeah, and it could be useful, too!


Long story short (yeah, I know it’s a little late for that); I started out loving the fact that technology was something that I could share with my father, and ended up loving the fact that technology is something I can indulge in anytime I want and in just about any way that I want, and I love this!  Case in point; I have always been blown away by what can be made with a CNC machine.  Thanks to YouTube, and the Internet in general, I was able to build one in my basement!  I can design my own stuff, and make it in my own house, using software and hardware that would have been ABSOLUTELY out of reach for any but the largest and richest of companies when I was a boy.  Today, we have open-source software, open-source hardware, community versions of top-of-the-line software, inexpensive hardware, 3D printers, laser cutters, hobby (and not-so-hobby) scale CNC machines, etc., etc., all available to the creative and techy minds out there for such reasonable costs that they are driving real change in our society.  Suppliers of such technology and the parts and meterials required for their use, such as element14 (nice plug, eh?), also provide community forums (such as this one) where these folks can exchange ideas and information.  This is where the real power for change lies.  And all you need is an internet connection and the desire to use it.


The ever increasing facilitation of creativity for those working in their kitchens, basements, garages, and college labs is INCREDIBLE and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.  Just you go to a MAKER FAIRE to see exactly what I’m talking about.  If you think the world is full of problems, go to one of these events and you will see the very people who are going to solve them.  And that includes you and me, thanks to the pervasiveness and availability of technology, AND the information and education regarding its use that is so freely available.  With all of this in mind, how can you NOT love technology??


If you are still reading this, you deserve a beer.  Cheers!




jw0752 :


profile-image-display.pngI must have been born with a curiosity for electricity and mechanical things. My father had no skill or interest in these areas but he was very supportive, always bringing me things to take apart and explore. His lack of knowledge about electricity allowed me to explore the subject without interference from him. I blew my first fuse at age five when I hooked up a frayed extension cord to a small toy typewriter. I declared it an electric typewriter and plugged it in. By the time I was 10 I had received so many shocks from the old tube radios that I routinely played with that it was no big deal. profile-image-display (1).pngThat what I was doing could have been fatal never occurred to me or my parents. Perhaps around age 13 I was fixing more things than I was breaking, though my mother often told people that I could fix things the rest of my life and never make up for all the things I broke in those early years. While some kids collect coins, stamps, butterflies, or rocks I collected electronic and technology parts. I also like to organize them into small jam jars and boxes. To this end I still have parts, pieces and small hardware as a resource for present day projects that I collected 55 years ago. I continue this process to this day salvaging parts from broken equipment and electronics. I really enjoyed reading the stories of my fellow posters to this blog. We all seem to have been caught up in the adventure of understanding how things work. As I have tried, over the years, to inspire children and grandchildren I have come to realize that it is a special calling to have this consuming curiosity for the technical. Those that do not have the passion can be taught but keeping them going is like pushing a car down the road when it is out of gas.




satyavrat :


Life can be pretty tough when people don't believe in you.


profile-image-display (2).pngJuly 2012. I climb up to the stage to receive my mark list for my HSC examination. For those who aren't familiar with the education system here, your score on the HSC is one of the most important factors engineering colleges look at to decide if they're willing to take you in. I managed to get a qualifying score. Barely. Bad decisions, worse company and a general disinterest towards academics had culminated in this moment. Averting the indifferent eyes of the Principal and the disappointed ones of my parents, I held out a limp hand to receive the passing certificate. A smattering of applause from a few of my friends and my parents told me that my teachers did not consider my efforts worth theirs. At that moment, I felt alone, and I knew that the only person to blame for that depressing feeling, was me.


The top scorers gave eloquent speeches, I assume, because their words were just inaudible buzzing to me as I tried to fully comprehend my situation. I was now a scavenger. I would not be able to choose the college I attended, but wait for what would remain for me. At best, it would be a compromise.

Luckily, the compromise I made four years ago has led me to this moment.


I was selected for a lesser known branch, Instrumentation and Control Engineering, at one of the better colleges in the country. I did not know what the branch was, nor cared. All I knew was that I had something to tell people who asked what I did now, and I could say that I was learning engineering with pride.

However, engineering, as I found out, was much more than getting a college. My lack of research about what my branch was about bit back by instilling in me a neglect towards the subjects. Soon I found myself slumping back into my old ways, spending an extraordinary amount of time outside the Dean's office for varied misconducts. Engineering was much less forgiving than HSC. Soon I began to see the same look of condescension in my teachers, and the despair returned.


I began to seek out ways to vent this frustration, and as luck would have it, I joined a course on Embedded Systems. There, I met three people who would later become the best project partners I've ever had and more importantly, the most reliable friends I will ever have. With them, I blinked my first LED and pressed my first switch.


This changed everything.


I was opened up to a world where anything I did, be it change a line of code or twist a potentiometer, made a tangible difference to the world around me. It wasn't some equation which was Greek and Latin to me ( to be honest, sigma, omega, alpha, beta are actually Greek.), and whose only contribution to my world was a number. I dove head first into this interesting and captivating field.


The beauty of it was that the more I learned, the more there was to learn.  


I began to look at the world as bits and voltages. The four of us formed a group whose aim was to learn through doing. We learned PID control and PWM from line tracers, SPI and I2C from sensor nodes, RF communication and ZigBee from RC bots, and were introduced to IoT and cloud computing through our Bachelor's Degree project, a cloud connected autonomous LPG control system. We spent countless nights in the lab, testing, resting and other things interesting, till we had the perfect output.


