Go back to 1975. The idea of a computer at home was something that only happened in Science Fiction books. When the Altair 8800 was introduced, not only could you have a computer at home–you could build it yourself!

For some “computer” is a bit liberal. Based on the Intel 8080, the “computer” supported some toggle switches and LEDs on the front panel.  As Gates explains in this video, there wasn’t even any kind of interactive terminal.

Check this MAKE article on the history of the Altair 8800.

Is Graphene Unobtanium?

"Graphen" by AlexanderAlUS - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Graphen.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Graphen.jpg

(“Graphen” by AlexanderAlUS – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons ]

Everyday a new application involving the seemingly miraculous material Graphene is announced. For example, being in the capacitor industry, I am asked often if my employer uses it. Before answering the question, I usually have to explain what Graphene is and the challenges in producing it.

The lack of supply and limited (real) commercial applications leads me to think of Graphene as Unobtanium… at least, for the near future.

10 Popular EAGLE Libraries

element14
Jan 15, 2015

Having good libraries in EAGLE is critical to making schematic capture and PCB design fast.  Dave at element14 put together a top 10 library link, which includes the list below.

Remember, if you’re having trouble Add Parts, you might want to look at this tutorial on enabling EAGLE libraries.

  1. element14’s RIoTBoard
  2. element14’s Raspberry Pi Compute Module Development Kit
  3. element14’s BeagleBone Black
  4. Linear Technology
  5. Molex
  6. Vishay
  7. Microchip
  8. Atmel
  9. Arduino
  10. Texas Instruments

10818399_10152509408852219_5757913693783094151_oUnderstanding what X2 or Y1 capacitors actually are and are not is important when designing them into an AC-mains connected power supply.  Recently Electronic Products Magazine ran an article I wrote on the proper role of X and Y safety rated EMI Capacitors.

The X2 capacitor rating means different things to different people–except for UL.  When I wrote this article to discuss some common misconceptions around what X2 Rated Capacitors are, and how they can be properly used.

In case the PDF reader doesn’t load, it’s on Page 20 of the November 2014 issue.

You can see the full article with the EP Reader, by clicking here.

Date: November 1, 2014
Appearance: Role of EMI X1, X2, Y1, Y2 Capacitors Ratings
Outlet: Electronic Products Management
Format: Magazine

The Gecko Zero EFM32 Weather Station Evaluation Board from Silicon Labs is intended to show off the low-energy or energy harvesting capabilities of the EFM32 Zero.  The ARM-based board has physical and cap sensitive buttons along with the LCD.

It comes pre-loaded with a demo program, which is the classic Space Invaders.

If you’re interested in more about the board, I wrote a road test of Gecko EFM32 on element 14. (Spoilers: I wasn’t impressed.  Not a bad board, but rough development environment.)

Clean Ground Planes on DIY Boards

If you’re making your own PCB with the toner transfer method, you might find that getting nice clean ground planes is difficult. John on twitter (@johngineer) realized a simple, but effective method.

john_diy_pcb_tip

Use a hatch pattern for your planes and then fill in the squares with a Sharpie. Simple, but effective. The paper detaches easier and the etch comes out cleaner.

For help on creating ground planes in EAGLE, check out this video tutorial I put together.

CES 2015 Highlights

CES 2015 SIgn

This is my first year attending CES. Apparently, nobody told anyone here about the death of the trade show. As an enginerd, here is my perspective.  First, if you’ve never been, this show is huge. Huge. You aren’t just walking around 100 or so booths. This thing is spread across 3 different conference centers in downtown Las Vegas.

With over 160,000 attendees, CES was spread across three massive convention halls. Nearly every company offering electronic products were on display. From Televisions to Appliances to Computers to Automotive Electronics to Wearables.  Broken down below are highlights and pictures from the show, based on industry or application area. 

Eight Amazing Engineering Stories: Using the Elements to Create Extraordinary Technologies

Eight Amazing Engineering Stories: Using the Elements to Create Extraordinary Technologies (Articulate Noise Books, April 7, 2012)

Bill Hammock’s “Engineer Guy” podcast series was one of my first video podcast subscriptions.  His explanation videos hit the right balance between “high level’ and “low-level” details in a few short minutes, which was actually an inspiration for the format of AddOhms.  With each of his videos, you will learn something and get a few laughs–which is rare for engineering related videos.

His book, with co authors,  “Eight Amazing Engineering Stories“, was added to my Kindle App as soon as it became available.  The book breaks down everyday objects and technologies down to their science and engineering fundamentals.

Let’s be honest, nothing here is something you can’t find on Wikipedia.  However, what you won’t find is the awesome presentation style, a trademark of Hammock.

If you want to know how elements like Silicon, Cesium, and Tungsten have made their way into our lives.  Or how Atomic Clocks, Microwaves, and Accelerators work–along with their back story, this book is for you.

Whenever I have a few minutes to fill, I find myself scrolling around the book to pick up new tidbits.

Review: 5 out of 5 LEDs

Review Rating: 5/5 LEDs

Overall, I give this effort a 5 LED review.  It’s not an expensive buy and deserves a place on any enginerd’s shelf, virtual or otherwise.

Article I wrote on some innovations KEMET has implemented in their capacitors:

There is no Moore’s Law for passive components like capacitors, but relentless development is delivering the kinds of devices engineers need to deliver cutting-edge new products for modern living. Capacitors have for many years enabled electronic designers to manage energy within circuits and fulfill basic functions like filtering noise or harmonics, correcting power factor, stabilizing feedback circuitry, coupling/decoupling, interfacing between voltage levels, and storing energy. But the demands placed on these components continue to increase, as electronic devices are expected to be smaller, longer lasting, more feature rich and more robust.

Read “Capacitor Innovations Address Emerging Opportunities” on Power Systems Design.

Date: December 30, 2014
Appearance: Capacitor innovations address emerging opportunities on PSD
Outlet: Power Systems Design
Format: Magazine