Any hobbyist clubs in the Northern NJ area?

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russosv
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Any hobbyist clubs in the Northern NJ area?

Post by russosv » Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:28 am

Hi folks,

I'm interested in electronics in general, preferably microcontrollers and digital electronics. Robotics would be fine too. I'm trying to find out if anyone knows of any hobbyist orgs in the Northern NJ area. There are some HAM radio clubs but radio is not my thing, plus those RF circuits can get pretty intimidating! I'm pretty much an electronics novice.

If not, anyone interested in starting one? Please post or send me a message to my personal inbox here.

Thanks!
Steve

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Post by Dean Huster » Fri Jan 11, 2008 7:00 pm

I have never heard of an "electronics club", even back in the 1960s and 1970s when electronics was really hot as computers, digital photography and video gaming is today. As you mention, amateur radio clubs abound, nearly every city of 10,000 population or more having at least one. And computer clubs used to be really hot in the late 1970s through the mid 1990s when MITS, IMSAI, Processor Technology, Solid State Music, Apple and others were in their heyday, introducing new products every quarter.

Even high schools had their student organizations (FFA, VICA), chess clubs, math clubs, Future Nurses, etc. But no electronics clubs.

My question would be this: If the current hobby of electronics is not enough to sustain hobbyist electronics magazines today like it did in the 1960s, would an electronics club ever be able to be formed and sustain itself?

Dean
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

R.I.P.

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MrAl
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Post by MrAl » Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:47 pm

Hi there,

Although there may be none physically in this area (NJ) that wouldnt
stop us from starting one online, where people can visit the site online
rather than in person. Hows this sound to you?

Now that i think about it, this site is sort of like that already right?
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

russosv
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Post by russosv » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:07 am

Hi guys,

Thanks for the responses. With the advent of MAKE magazine and Instructables.com, I think there has been something of a renewed interest in microcontrollers and DIY digital electronics.

This is the closest I've been able to find near me, but in reading some of the details it may be invite only. I'm in the process of trying to contact some of the members to find out:

[NYC resistor] [Wiki link]
Now that i think about it, this site is sort of like that already right?
LOL - MrAl, I'm sensing a hint of sarcasm in your response. Yes, this is a great site. However I thought it would be fun (like in the NYC resistor club above) to work on collaborative projects. That would give me an opportunity to work alongside other people who know a lot more than I do. For example, when you learn to solder, it's a lot easier to watch someone doing it then to learn with no direction (yes, I know there are videos, but there is no substitute for "being there").
My question would be this: If the current hobby of electronics is not enough to sustain hobyist electronics magazines today like it did in the 1960s, would an electronics club ever be able to be formed and sustain itself?
I don't know, but all it really takes is 2 people to start a group. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that techies are very self-motivated and don't feel the need for this sort of thing. Personally, I'm looking for a club to meet up with some other like-minded folks, as I am recently separated from my wife.

Anyway, there are guys who have sites on the Internet who are doing everything from DIY simple LED blinkys to medium-speed storage oscillscopes (and have you guys seen RepRap yet?). With microcontrollers and digital components so cheap and readily available, there's probably no better time for a hobbyist club. The sky's the limit for hobbyists right now.

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Post by MrAl » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:24 am

Hi again,


No sarcasm i assure you. I just thought that a web site like this is
much like a club of a sort.

I'd be in to starting one myself too, but i wouldnt want to have to
travel too far. Im in NJ too, central, around the Middlesex area.
I can tell you though i probably wouldnt want to travel as far as
say Wayne or Patterson, or even Newark, unless there was something
REALLY special going on.

My question however would be where would this be held?
I ran into this problem a while back while trying to start a chess club,
where the closest local ones shut down several years back and i
wanted to revive the club scene for playing chess around here, but i
couldnt seem to find a building to use even for a few hours.
Any ideas on this?

BTW, i am into digital as in Microcontrollers, as well as analog, where
i worked for many years. I also more or less like to teach too, and
have taught many people over the years a lot about the field of
electronics, mostly design and analysis. I'd be happy to help you get
started and can offer some 30 years of experience, as well as a straight
A math background, although i may be a bit rusty on some things.
What i would ask you is how much math have you had in the past,
and how far did you go with it...algebra, geometry, calculus,
differential equations, etc. Any of that? Math plays a key role in
analysis, but if you are not into that that's sort of ok too these days
as there are good circuit simulators available which are not too hard
to use at all.
So let me ask what your math background is like if you care to share?
You can always PM me if you want to tell me in private if you prefer.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

russosv
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Post by russosv » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:35 am

Hi MrAl,

Thanks for the response.