As a side effect, we won quite a few robotics competitions, awards for best project for our Bachelor's degree project, which went ahead to become the first patented project in our department.


The love for Embedded Systems and Internet of Things stayed strong after I graduated, and I published two research papers on the merging of Internet of Things protocols and lightweight machine learning. To add to this, countless projects on a number of development platforms enabled me to learn new technologies, programming languages and applications. I have learned more in the past eight months than I have in the eight years before it.


Most importantly, it stoked the passion in me to forge ahead and do more.


So I asked myself, what are the people who are on the cutting edge of technology, pioneering the revolutionary paradigm of Internet of Things, doing?


October 2015. I decided to apply for a Master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I never had any expectations, but hoped for the best. I poured my love for all things electronic and my passion for the IoT domain into my statement of purpose, mailed it, and crossed my fingers.

Until that fateful night, with shaking hands, in the dim white glow of my laptop monitor, I opened an email which read;


"Congratulations! you have been admitted to the M.S. program in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University!"


When I read this to my parents, I saw in their eyes something I had been searching for my whole life.



It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Page 10

mcb1 :


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I stumbled into electronics via Ham Radio.

I managed to pass the exams before I'd sat School Certificate (I guess your equivalent of High School Leavers).


I then joined the NZ Post Office as an Electronics Technician where we installed and serviced VHF thru to Microwave links along with all the other electronics used to service the PSTN lines etc.

In those days much of the gear was designed and built by NZ Post Office or contractors.


It was a very wide ranging job that included some mechanical engineering as you couldn't just go and buy stuff we take for granted today.

The microwave links were analogue and fibre optics was just starting along with digital microwave, and all the other precursor technologies that the digital revolution brought with it.


NZ had always been at the forefront of VHF services for mobile (cars, taxis, trucks) and it was some time before FM Radio was able to be introduced since the spectrum was already in use here.

When you talk to people now about how many VHF and UHF services we had in the one building, all operating without interferring with each other, they cannot imagine where to begin.


We had one of the first mobile phones in christchurch, many years before cellphones came here.

One of our techs fitted a country set (Duplex VHF Radio system that was used in remote areas to provide a phone service) into his vehicle and had the phone on the dashboard.

We used to get strange looks when a phone started ringing in the middle of a park on a sunday, or driving down the road ...... very "Get Smart".


From those beginings I've never been far away from electronics.




kiserhd :


A series of events led me to the military instead of college.  I was fortunate to have tested well and was eligible for any job available.  I chose infantry because it was exactly what my parents did not want me to do.  After a brief period of foolishness, I had an injury that looked like it might end my military service.  After some convincing I was allowed to transfer jobs to become a ground radio repairman, and later an electronics maintenance technician.  It's been over 16 years and while I've used my skills here and there for wiring up car audio or repairing everything from laptops to Xboxes, I never made anything.  The past four years I taught entry-level Marines basic electronic theory, troubleshooting, and soldering.  It was satisfying but you never stay around more than a few years before you get sent somewhere new.  My time came and we pushed off to the opposite coast.  New job, new responsibilities, but I'm not in the position to perform repairs.  Instead I supervise the technicians and perform quality control.  Missing the hands on work I started tinkering with Raspberry Pi.  It has been extremely rewarding and allows me to combine the woodworking skills from doing cabinetry and remodelling with my father.  So far I've made a bar top two player arcade console, several security cameras, two with integrated IR lighting, two handheld arcades one with a pi zero the other based on the pi 3, and this weekend I threw together a smart mirror.  For the next project I would like to experiment with both the pi and arduino with touch sensors.  I think this will be the opportunity for me to dive headfirst into code.  I've only completed the examples that came with an arduino starter kit and want to see how I can combine the two.  Perhaps a homemade CNC machine.


I'm looking forward to digging through posts on here to get some ideas.







stevepm :


profile-image-display (4).pngAt school, in the 1970's, I was told I couldn't study computing because I wasn't good enough at maths. However the school's computer, a Teletype terminal linked to Manchester University, was in my form room, so I got a log-on ID and taught myself BASIC in my lunchtimes and was soon writing programs too large to transmit over the rudimentary modem, so would have to take card decks up to the university at the weekends. When a program compiled and then ran successfully (two separate overnight events) you'd get a report back saying how long the compile took and how much of the computer's resources your program had used - and so the game began. How could I write a program to use as much of the resources as possible. This self-taught 'game' perversely helped me understand more about how computers and computer languages worked, allocated and used resources than any class would have done at that time.


I went on to study engineering, and naturally, my focus was drawn to CNC and Robotics - a passion that has stayed with me right up to today.


Now, for fun, I build baby CNCs, robots and drones, using Arduino, PI and I'm now just getting back into building circuits from scratch


dougw :


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I grew up in the jungle at the equator with no TV, no computers, no electronics stores and no cell phones, but I always liked building things like kites, sailboats, slingshots and model planes. We also had Meccano and Tinkertoy to get creative with.


My first big decision came when I was 11 - my parents let me decide if I wanted to go to boarding school in Canada or stay and train to be a professional athlete. Although I love sports, I chose to get an education.

