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The Electric Brains of Yesteryear

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Popular Electronics and other magazines carried ads for strange looking machines called Geniacs and Brainiacs. The ads claimed they were “electric brains” that could play Tic-Tac-Toe and NIM. A while ago, I bought several sets on eBay and I would like to share my experiences of learning about them and my sometimes frustrating — but successful — efforts to get them to work.

Some Simple Transistor and IC Circuits

This article started as an attempt to answer two questions posed in the Tech Forum here in Nuts & Volts: one for an LED fader and a second one on how to determine which type of transistor to use in a given circuit. Turns out both questions use a transistor. Here’s what I came up with.

Oscillators, Statistics, Q, and Muons

In this article, you'll learn about "Q" as it applies to assessing an oscillator. We’ll show a technique for measuring Q for a variety of oscillators, and see how it can be used to compare their performance.

Nextion Touch Screen Display — Part 5

Previously, we discovered how easy it is to add objects to the Nextion display, dress them up, and communicate with a PIC MCU. In this installment, we build the Small Engine Ignition Timing Controller and Programmer hardware.

Microcontrollers, Software, and You — Part 4

We ended our Part 3 article by giving you an assignment that emulates the card game, often called In Between (but better as known Acey Deucey). Recall that the objective of the game was to have the “dealer” turn two cards face up and then have the player bet that the next card would fall “in between” the two face-up cards. Let’s see how close your code came to mine.

Microcontrollers, Software, and You — Part 3

While getting the correct answer to a programming problem is crucial when designing a program, it should not be your only objective. You also want to write it with sufficient clarity that someone else can read your code and easily understand what the code does. Let’s take a look at an example program to show the square of a number.

Nextion Touch Screen Display — Part 4

Part 1 of this mini-series was also Nextion Part 3 (last Issue), where we started designing a programmer for our Small Engine Ignition Timing Controller. So, consider this installment really Nextion Part 4. Now, we build the Tune and DataLog Pages.

Implementing Circuits on Protoboards

You have found or designed a circuit, and it’s time to build a permanent version of it. You could design and order (or make) a printed circuit board, but that will cost money and/or time. It also makes changes and corrections difficult. The obvious alternative: Implement the circuit on one or several prototyping boards. So, how do you go about building on a protoboard? I’ll describe a sequence of steps here.

Copper Cobweb Circuit Construction

Are you bored with conventional two-dimensional circuit layouts, or looking for a way to add an artistic flair to your next project? I’ve taken point-to-point construction style a step further by making it self-supporting, which opens up a wide range of physical circuit topologies. (Point-to-point construction usually uses supporting structures like terminal strips that are functional but not pleasing to the eye.) I call this construction style the copper cobweb. Here’s how to do it.

Microcontrollers, Software, and You — Part 2

In the previous installment, we discussed the Five Program Steps and how we can use those five steps to organize our thoughts about writing programs. In this article, we’ll discuss the format that the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) requires for your program to execute in the IDE. We’ll then examine how the IDE allows us to easily organize a program using the Five Program Steps.