My question however would be where would this be held?
LOL... well, that's part of the reason I was looking for a club that was already established. That, and the fact that I've never lead a club in my life. I'm willing to travel a bit, perhaps 45 min to an hour tops... Right now I've got no life!

My thought was if we were going to have it in Northern NJ (Essex county) I'd just have it here in my house for now. If we had enough members, then we'd find another place. Other than that, I have no ideas yet. For planning projects, of course, a Starbucks or a local bar and grill would probably be ideal.

Steve

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Post by russosv » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:40 am

Hi Again,
So let me ask what your math background is like if you care to share?
You can always PM me if you want to tell me in private if you prefer.
I got my BSCS at NJIT with an emphasis on applied math. Unlike a lot of Computer Science programs, NJIT was very strong on taking math classes, and made us take Calculus I, II and III. I did take a differential equations course, but even so my comprehension is very limited. I did very well with calculus, but I was a little lost in the DiffEQ class, partially because I did not "click" with that professor. I do realize that DiffEQ is integral to the understanding of circuit analysis, and I'm sure with a little patience I could get it. I understand the concept of Fourier transforms (i.e time to frequency domain conversion), but actually executing one would probably be beyond me right now.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I did take the Circuits and Systems I course at NJIT, which was a basic introduction to AC and DC theory. From what I remember we covered basic circuit analysis like Thevenin's theorem etc. and some of the resistor/capacitor stuff.

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Post by MrAl » Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:11 am

Hi there,


Oh ok great. Sounds like your background is perfect.
So what are your goals for this field? You want to design circuits
or simply work on circuits with other people?

What do you think a first project would be?
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

russosv
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Post by russosv » Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:30 am

Hey MrAl,

I would love to eventually learn how to design my own circuits, but I want to start with working alongside other people.
What do you think a first project would be?
Well, let me tell you what I've done so far, and maybe you'd want to make some suggestions.

I've been a bit intimidated by analog electronics because once you get beyond the simple RC circuits I really get lost. However, digital stuff has been very easy to work with.

So far, I've done some very simple PIC based projects on my own. In the process, I've learned how to make my own PCBs, and how to solder SMT parts.

I learned how to make a USB-to-serial device using a Microchip PIC18F4450.

Learned how to perform SPI communication between 2 PIC chips.

I've learned how to control a Samsung KS0108-compatible graphic LCD screen-- the intention was to make my own digital compass with an LCD display, but I could not get the magnetic sensor to work as a compass.

Also experimented with controlling a 16x2 character display.

I built a 5x6 LED matrix using pin multiplexing and a PIC18F4550 44-pin TQFP.

For my current project, I'm building an alarm clock using a PIC18F2550.

I've experimented with FPGAs using a Pluto-II board I bought from this site.

A (somewhat lofty) goal that I have is to build my own ARM-based touch screen computer that runs uC Linux. However I'm far away from being able to do that.

Hopefully that gives you some idea of where I am... I'm sure I need to re-learn some stuff to do it the "right way".

I'm pretty flexible about projects... How about you, MrAl? What sort of projects interest you? What kinds of hobbyist things have you worked on?

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Post by Robert Reed » Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:44 pm

MrAl wrote:Hi there,

Although there may be none physically in this area (NJ) that wouldnt
stop us from starting one online, where people can visit the site online
rather than in person. Hows this sound to you?

Now that i think about it, this site is sort of like that already right?
Yes, this is a great forum, but one thing I feel is lacking from the "Club" atmosphere is peoples experiences on 'what worked' and 'what didn't work'. I would like to see more of that and at the very least original posters following up on their end results.
Maybe I should have put this in a separate post to get other peoples views, but since we are discussing forums & clubs, I guess this is appropiate.

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Post by dyarker » Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:19 pm

Is there a robotics club? (sumo, line following, etc)

Lots of electronics in robotics; microprocessors, sensor signal conditioning (linear and ADC), motor drive (DAC and power), etc. Even if you don't want to build a robot, a person stronger in mechanics might want an electronics buddy.
Dale Y

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Post by russosv » Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:26 am

Is there a robotics club? (sumo, line following, etc)
As I mentioned in the original post, anything is fine with me... but I can't even find a robotics club in this area. I'm sure some of the schools have things going on, but I'm no longer a student.