I was not a good student though - I was always reading books when I was supposed to be doing homework, and I mean always.


My next big decision was to jump from grade 11 (5th form) to engineering at university (because it was cheaper than boarding school). I wanted to be a mechanical engineer because I had never been exposed to electronics and I had been designing a rotary internal combustion engine in my head.


However this jump put me way behind my classmates that were coming out of grade 13. I had never seen a computer and never even heard of calculus. I remember my first computer science assignment was to write a program that used numerical methods to calculate an integral. That was a huge challenge, but I managed to figure it out and get 100% on the assignment. It was such a thrilling accomplishment to successfully learn all that in a few days and get that first program to execute properly that I have always liked computers ever since.profile-image-display (5).png


My next big decision was to become a systems engineer (mostly electronics) because I realized it would be way cheaper to tinker with electronics as a hobby than outfit a machine shop. I still took lots of mechanical courses though which have been very useful.

The rest is just a long storied history of fun projects, learning new things and inventing stuff..... And I still get to do sports.





Wow - I was very pleasantly surprised to receive the "Bit by the Bug" package containing the wind-up  robot, some element14 and Ben Heck labels, a Beaglebone Black, and a gift-wrapped Codebug. Tariq seems to be giving away many packages.


I would be showing pictures and video here, but my granddaughter immediately absconded with the wind-up robot and sticky labels. Although she has lots of electronic toys, for some reason that toy totally tickled her fancy - apparently she carries it around to show her friends.


I took the Codebug package to work to show it around, expecting to bring it back to take pictures, but I happened to be in an associate's office when his grade 12 daughter called. She was a little skeptical of the unexpected circumstance, but a I left the office without the Codebug. I am hoping to get a picture of the Codebug in use to post here, but I haven't actually seen her in person for about 8 years.

Much thanks for the great gift pack - I hope the Codebug inspires its final recipient.


the-dubster :


Who hasn't fallen slightly in love with Heath Robinson creation? For those who have, did you ever study it to see how much of it would really work?


For me, my interest started early, I wanted to know how everything worked, if I had a screwdriver that fitted - apart it came! (Sorry dad for destroying your wood chisels by using them as screwdrivers)!!


Knowing how things worked was fundamental to me, I can't just accept that 'it just does', I want to know why. School in 70's and 80's UK was starting to bring us computers - BBC Model B, Commodore PET to name a few. I was lucky enough to be introduced to electronic engineering by a family member and then later, a family friend.


School also included Electronics and Computer Studies by the time I hit 6th form - I'll take both of those then (they go nicely with Metalwork & Woodwork don't they)!

Physics stopped at O Level - certainly for a long time, but my interest has again been sparked.


My job of 25 years was Avionics Engineering Technician with the Royal Air Force, following my interests there then, and I now teach the same.


Married to it? Yup! For as long as I can remember, and I'm fortunate my real wife is so accepting of my other passion!


sarunaszx :


profile-image-display (19).pngI got interested in electronics only about 4 years ago when I started studying physics at university. I got a little task to program stm microcontroller and even though it was mostly programming task I got really curious. Programming always fascinated me, but only when I noticed that digital world can be transfered to real life - control, move and detect things, I got really amazed.


Soon I got familiar with microcontroller basics - PWM, GPIOs, ADC's, some PID control theory. Then I saw quadcopters on youtube (which also were pretty impressive to me) and a wild thought appeared - I have enough knowledge to build a quadcopter flight controller by myself! (big mistake ). In theory everything seemed so easy. So I started building it from scratch. Homemade frame, cheapest motors, cheapest propellers, no oscilloscope - it was meant to fail and of course it did But doing that, I received solid (imo) understanding about project planning, digital filtering techniques, soldering basics and etc.. I also equiped myself with basic tools required for electronics - logic analyzer, multimeter, soldering iron, breadboards, leds, resistors, capacitors and etc...


Now I am still learning different technologies on my spare time programming beaglebone black(which I received from element14 last christmas adapting Rpi media center and RetroPie station to suit my needs making(slowly granular synthesizer with STM32F3Discovery board experimenting with ESP8266 boards and etc


I think element14 fueled my interest in electronics a lot and I am thankful for that!


billhudson :


profile-image-display (21).pngI was a young teenage self taught programmer (XB, ASM on a TI-99/4a) when my uncle (an electrician) got a divorce and then moved in with us for a while. He was fascinated with my computer and programming and made a deal where he would teach me some electronics if I would teach him some programming. I was fascinated how close the two were related. Electronics was basically programming but physically instead of software. AND, OR, XOR, it was all there but in chips. Well my first real thing I did is what got me hooked. Back before remote controls existed for televisions our furnace intake was just above our couch and the TV across the room like normal. Well my dad would complain all the time because when the furnace kicked on the intake was so loud he had to get up and turn the volume up. When it kicked off, it was back up, across the room and turn it back down. He hated that!


Well we had a couple of those monitors that use the 110 wiring to transmit and receive voice. I knew if I could find a 5v change on the board when TALK was pressed I could use a relay and another Volume knob to turn the TV up, I also needed 110 from the furnace. Well I found the 5v on the monitor when the button was pressed to talk. Well those things could be locked on as well. So I locked it on, went to the furnace closet and got lucky, there was a 110 outlet right on the wall that went hot with the furnace. I just plugged it in and that side was done. When the furnace came on, it turned on the transmitter and sent the signal.

