Five Electronics Tools You Might Not Know About

resistor bendersuction toolchip inserterusing the crimperchip remover

You’ve got your wire strippers and your soldering iron…now what? You probably know that there is a standard set of essential tools that you need on your electronics workbench. You can find helpful lists of these tools at Lady Ada’s site and Dan’s Data.

However, real tool junkies always want just the right tool for the job. Here are five electronics tools you may not know you were missing. These esoteric tools go a bit beyond the basics that everyone should have.

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Using AVR microcontrollers: Minimalist target boards

USBtinyISP and simple target

This is a quick how-to guide on making ultra-simple development boards for programming AVR microcontrollers. Most recent-vintage AVRs can be programmed through an ISP (in-system programmer) connection; all that is really needed is a place for the chip to sit and a way to connect to the programmer.

That’s where these minimalist AVR “target boards” come in. These little boards cost only about $2 and take only a few minutes to make.

It turns out that I build a lot of these because asking “how do you make a circuit to program the AVR?” is really the same as asking how you can program an AVR that is in a circuit. And, we might as well start with a simple circuit.
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Resources for choosing a microcontroller

ATtiny2313 I’ve put together a short list (after the jump) of some potentially useful resources that may be of help in choosing a microcontroller for your project, or just getting started with microcontrollers in general. I plan to add to this list from time to time. If you have other suggested resources to add to the list, please feel free to leave them in the comments here– good suggestions may be incorporated into future revisions of the list.

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Quick and Dirty D to A on the AVR: A timer tutorial

So you’ve got a microcontroller and you want to use it to control something analog. That’s a common task, and a number of good solutions exist, depending on exactly what you need to do.
Most microcontrollers do not include built-in digital-to-analog conversion (DAC) hardware, and external converters cost money. There is, however, a quick, easy, and cheap little trick of a solution that can be played by averaging a digital output.
This is a short tutorial on making useful (but crude) analog output signals with a low-cost microcontroller. The analog signals will be made by averaging a digital pulse width modulation (PWM) output from one of the counter/timer units in the microcontroller, and do not require any dedicated digital to analog conversion hardware. We will first introduce some aspects of the counter/timer and discuss how it can be used to generate the pulse width modulation signal. After that, we’ll implement the scheme on an AVR microcontroller and use it to make a simple and slow little function generator circuit.

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