I've been considering joining the NJ HAM org because it's the only thing I can find. Radio is not my thing but at least I would get the electronics stuff.
Yes, this is a great forum, but one thing I feel is lacking from the "Club" atmosphere is peoples experiences on 'what worked' and 'what didn't work'. I would like to see more of that and at the very least original posters following up on their end results.
I agree... there's just no substitute for "being there". I wonder if N&V could somehow have a section for organizing local clubs or something.

MrAl- let me know if you want to get something together. I think it would be great and maybe we could get some other people in on it too.

Steve

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Post by MrAl » Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:02 pm

Hi again Steve,


"I learned how to make a USB-to-serial device using a Microchip PIC18F4450"
Perhaps you can tell me more about this. I was thinking of eventually
looking into that solution too for my own projects. My problem right now
is that my programmer doesnt handle the PIC18F4450 nor any of the 18F series.
That and i dont really want to take the time to learn how to program
the 18F just for USB to serial.


"So far, I've done some very simple PIC based projects on my own. In the
process, I've learned how to make my own PCBs, and how to solder SMT parts"
That's good really. A lot of parts these days are coming in the smaller
packages. Whats the smallest you have soldered, SO and SS packages?


I guess i like to work with PICs, and use them in both analog and digital
type circuits. I love analog i guess, but digital comes in too handy to
ignore. I've done some pretty extensive design work with digital and analog,
both professionally and as a hobby. I really like to build my own stuff
mostly because you just cant beat something you did yourself when you want
to upgrade it to have new features or something like that. When you buy
something you are stuck with what the manufacturer wanted to put into it.


Now that you mention it, i've never actually tallied all the stuff i've
either designed or worked on in the past. Here's a brief list:


Some stuff i've designed professionally:
Various battery chargers, Synthesized AC switching power supplies,
high current (100 Amps) static AC transfer switch for backup power supplies,
controller boards for electronic scales. The AC transfer switch used
programmable memory but we sent out to have the chips done by the company
who made the chips...provide them with the bit pattern and they burn it in.

Some stuff i've designed and built mostly for myself:
Amplifiers, Analog battery chargers, PIC battery chargers, Switching
regulators (various power levels), 100MS/s digital scope with PC interface,
8 digit LSTTL frequency counter, LED flashlights (various powers),
Z80 based controller board with PC interface, analog motor speed
controller based on the transfer function of the motor and its
'back emf'.


My most recent project was a 4 channel voltage monitor/battery analyzer that
i sell online to various people who need that kind of functionality. I sell
the chip and provide the Windows interface software free. It works with
many battery chemistries and for measuring temperature it works with cheap
thermistors and has built in formulas to handle the various thermistor
response curves. I am now in the process of upgrading the software to handle
many more types of sensors.
I also have a few software projects too, that run under Windows.
The one i am updating now is a Scientific Calculator, although it's
really a Scientific function calculating environment where you enter
in functions like
y(x)=x^2+2*x+1
and do various calculations with the functions. It now has lots of
built in functions too, like sin(), cos(), and Integrate, Differentiate,
and even has a differential equation solver. It also runs as a server
so if you want to do advanced calculations in your own program you can
call it up as a server and get the results into your own program.
I am currently looking into having it also do multivariate polynomial
factoring, but i cant seem to find a good algorithm anywhere.

"I've been a bit intimidated by analog electronics because once you get
beyond the simple RC circuits I really get lost. However, digital stuff
has been very easy to work with"
The simple RC circuits are fairly easy to analyze because they are in
themselves fairly simple because they only involve two parts and maybe
a battery or power source. There are a few simple rules to follow and
the results come pretty fast. Once you get into a circuit with multiple
components, you need some circuit analysis theory to help, but it's
mostly linear and not too hard to learn, requiring at most some basic
matrix theory, which is not hard to learn either. When i say 'basic' here
i really mean that too, you only need to know how to work with the
matrixes like perhaps addition and multiplication of two matrices,
and some complex number theory. From a certain form of matrix you can
get the complete time response, using a bit of a transformation equation.
Mostly this is all algebra so it's not really too hard i guess. When
you get into the matrixes however it's good to know how to program in
some sort of computer language, where you can set up your matrixes as
needed and let the computer (or calculator) do all the grunt work.