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I opened the back of the console TV and ran the original volume knob through my relay for off, and drilled a hole in the press board back and installed another knob through my relay for (Furnace on!). Now set the back knob louder and the front knob softer. Now when the furnace kicked on, the TV went up! (and it was adjustable too) When the furnace turned off the TV went back down! (to the front knob setting) My dad, well my entire family was just blown away! My brother still brags to this day, and I am now 51 years old, so it's been quite some time ago. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed myself, and seeing that I could do things like that I just fell in love!!! I have been in love every since. Oh, and of course I fix everything in the world for my family and all their friends as well, as we all probably do.


For those days and times, that was pretty amazing!



I cant wait to read some other stories as well.


rwap :


Always having had a keen interest in mathematics, I started out learning to program programmable calculators, and then with the birth of the home computer industry, bought a Sinclair ZX81 from my brother (he had moved onto a Spectrum) and taught myself to program both ZX BASIC and Z80 Machine Code.


I moved onto the SInclair QL when it was launched in 1984, and taught myself 68008 machine code - so much easier and started analysing other people's code as part of bug-testing and reviewing software for magazines in the 80s.


Since then, my hobby turned into a business, with me learning more through various PLC programming projects (including bug-fixing someone elses code for a sewerage handling plant), and turning my hand to C so that I could adapt an existing printer driver to handle 720dpi and colours as these technologies became more widespread.


Since then, I have continued to support the retro and vintage computer market, by reverse engineering parts and tracking down old stocks of computer chips and connectors, as well as getting involved in numerous interface projects.  I am proud to say that I was behind the re-vitalisation of the Sinclair ZX81 market which had long been forgotten until I decided to turn back to this - and the market is now flourishing thanks to SD card interfaces (which cannot be made quickly enough), and lots of new software making the most of modern development tools and pushing the limits of this (originally) 1K computer to the max.


The Raspberry Pi and Banana Pi have both opened new opportunities for me to provide products which are aimed at keeping both this retro computer market; as well as numerous industrial applications to the fore, all built around my love of electronics and programming, and the desire to get the best out of any hardware.

Page 11

xKZx :


When I was a kid, I loved LEGO, every birthday, every Christmas, any occasion I wanted LEGO. All I pretty much did was playing with LEGOs. Both of my parents were teachers in Latvia and the pay back in the 90s was not so great, but my dad understood the importance of LEGO in my early years and kept on buying it. At one point the amount of LEGO was the most valuable thing we had, even more valuable then the Lada 2101 my dad was driving. I was building anything I could think about, and LEGO taught me a lot - math while counting bricks, construction and structural engineering while building cranes, It taught me love for bikes when I understood how gears worked.


Later I loved LEGO Technics - It was great for building all this stuff, but for a young curious mind that was not enough, I wanted those expensive LEGO electronics kits that my parents could not afford. I asked them If I could get any, but the answer was "no". Hoping, waiting and repetitive asking did not help. It just cost too much.



At some point I started adding various non LEGO components to my projects - rubber bands, springs from pens, glass marbles, steel weight for catapults etc. It made my LEGO experiance more fun but something was still mising. One day I went to my dads office at the school he was working and I was studying in the First or Second class. There I saw this old Soviet copy machine in ugly brown plastic, but it was opened, it didn't work and was meant for scrap, but I it was the first time I had the idea to salvage parts - I asked dad if I can I remove those Motors I saw? I knew how DC motors looked from my friends cheap RC cars that always broke and that I never had (I had LEGO), but these were bigger. They were 9V and that was a lot of battery money for me. Tape came along and it all worked and worked well - it was the first time gears started to break due to torque. A week later dad made a 9V power supply so I wouldn't have to spend my pocket money on batteries. A month later I had build a wired "remote control" LEGO car which would steer and drive forward and backward working on a 7.2V Nokia THF-2 Rechargable battery (My granny's old mobile at the time). It was a marvel and didn't cost my parents a fortune. It was the first thing I ever built that I could be really proud about.



From there things just continued and 18 years later I am a mechanical engineer with love for salvaging parts, DIY and electronics. I did receive a lot of LEGO, but I think the most valuable gift I received at the time was the understanding of "Outside the Box" thinking and getting things I couldn't get while using my head.


Now I make my money from freelance mechanical engineering constructing conveyor systems, I listen and play punk rock, build my guitar pedals from scratch, weld my bikes and sew my own clothing. I don't really like to work, I like to play. I don't play with LEGO anymore, I play with bigger toys.




fortyishguy :



I have always been fascinated by how things work, not so much the theory but the mechanics of it.  Tools, screws and bolts and nails, taking things apart and successfully (hopefully) putting it back together fixed or better than it was ( or at the least the way it was before).


My earliest passions were hammering and nailing, and unscrewing anything that would unscrew.  This generated many happy times from childhood and I'm sure the items left apart didn't bother my parents at all.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)


This combined with a love of math led to models of engines and cars, Rubik's cubes and fixing bikes.  I once took my sisters bike apart when I was mad at her knowing she couldn't put it back together, but she sweet talked me into putting it back together.


I was fortunate to have a friend whose brother was mechanical, so I helped them remove a Saab engine and refurbish it.  I bought two parts car Saabs my senior year and put them together into my first car.  Btw, don't ever buy a Saab, they are a disease you can't cure.


