OT-ish: Build-it stuff
ard at p850ug1.demon.co.uk
Mon Jun 12 16:42:47 CDT 2006
> Whether it is the chicken or the egg, they also have access to better =
> stores (for hobbiest quantities) and excellent magazines. The Dutch
> magazine Electuur is translated into English and published in the UK =
> month as Elector. It has excellent construction articles, readily =
> firmware, and even the PCB layout for most of the projects.
Elektor is the best of a dwindling number of electronics magazines
available in the UK. It's improved in the last 5 years or so as they now
do make firmware sources available for about 50% of their projects (but
not the interesting ones, alas). Before that (and for the other 50% now)
you have to buy the programmed device from them, and it comes copy-protected.
Since I generally build in order to learn, this is a major reason for me
not to build said project.
Anotehr disadvantage is that their computer-related projects invariably
have Windows software. The sources of that may not be available, the link
between the PC and the project (RS232, USB, parallel ports) may not be
> We have nothing like it in the States.
> For whatever reason, the UK and to a lesser extent, the EU have kept the
It must be really dire in the States, becasue your comments don't seem to
apply to the UK that I live in.
10 years ago, we had a number of Maplin shops around the country. All
they really sold were components and kits. Many a time when I was doing
my Ph.D in Bristol, I'd take the bus up the Gloucester road to get some
components I needed for my work.
Maplin still exist, but they now sell mostly crap consumer electronics.
There is a small selection of components in the catalogue, but very few
of them are kept in the shops. You have to special-order them. Yes we
have RS and Farnell, but they're effectively mail order only. It's not a
problem to have to mail-order the main components for a project
(microcontrollers, memroy, power transformers, etc). It's a right pain
when you're half way through a design and find you've run out of 10k
I live in London. In the entire London area (which I define as the bus
pass zone, and is a lot larger than most people think of as London), I
know of _one_ shop where I can pop in to get resistors, etc. To be fair
they have a good selection of common semiconductors too, but such places
are not at all common.
The SU EMC directives, mis-applied by our glorious government, have
effectively killed off the small kit market in the UK too.
And magazines. 20 years ago there were many titles. Now I can think of 2
(Elektor and Everyday/Practical Electronics).
One thing that's not helped are that ICs now come in hacker-unfriendly
pacakges, and may require expensice programming software and hardware to
do anything with.
I can see why, I don't expect semiconductor manufacturers to cater for a
very small market, but you know, it's a lot easier for the average home
constructor to hand-wire 100 TTL chips in DIL pacakges than to do battle
with a DGA packaed FPGA...
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