If you could show me a bit about how you did your USB to serial PIC
i'd gladly help you out with some analog circuit analysis and im sure
you'll get up and running quite fast. We'd start with a simple
circuit and work up.

Here's a few more questions for you so i can understand what you've
done so far...

I guess you have a good algebra background, with some matrixes perhaps?
What computer languages do you know right now (for the PC)?
Have you ever analysed a resistor-only network with maybe 5 resistors
and a dc power supply, where none of the resistors were in parallel?
Do you understand the meaning of parallel and series?
Did you ever work with a State Vector Differential Equation?
Do you have a basic idea what a voltage is and what a current is
and how they are different?
Have you ever worked with a nonlinear electronic device?
Have you ever worked with magnetic devices like inductors?

I gave a free online electronics course but unfortunately everyone
dropped out when we got to simultaneous equations. I assure you
however that i am sure you will be able to handle this part with
your background, if you havent done so already.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

russosv
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Post by russosv » Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:30 pm

Hi MrAl,

I sent you A PM with my e-mail and phone. Let me know if you want to set up something outside of this forum. Even if you prefer to set up a separate web site/forum/wiki, I have a web site at http://www.digi-sys.com that I am not using for anything. My web host has a ton of bulletin board and wiki software that comes with the account. Just let me know, and I believe it would be very easy to set up something.

Ok, let me try to address everything you've mentioned. Please let me know if I miss anything!
"I learned how to make a USB-to-serial device using a Microchip PIC18F4450"
Perhaps you can tell me more about this. I was thinking of eventually
looking into that solution too for my own projects. My problem right now
is that my programmer doesnt handle the PIC18F4450 nor any of the 18F series.
That and i dont really want to take the time to learn how to program
the 18F just for USB to serial.
Microchip offers a free firmware solution, called the CDC, which allows you to create a USB to serial interface. Although they call it a "Demo", it's a fully-functioning USB to Serial solution which could be used in your own projects.

Here's a direct link to the forum that I posted my USB results in. As Robert Reed mentioned, I like to follow up on my results so that others can benefit from what I've figured out. This contains the detailed steps that I took in getting the Microchip USB solution to work.

It was and interesting and educational project to work through, however FTDI offers a single-chip solution (link) that does the exact same thing, without any of the work. I would suggest this if dealing with tweaking the code doesn't appeal to you. I'm sure you could get up and running much faster that way.
Whats the smallest you have soldered, SO and SS packages?
The smallest pin footprint I have successfully soldered (i.e. the circuit worked) is the 44-pin TQFP (18F4550). This chip is a 10x10 mm, and has a lead with of approximately .37 mm (from data sheet). A friend of mine who I met through that forum, routinely does smaller pin counts than that, so I'm sure I'll be able to do it in the future.

You are right, the reduced size of these is becoming a problem. I'm afraid that the QFPs are eventually going to be replaced by BGAs, which might make hobbyist applications obsolete. I recently got a hot-air rework station which I believe can even solder BGAs, though I don't know how to do that (or even if it is really possible).
really like to build my own stuff
mostly because you just cant beat something you did yourself when you want
to upgrade it to have new features or something like that. When you buy
something you are stuck with what the manufacturer wanted to put into it.
I agree with you. Also the fact that making something yourself is just an amazing feeling.
static AC transfer switch for backup power supplies
What's a transfer switch? Does this mean something that changes from AC to battery when the power goes out?

Wow... you have some great projects. I'd love some more details on the PC scope.
My most recent project was a 4 channel voltage monitor/battery analyzer that
i sell online to various people who need that kind of functionality.
What sort of applications does this get used for?