I rebuilt engines, I rewired more than one Saab (one after a fire) and troubleshot many issues and breakdowns.  I credit it with fueling an interest in troubleshooting that has helped me accomplish quite a bit in life, and saves money too.


I can't help myself, have to tell one story where a girlfriend needed her car fixed.  I called around and got some prices but she couldn't afford it.  I agreed to look at it, and ended up fixing the issue for $50 bucks and 15 minutes while the dealer wanted $350.  A proud moment.


It helped in my career as well, the analytical and logical thinking.  I did much scripting in multiple jobs (I'm old school and I love perl and vi) to streamline my job and make it easier.  It helps to have the tools to scratch the itch of solving a problem.


I'm looking forward to learning more about electronics and devices that will allow me to continue the tinkering that has characterized my whole life.   It's a passion that I hope fuels me in the second half of my life.


pikespeakelement14 :


I was an electronic technician for Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo, CA during 1978 through 1981. I loved it - soldering and wire wrapping circuits. One day, one of the engineers handed me a magazine that mentioned some scientists that had invented a switch that could turn on and off over a million times a second! I was totally blown away, picturing a house light switch being frantically moved back and forth


I asked him how that was possible, and he told be that it was by electric fields - no moving parts. I was hooked. I graduated with a degree in computer science, learning as much as I could about electronics, and it's been very useful in my career over the last 35 years.


wrustylane :


profile-image-display (22).pngI first got started in electronics when I built my first computer along with my Dad.  He built a 286SX and I built a 286DX because I liked how much faster it was than even the slowest 386 at the time.  My 286DX would run rings around most 386's at the time.  After that I was given an RCA television (solid state) in the early '80's by my father in law.  He had taken the TV to several shops around the area and could never get it fixed.  I took it home and plugged it in and gave it the "smoke" test to try to identify the problem.  The thing smoked and I found out where the smoke was coming from.  There was a burnt resistor in the sound board section so I grabbed an unknown resistor about the same size (1/4 watt) and stuck it in the circuit.  The TV came on and we watched it for a year before the second problem crept up.  We had wooden floors in the house we were renting and when you would walk across the floor the video would flash and some times go off.  I took it apart again and pulled out the IF board with the video output transistor and when I pulled the can apart I saw what was making the problem.  A solder ball rolled out of the IF can that was rolling around and shorting out the video output transistor as one would walk across the floor.  After I fixed that problem we watched that TV for over 10 years without any further problems.  Then it finally developed a high voltage leak around the fly back transformer so I sealed it up with silicone rubber and it lasted another 4 to 5 years and then developed another high voltage leak that I couldn't fix this time.  So through my experimentation we had a nice solid state color TV to watch for over 15 years.


I then became interested in CB radio since it was in vogue at that time.  My parents ran a base station with two mobile CB radios.  I joined the club and got a base station going with a 150 watt "kicker" (linear amp) and a mobile with a 75 watt kicker.  My parents and I would only talk single sideband because there was more power transmitted into the sideband than in AM alone (12 watts vs. 4 watts on AM).  Then I got me a frequency counter and began modifying SSB radios for those who wanted to go up or down the CB radio band - just barely keeping out of the HAM band on the upward side of the sideband.  I even bored a hole through my main radio cabinet so I could get a tuning wand on my oscillator.  That way I could adjust the frequency band to the upper side or go way below the 1 channel frequency.  I finally ended up into television repair and had my own business for about 2 to 3 years thereafter.


Once again I got bitten by a bug--this time the model railroading bug.  Now I have my own layout that I wired myself and it works and does everything I had set out for it to do.  Now I'm into the Arduino UNO and plan to do some experimenting with the Arduino UNO board to control my new layout that I'm planning on building.  I've also wanted a new computer (linux) based so I'd heard about the Raspberry and decided to look into getting one for our main computer.  I hate DOS based machines and the Windows GUI;  it's a wonder I didn't end up with a MAC instead of a PC but the cost drove me to a PC.


I'm a self taught electronics tech. with many hours of trial and error, since building my 1st computer.  I think a Raspberry PI3 in in my near future.  I'm also a former USMC sergeant and went to Vietnam in '71- '72.


rider51 :


     The "Electronics Bug" first bit me back when I was little; I had received a few SnapCircuit kits which I instantly found fascinating. Now looking back, I can only think to myself how childish those things were, no soldering and no chance of explosions! Fast forward a few years, I was about 13 and I admit I hadn't evolved myself much from SnapCiruits.


Its funny how you remember these things, but one night I was browsing some YouTube videos when I stumbled upon some videos of a guy putting together his own computer. For reasons I can't explain, I was compelled to do that myself as well. I worked and saved up my money until I had enough to buy the components for a decent gaming rig. I ordered them up and next thing I knew I was at my cousins house putting to together. I enjoyed every second of it, even though I was terribly afraid of ruining a $200 part by scratching it.


Almost instantly after that you could say my "Electronics Bug" turned into an "Electronics Swarm". I discovered the world of Arduino, and I began making simple robots and projects using that. Then that Christmas my cousin gifted me a Raspberry Pi 2, and my interest in that took off.


   I am a programmer and builder for a high school FTC Robotics team. I spend my free time working with electronics and technology. My most recent project is a "Pi Boy" as you may call it. Its an original GameBoy shaped MAME console using a Raspberry Pi 2.


