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Electronics Kits


  03:15:27 am, by Nimble   , 1235 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Electronics Kits

Ever since realizing that they have brought back those however-many-in-one electronics kits, and realizing that I totally missed out on the experience as a child, and that perhaps I could finally understand what the hell Keith is talking about when he talks about op amps and stuff like that, I've been focused on getting one of those kits.

I will wait until Christmas, but quite frankly, if I don't get one as a present, I'm going out to the stores and getting one myself :)

There seems to be two major intriguing brands of these kits out there (there is a third, but it's so incredibly, hopelessly expensive for what you get):

There's the Snap Circuits variety, which is large and colourful, and gives you a Lego-esque rudimentary 'circuit board'.

Then there's the more traditional Maxitronics variety, which keeps all the parts in the same place, but you vary which wires you use.

Personally, I'm leaning towards the Maxitronics kind. I appreciate the ability of the Snap Circuits kind to allow you to lay out like a circuit board, but there seems to be an unacceptably low (to me) limit on how complicated you can get with them.

The two models that have caught my eye in particular are the 130-in-1 and the 300-in-1.

Usually, I would just say unequivocally that 300-in-1 is just better than 130-in-1, but in this case, it's not necessarily so. The 130-in-1 is definitely better than the 75-in-1, 50-in-1, etc., but with the 300-in-1, there is a qualitative difference in what you're doing.

I think I might start out with the 130-in-1 regardless, because it looks like it goes into more depth with fundamental electronics. There are banks of resistors, capacitors, transistors, op amps on the actual kit itself.

The 300-in-1 switches styles considerably. It, and the freakish 500-in-1 kit, are touted as advanced kits. It looks to be all about breadboard style electronics, where you put the wires and components into the breadboard. The wiring can get a little nasty-looking on those, as I have seen from when Keith used to put them together, but it's definitely a next logical step after you get your feet thoroughly wet.

Then again, I've never played with these kind of kits at all. Will I find the 130-in-1 too simplistic? The 300-in-1 too hard?

I just noticed when running around in the mall today that they're not just available on the web, but the strangely-taken-over-by-Circuit-City Radio Shack which is now called "The Source" (by Circuit City) seems to have the 130-in-1 and 300-in-1 in stock, though curiously unlabelled with a price. (I always hope that means 'free', but it seldom does) Then again, their online price for the 130-in-1 is reasonable, so the in-store can't be too far off...

I just want a gosh-darned toy for Christmas :) I'm fed up of the practical stuff *grin*


I am simply *stunned* that you, of all people, don't already have the whole electronics thing down pat. I thought you knew everything, or at least enough about everything that it looks as if you do... Oh well, I suppose this ties back to the conversation in the comments on the Wacom tablet post!

Comment by Adam [Visitor] — 12/05/05 @ 10:02

I remember getting one of the N-in-1 electronics kits from Radio Shack for Christmas when I was 8 or 9. Lots of little components that you would tie together in circuits with wires connected to springs on either side of the parts. There was an LED, magnet coil, speaker, etc. I had quite a bit of fun making the thing squawk and bleep, but I don't think I was able to grasp the principles behind it all at the time. I'd be interested in something more advanced now though.

I noticed that Radio Shack seems to have quietly been subsumed into another entity. Bit of a pity. There were hundreds of things in the catalog that I'd wish for; the electronics kit being about all I did end up getting.

Comment by ElTwo [Visitor] — 12/05/05 @ 20:21

*laugh* Good god, I don't have room enough in my head for everything ;) I've got vague ideas of how resistors, capacitors, diodes, relays and inductors work, but from what I saw of what Keith did, theory really only gets you part way. It just doesn't help you build stuff. Hell, to start with, it doesn't even seem like the math even really helps at all.

(Perhaps if I hadn't tipped my hand like this, you could have persisted in the fantasy that I knew electronics until I did. I feel so guilty for destroying your innocence like that *grin*)

Yeah, I don't think I would have gotten much out of such kits either when I was 8 or 9. Kinda like chemistry kits. I mean, what else are you going to do apart from things in the recipe book? :) Still, I wonder how Keith got his start.

Yes, Radio Shack got subsumed by Circuit City. I don't know if the Radio Shack of a few years before the takeover was really the Radio Shack I remember of long ago, though. Less hobbyist bits, more overly expensive technical wankery :)

I guess on the slightly positive side, the prices are slightly lower now than Radio Shack has typically been in past. They still have electronics stuff in the back corner just like always. We'll see whether that lasts, though I hope it does. Otherwise, everyone's going to have to descend on 32nd Avenue to storm into Active or something :)

Comment by nimble [Member] — 12/05/05 @ 21:43

Come to think of it now, I had one of those chemistry kits too. Ample opportunity to poison something or burn the house down, from what I remember. I liked the electronics kit more for some reason (as he looks around at a room full of PCs).

The Radio Shack I remember was the same as your recollection. Lots of interesting hobbyist widgets 'n things. And no need to give them your phone number either.

Comment by ElTwo [Visitor] — 12/06/05 @ 02:05

There was nothing all that interesting in my chemistry kit. Plenty of colour-changing things, but nothing as interesting as in my Magic With Chemistry book with all the dangerous recipes :)

I remember getting all the ingredients for gunpowder together as well (okay, that particular Star Trek episode was inspirational), but I think we lost one of the ingredients. Dang.

Yeah, I was a bit disappointed when Radio Shack started to get populated with Future-Shop-esque 22-year-olds in suits seemingly on commission. There were products for die-hard electronics geeks, but the chances of the sales people having any clue about them was very, very low.

Comment by nimble [Member] — 12/07/05 @ 20:40

I have it on good word that I'll be getting one for Christmas! Excellent :) I've bought one of those Schaum's guides for Electronics. Dang, those "study guides", especially the ones not filled to the brim with exercises, are really nice pieces of work, and a whole lot cheaper (just over $20) than they would be if they were a textbook... which they basically are. The Electronics one looks good.

Picked up their Forensics one just for giggles, too :)

Comment by nimble [Member] — 12/21/05 @ 02:43

Forensics? Should we be avoiding Casa Nimble for the near CSI-like future?

Comment by Adam [Visitor] — 12/24/05 @ 16:58

We haven't started in on the forensics book yet. YET. Please leave fabric samples and a mouth swab at the door just in case, though. Actual crime comitting not required, though :)

Comment by nimble [Member] — 12/26/05 @ 23:12

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