The scientific calculator sounds like a very useful program.
If you could show me a bit about how you did your USB to serial PIC
i'd gladly help you out with some analog circuit analysis and im sure
you'll get up and running quite fast. We'd start with a simple
circuit and work up.
Let me know if the above link works for you. If not (or if you need more detail) please feel free to e-mail me or give me a call. The schematic is posted in the forum link. As you can see, it's very basic... not anything to write home about! :grin:
I guess you have a good algebra background, with some matrixes perhaps?
Yes, I have a decent math background-- if I can remember it! I do have linear algebra (matrices) under my belt but I didn't get the whole eigenvalues and eigenvectors thing. Hopefully that won't be necessary for this.
What computer languages do you know right now (for the PC)?
I love programming so I have experimented with many languages. I've worked extensively in Visual Basic, C/C++, SQL. But I've done a lot of stuff with other languages. If you have a language preference, I'm pretty much OK working in it.
Do you understand the meaning of parallel and series?
Yes. Parallel means that components are placed in parallel so that the voltage is the same across each of them, but they may have varying currents. Series means that a single current flows through all of the components: they are placed one right after the other.
Have you ever analysed a resistor-only network with maybe 5 resistors and a dc power supply, where none of the resistors were in parallel?
Do you mean that they are in series? For my Systems and Circuits class we had to reduce a source and a network of resistors to a single source and resistor, if that is what you mean. I'm sure I'd need to brush up on this stuff.
Did you ever work with a State Vector Differential Equation?
I don't know... this doesn't ring a bell. If I have, I don't think it's something I've retained or grasped very well. Differential Equations wasn't by forte, but I'm willing to relearn if it's necessary.
Do you have a basic idea what a voltage is and what a current is
and how they are different?
Yes, I believe so. A voltage is a potential force that is capable of driving electrons through a circuit. A current is the flow of electrons through a wire, and is measured in charge per second (amps). You need to have a voltage in order to have a current, and the existence of a current also implies a voltage.
Have you ever worked with a nonlinear electronic device?
I'm not sure what you mean by nonlinear. Do you mean a semiconductor? I've worked with BJTs and MOSFETS-- where a varying current on one terminal varies the current across other terminals. Though I have a basic understanding of how they work, I'm not very precise: I haven't really analyzed their behavior.
Have you ever worked with magnetic devices like inductors?
Only in a prescribed way: I have taken various circuits and "mixed and matched" them to meet my needs. I've used boost converters from Maxim-IC, which may say "use a 22uH power inductor here". Also, as a kid I have built radios from those "100-in-one" kits, which used a coil. I wouldn't be able to tell you when to use one, other than I know that they are used in radios and to "smooth out" current in switching converters.
I gave a free online electronics course but unfortunately everyone
dropped out when we got to simultaneous equations. I assure you
however that i am sure you will be able to handle this part with
your background, if you havent done so already.
I won't drop out, I promise. Simultaneous equations should be fine with me as long as we're talking about basic addition and multiplication of matrices. I'm sure I'll need to brush up a bit.

EDIT:
My problem right now is that my programmer doesnt handle the PIC18F4450 nor any of the 18F series.
What programmer do you have? Are you sure it won't program the 18F's using ICSP?

I have a PICkit-2 which was only $40, worth every penny. Also in my travels I've seen a ton of homebrew programmers, I'm wondering if any of those will do the 18F series.

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Post by MrAl » Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:35 am

Hi again,


Didnt get any PM, dont know what happened there.


I've used the FTDI chip and it's great, but they only come in the
SM SS packages and i really wanted to get something in a DIP
package so that's why i thought of the PIC chips. They do have
that 18F chip in DIP right?
Also, does the Microchip demo require a C compiler for the PIC?

Yes i wondered about soldering those BGA chips too, if they could
be done with perhaps a heat gun on the back of the pc board.
I havent tried anything yet though and have been using mostly
the DIP packages, except for a few op amp and reference diode
chips and that FTDI chip which was very hard to solder. I was
also looking into some magnification to use for this to help see
what was being soldered.

The AC transfer switch is a solid state relay, which takes two
AC inputs and provides one AC output. When the line is present,
the line is switched to the output (with very high current SCRs).
When the line drops below a certain point the alternate AC input
(usually from a battery powered AC UPS system) is switched to
the output keeping the load alive.

The PC scope used memory chips and fast counters to store the
results from a fast AD converter, then simply uploads to the
computer via a special pc card that fits in a slot. Unfortunately
it was build back when the ISA bus was popular, so it no longer
plugs into the bus (which is now PCI). I had all the boards
made except the ad converter board (which would have been
simple) but then as the technology changed i didnt feel like
making a PCI interface board so i dropped the project. I still
have all the boards though and can restart at some point but
im not so sure i need this anymore as i also purchased a small
analog scope that i use for most stuff these days and although
the bandwidth isnt that great it's ok for now.
A digital scope these days can be made from a fast AD converter,
all you need to do is have a way to store the data that comes
streaming out of the AD converter in real time, then upload
to the PC, perhaps these days by USB would work great.