Whether there really is an electronics bug or not, something sparked in me, and I can without doubt say there is no other hobby and future career I would want to go into  other than Technology.


skyzer :


Since I was born I lived in a small countryside town, but after my father's death my mother and I moved near the city. It was then when I got astonished in how buses and trucks were able to move being so big for some kind of magic sorcery. But the experience that changed my life was seeing a train and getting on it for the first time, i still remember it, a 300 series electric trainset from EuskoTren company from the line between San Sebastian (Spain) and the French border.


From that moment, my learning process has been focused on how these "monsters" were able to move, but I was so bad at maths. When I was 18 I started Electronic Engineering pursuing my aim of  working making trains, but two years after I left because of my lack of level. So i went to profesional school and started an Automation and Control degree, so I could get a lower level knowledge in this field. And after making a great job in my erasmus internship on a Bulgarian company, my bosses pushed me to go back to university and give the Electronic Engineering another try.


I did as i was said, and after four years of hard work and learning I can say this is going to be my last year as an engineering student.

That has been the only reason of my love for engineering, a silly child's dream.


winzurf :


profile-image-display (23).pngIn about 1963 my teacher took a group of us who had finished the years math curriculum early and taught us binary numbers and math. Fascinating, but no obvious purpose. In 1970 I was studying physics at university but was forced to stop playing soccer following an injury, I started building lighting controllers for rock concerts as a hobby and discovered I liked electronics. I also studied the philosophy and history of science, probably the most important 'gift' from university. In 1973 the chief engineer at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences decided I had something and offered me a job. For the next 25 years I designed, built, programmed and breathed digital technology. I designed and built my own computer which could emulate several of the microcomputers of the day such as the Altair and  Cromemco. At one stage I was so obsessed with technology I was only sleeping about 4 hours per night. Fortunately I discovered another obsession - windsurfing, and managed to lead a balanced life since, but I regard myself as being exceptionally lucky to have caught and surfed the digital wave over my whole career. Still riding! I always remember the opportunity that engineer gave me and have tried to do the same for those that have come behind me.


lkornel :


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It was year 1984, On my birthdate my father gave me a DIY microphone preamp kit. It was the first time when I took an electronic component in my hands. That was the moment. Now I still work in electronics repairing Inverter Welding Machines.


balatech :


As a small boy - may be 6 or 7, I got up early one sunday morning and found a television that my father was repairing on his work bench with the back still off. I thought I would 'help' and  set about the task with enthusiasm! turning his AVO8 to volts and prodding the insides of the T.V. there was a loud bang and lots of smoke! slightly shell shocked, I was still staring at the aftermath when my father appeared not looking very happy! for the remainder of the morning I sat with him whilst he fault found and I had to replace the now defunct components. The sense of satisfaction when it was completed was amazing, to see it burst back into life with full sound and picture, it was then that he informed me that he had in fact completed the repair the previous evening but just hadn't replaced the back.

From then on I was hooked, I started buying Everyday Electronics and set about building just about every project (money permitting) in each magazine, learning along the way.


At the age of 17 I was accepted as an apprentice with Radio Rentals and completed my 4 year apprenticeship. Some ten years after this I then attended University of Central Lancashire on a B.Eng course in Computing and Electronics.


Following on, I started my own Computer consultancy business and have now retired to Spain, although still with an avid interest in electronics.


paul_nicholls :


profile-image-display (25).pngMy love of technology and computers started back in early 1984.  It was a few months before my 12th birthday, and my parents purchased a Commodore 64 computer complete with a basic (pun intended) computer book (Creepy Computer Games: ) and a tape drive....I started tinkering around with programming, and BAM! they didn't know what they had done...bwahahaha!!  They had created a "monster" who loved computers and similar stuff haha.


Since then I have loved computers, programming and electronics...not that I have done any electronics for a few years now though.

At college (1989 - 1990) I designed and created a PCB that allowed a motor to be controlled in both forward and reverse directions using relays to switch the flow of current.  I also created a numeric keypad using switches and diodes, etc. for my Commodore 64 computer that connected to the userport.


My first full time job (1991 - 1994 was as a trainee Biomedical Technician (fixing machines that went ping lol) at a hospital, and my longest software/electronics job was at an Electronics Design Automation company (1999 - 2012).  I still want to do electronics, but just don't have the money or time, but I do like looking at other people's projects, the Ben Heck show, and similar things.  I do computer programming as a hobby


silicaphysics :


It would be difficult, if not impossible, to pin down a single moment, gift or experience that sucked me into the abyss of engineering. It could be chalked up to genetics (Dad was a EE) but I think that it wa more nurture than nature.


My father had his faults but engaging his sons with his passion for all things man made was not one of them. My earliest memory of this is probably the crystal radio we put together out of his junk drawer one freezing winter day in Dallas, around 1962 or 1963 when I was just four or five years old. It was fascinating but I was more interested in bull frogs at the time. Still, it has stuck with me all these years so it was clearly a seminal event. My father introduced me to lasers around age 7 or 8, with a HeNe and my Mom's engagement ring. He took me to lectures by Townes and bought me a subscription to Scientific American -- I maintain one to this day.