The 4 channel monitor is basically a voltmeter that connects to the
PC port and allows making voltage measurements using four different
inputs. It's basically like using 4 voltmeters at the same time.
The thing that's different about the software is it not only allows
one to measure voltage, but it was built to also work with batteries
and temperature measurement (something that often goes with
battery charging). The battery applications are charging and
accurate testing of the battery, as to determine it's ability
to hold a charge or how much charge it can hold.
For example, a typical AA NiMH cell is rated for 2500mAh, but
after being charged the monitor is connected and a controlled
discharge is done (using a cheap resistor). The monitor hardware
and software keeps track of the voltage and current of the cell
as it discharges and tallies up the total charge capacity of
the cell and provides a readout that states what the real
capacity of the cell is. I did many cells this way and i found
many 2500 cells to be actually rated at around 1700 or so. The
cells were made by Energizer and it is known to be a problem
with some of them now.
Here's a screen shot:
Image




I use the scientific calculator quite a bit for doing some problems.

The eigens of a matrix are sometimes used to determine the transfer
function in the time domain. We dont really have to do this, but
then again it's just another step that allows another way to do
something. I was thinking perhaps we can start with what is called
the "Transition Matrix" which allows the numerical calculation of a
response without resorting to calculus. It's pretty nice how this
works. Still, i think we should start off with something more
basic to get a feel for the basic properties of things. Once you
get into analyzing systems there comes a sort of detachment from
reality anyway, almost the same as when you try to visualize 12
dimensions in space when usually we use only 3. As the systems
grow in complexity, there is more detachment so there is some
loss of understanding of how a device really works i think. This
means it's good to look at simple stuff too i guess :smile:

Since you have some programming experience too then you wont find
it hard to pick up a new language that is easier to use than C.
It's like a subset of C but has two ways to use it:
with the interpreter or translate to C and build using a standard
C compiler. The interpreter is nice because it lets you run
a program immediately to see how it works and to get the results
from your code. For example, here's a for loop that prints the
value of the loop counter to the console:

for k=1 to 10 do
printf(1,"%d\n",k)
end for

You can see how close this is to the C language so it's fast to pick up.
This is a good language to work in because it's fast to create something
new and doesnt have to be compiled either. If you are interested i'll
post a link.

Parallel and Series...
Sorry to ask so many basic questions, but i find that when i work with
people online with various projects i often dont have a grasp of what
background they have and that prevents me from communicating more
effectively with them, so i like to ask a few questions.
As to the 5 resistor circuit, im just wondering where to start and
maybe working with a few resistor networks would get us there quick
and then we can generalize to use capacitors and inductors along
with the resistors and find we will be doing almost the same things
for all of these most important devices. In the mean time it will
help me to refresh too as i havent been doing as much as i used to
do either in the past :smile:

Ok, we wont worry about the State equations just yet.

I had to ask about the voltage and current too because i find that
some people dont have a very good understanding of these things.
In the engineering texts they talk about a voltage being a quantity
that is simply 'across' a two terminal element, and a current as
being a quantity that is 'through' an element. Thus one is measured
across and the other through. When converting a circuit to
algebraic it's good to realize that it is really that simple and
then just follow a basic set of rules, while at the same time
getting a feel for how a simple circuit works.

Yes a good example of a nonlinear device is a transistor, so i guess
you have worked with them. To start with though we would work with
linear devices and work from there. There is so much that can be
done with linear circuits that it's a good idea to know about them.

I was wondering if you have ever worked with magnetic materials
like the kinds of materials used for inductors and transformers.
Sometimes you end up designing your own inductor, but then again
there are an awful lot of them on the market today in various
sizes and current ratings so perhaps this is best left alone for
now. I buy my inductors ready made too now rather than wind
my own. The prices are reasonable i guess unless you decide you
want to build 1000 of something, then you might want to design
your own inductor provided you can wind it ok.

I didnt think you would drop out :smile: as you seem to have a
big interest in analog and digital circuits, maybe as much as
i do? :smile:

The PIC programmer i have is the most basic one, the PICStart1.
It does a few chips and i have gotten it to work with some it
wasnt made to work with, but not the 18F series. I could always
get a new programmer i guess, but right now i am doing other
things anyway so im not sure if i would have the time to dedicate
to working on this again, at least not right now. Perhaps in
the near future.

Here's a link to the online course:
http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/sho ... University
You'll want to skip through the very basic stuff, and i think
we would be better off using a programming language like
i mentioned rather than the HP calculator because that can be
somewhat hard to use...maybe that's why everyone gave up.
LEDs vs Bulbs, LEDs are winning.

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