Dad didn't hire repairmen -- plumbers, and the like -- or take his lawnmower or the family car to a mechanic; he always did things himself, even if it meant renting a lawn mower while his was down waiting on for a carburetor rebuild kit. I was initially drafted as tool hander but the level of responsibility Dad gave me grew exponentially in the fourth grade, after I retrieved his 5 HP Briggs and Stratton aluminum case from the alley where he had discarded it and put it on an old Tote Goat frame. I'd bought an undersize push rod and bearing at the local lawnmower shop and polished the crank journal by hand over several nights in front of the TV, with emery papers from Sears. After that I had access to just about any of his tools I needed from oscilloscopes to signal generators to torque wrenches. Of course, it also meant I was the son chosen to get up on the roof with him, guiding a stinky plumber's snake into the perpetually slow kitchen drain vent, but I could build lasers described in the Amature Scientist column of Scientific American and calculators on his breadboarding equipment. Heathkit became my BestBuy.


At 14 I bought a rolled over Carman Guilla and proceeded to build a VW powered sandrail. My 16th birthday present was a trip to DMV to get my license and to register the rebuild as street legal fare. 40 HP became 75+ over the next couple of years, with the advancement in performance broken by my enlistment in the Air Force. Radar, rawinsonde, and other ancient weather equipment were my bread and butter for a while, but when I was discharged and went to college, it was a bull frogs' call that lured me there. Microbiology was my new love, but my BS qualified me to wash dishes and not much else. I had all but one course for a BS in chemistry as well, and when I discovered that I'd graduated too early had failed to recognize that I needed to actually APPLY for grad school in microbiology, the chemistry department took me in without a question.


It was in pursuit of my Ph.D. in analytical chemistry where the engineering bug again took hold again, and it's grip proved unbreakable this time. My research advisor taught part of a course in instrumental analysis as a tale of intrigue that truly fascinated me: a battle between Beckman and Cary for supremacy in UV-visible spectrometer performance circa the '40s and '50s. I have been in optics pretty much ever since, starting in fiber optics, followed by lasers, and on my own since 1991 designing and building mostly laser surgical instruments, with a bit of analytical instrumentation on the side: 20 patents and counting. It's no crystal radio, but I enjoy almost every single day.


rdallons :


profile-image-display (26).pngMy love electronics began at the age of ten.


My grandfather owned a motor-court and store in Bakersfield, California and in 1956 he took me into a back room and uncovered a large slot-machine in a beautiful wooden cabinet. Slot machines were (and probably still are) highly illegal in California, and having one in storage was making him nervous. He gave it to me with the condition that I would completely dismantle it.


I eventually had it dismantled. It has all kinds of lights, bells, relays and electronic parts. I then began to study each part and figure out what they did, the transformers, rectifiers, capacitors, etc. I was hooked.


Now, at 70, still hooked. KM4VKY


Workshopshed :



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When I was young I got given some old electronics magazines and some bits to take apart. I still have some of those including a resistor which is almost as thick as a pencil.


themacmeister :


I remember finding an original XBOX at the dump, and playing a few second-hand games on it. I put it in a corner and forgot about it for a year or more, and then saw a post on XBMC, which looked absolutely amazing, and I was beginning to rip all my DVD's to a nice collection.


Of course the original XBOX Hard Drive was only 10GB -- which was next to useless as a media centre... and then by chance I saw an article on SOFT-MODDING the console, adding a much larger drive (in my case a spare 320GB IDE drive) and using a custom Dashboard for added functionality.


I remember printing hard copies of the instructions (as well as extra info), and ended up with at least 80 pages held together with a hefty clip. I read and studied the "guide" for a solid fortnight before attempting the mod.


This new method required nothing more than a burnt DVD and a HDD hot-swap, and I did not isolate different components, and managed to short against the metal internal frame of the XBOX and burn a hole THROUGH the HDD controller chip (luckily I was testing on a smaller 80GB HDD). I now had "the bug", and proceeded to carefully (and slowly) step through the entire process. The sense of accomplishment was amazing, and as every day passed, I learned more and more about the system (and Microsoft's legal stance on distributing prebuilt binary executables for the system!).


From this moment on I was hooked, and everything I purchased HAD TO BE HACKED... from custom firmwares (Tomato Router/WD TVLive) to full-blown hardware hacks... as long as I did the research, and didn't rush - I would have a hobby for life.


PS. I gave away my Rasp Pi B, which had a nice case/heatsink... and I rue the day I did :-/  The Pi-3 looks amazing, and cannot wait to try it. I will almost certainly build a Retro-Pi arcade emulator, along with an XBOX-360 Wireless controller. Keep up the great work E14


PPS. I have since found an XBOX with modchip, that lets you drop in a new HDD at will, with just a boot DVD... sigh


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anderson7420 :


profile-image-display (16).pngAs a little kid I'd always liked science. I would sit for hours and paint little Styrofoam balls to match the pictures of the planets from one of the encyclopedias we had laying around. Jupiter's red spot sticking to the floor we just had put in, quickly covered by an oddly placed nightstand and a less than efficient diagonally placed bed that made the room "more open."


I had a teacher in high school though that that brought a warm, human centric science and engineering to me. Some of her lessons reverberate even louder today than they did then. Her name was Ralma, and she taught chemistry at our rather rural PA high school. Ralma had this way of giving, with a bubbly laugh, a warmer meaning to colder equations. She would instill trust in you, and leverage that to focus you into working harder.


In tenth grade, my best friend and I went to her after a particularly interesting lesson, and asked her if we could do a science fair project on redox reactions. I remember that hesitant but curious look as she asked us to elaborate. We told her we thought it might be interesting, and scientifically relevant, to look at the temperature profiles of different thermites and how to exert control with inhibitors for the reactions. Her eye just kind of went curiously up, she paused for long moment, looked at both of our hoping faces, and then started asking us what kind of lab safety we were going to use. She must have used some special teaching funds as two weeks later, two high temperature thermocouples and logging equipment showed up.


Many lunches and days after the bell rang were spent in her little lab, exploring something I'm fairly certain other teachers would have stressed enormously over. There was something about her trust in us that connected the equations with the person. We wouldn't do something unsafe to break that trust. This connected the science back to the human and she leveraged it to push our curiosity further. I do remember one day we made a bit of a mistake with our procedure and rather badly melted the glass of our safety hood. I remember her quickly walking over to the hood as it was melting, and me looking at her with a beat red face waiting to hear the pending punishment. Calmly, she summoned the class she was teaching "Class, look, Anderson messed up and made green fireworks for us!" After class, she sat down with us. I was sure some kind of restrictions were coming, but gently she asked, "I want a write up of what went wrong before we proceed again." A couple years later, with a little more knowledge about how the system works, the trust she put in us seems even more… larger than life. Unfortunately, I'd never get the opportunity to ask her how she felt she could trust us that much, or other questions about her pedagogy.


While I didn't stick with chemistry in college, the lessons I learned in her lab did: good laboratory practice, safety, and an analytical mindset. More specifically, having the opportunity to work with the thermocouples and logging software gave me that initial push towards engineering. I finished engineering in undergrad and ended up moving to Germany for more in grad school. After grad school, I worked in an engineering company for a while designing electronics/mechanics for spacecraft design and learned some fantastic technical lessons. However, the deeper the technical knowledge I gained, the more I felt myself missing that human connection to the technology itself. I missed that bubbly laugh of Ralma that came with letting students explore something new, and trusting them to do it with integrity and safe curiosity.


I ended up leaving that engineering job recently to practice teaching back in Philadelphia. I picked up a few high school teams to mentor with hopes that I can figure out a way to emulate Ralma's impact; not just on the technical STEM side, but also with her human centric approach. I think it would be a life's dream to take Ralma's human based STEM approach and deliver it on a scale like Bill Nye did in the 90's. The more technical I get, I think it becomes even more important to remember the human aspect of engineering for people, how to cultivate curiosity instead of crushing it upfront with too much theory, and teaching others how to safely explore their own technical interests. Thanks Ralma.


jack.chaney56 :



profile-image-display (17).pngTurmoil... Love, hate.  Anguish, frustration, and heartbreak. All these were countered by passion, longing, sacrifice, and intense attraction. This is my love affair with electronics and computing. The metaphor is quite appropriate, because I get jealous when someone's system is working better than mine.  When things get slow an dull, I experiment with new and different algorithms. Always I wonder about the choices I made, and never consider leaving what I know I really love.


I'm pretty sure in one of these things, I told my tale of growing up with an EE father, who was also a ham radio operator, who did a lot of experimentation with side-band and antenna experimentation resulting in a patent that got us shipped to "the labs" in New Jersey. So the exposure to engineering is very old indeed.  I still wax nostalgic when I get a whiff of rosin solder, or that particular ozone smell of dust on warming tubes. profile-image-display (18).png


I tried to avoid it for a long time by working in restaurants, and got to be a pretty good cook, but, like in the Godfather, got sucked back in, by the lure of mathematics and puzzle solving. Finished my degree, and landed a job programming video games, learned that embedded systems is all applied video game practice. So I have done lots, learned lots, suffered lots, and now I get to play with the grand kids (next generation of programmers) trying to explain being productive with a 300 baud modem, on a standard phone line. Explaining punch cards and batch stations. Explaining why UNIX is better than DOS, and why you still need to understand assembly language, so you can understand what the processor can and can't do.

Finally, like any great love, I will be with it, enjoying its company until I am no longer here.


sarunaszx :


profile-image-display (19).pngI got interested in electronics only about 4 years ago when I started studying physics at university. I got a little task to program stm microcontroller and even though it was mostly programming task I got really curious. Programming always fascinated me, but only when I noticed that digital world can be transfered to real life - control, move and detect things, I got really amazed.


Soon I got familiar with microcontroller basics - PWM, GPIOs, ADC's, some PID control theory. Then I saw quadcopters on youtube (which also were pretty impressive to me) and a wild thought appeared - I have enough knowledge to build a quadcopter flight controller by myself! (big mistake ). In theory everything seemed so easy. So I started building it from scratch. Homemade frame, cheapest motors, cheapest propellers, no oscilloscope - it was meant to fail and of course it did But doing that, I received solid (imo) understanding about project planning, digital filtering techniques, soldering basics and etc.. I also equiped myself with basic tools required for electronics - logic analyzer, multimeter, soldering iron, breadboards, leds, resistors, capacitors and etc...


Now I am still learning different technologies on my spare time programming beaglebone black(which I received from element14 last christmas adapting Rpi media center and RetroPie station to suit my needs making(slowly granular synthesizer with STM32F3Discovery board experimenting with ESP8266 boards and etc


I think element14 fueled my interest in electronics a lot and I am thankful for that!