From the mailbag: XL741 in the classroom

S.W. wrote in:

I just wanted to let you know that I am using your XL741 kit in my Electronics 2 class lab. It is a high quality kit and I thank you for putting it together. We build the 741 in stages, make measurements, adjust offsets, etc. It is a great vehicle to teach the analog building blocks. A student of mine (now graduated) and I wrote four lab exercises for it and they are being used now for the second time. We also just got to share them with several EE teachers who were also very enthusiastic about the idea.

We love to hear about how our kits get used!

Dr. Nim Prototypes

Dr. Nim was made by John Godfrey, the same person who designed the original Digi-Comp II. His grandson, Andrew Beck, has the Dr. Nim prototypes and recently shared pictures and video of them via twitter.

Andrew says,

Here’s a video showing the first two Dr. Nim prototypes, made by hand in the 1960s

The second prototype still works, and he shows off how the mechanism works in the video, along with pointing out some of the differences between the two prototypes.

The earlier prototype has switches that look very similar to the ones in the Digi-Comp II.

The second prototype is very close to the production version, which we blogged about some time ago, and can be seen below.

Thank you, Andrew, for sharing this bit of history!

Linkdump: March 2016

Instructables Egg Contest

We’re excited to be partnering with Instructables for the Egg Contest 2016.

It’s springtime, the season when eggs traditionally get their moment of glory. In the Egg Contest we want to see what happens when you scramble up your creativity with this theme. Any and all entries highlighting or featuring eggs (or egg-like creations) are eligible.

Prizes include the EggBot Pro and Deluxe EggBots. We’re looking forward to seeing your entries!

Stroboscopic patterns for Easter eggs

Jiri Zemanek from Prague sent in this fabulous video of eggs decorated using the EggBot, some with markers, and some with the Electro-Kistka.

Various patterns are generated in Matlab using mathematical equations similar to ones describing Spirograph (or harmonograph) and Phyllotaxis. The patterns are calculated in such a way that when rotated under a stroboscopic light of suitable frequency or when recorded by a camera, they start to animate. It is kind of zoetrope— early device for animation. … Eggs are rotated at a constant speed, special for each pattern, by a brushless motor. No computer graphics tricks are used in the video.

Additional information is available at their site.

Introducing the AxiDraw

AxiDraw drawing machine

We are very pleased to introduce our newest art robot: the AxiDraw.

The AxiDraw is a simple, modern, precise, and versatile pen plotter, capable of writing or drawing on almost any flat surface. It can write with your favorite fountain pens, permanent markers, and other writing implements to handle an endless variety of applications. Its unique design features a writing head that extends beyond the machine, making it possible to draw on objects bigger than the machine itself.

AxiDraw drawing machine

The AxiDraw is a fantastic machine for making art — along with all those other things that you might use a pen-wielding robot for: Making “hand written” invitations, signing forms, or making neater whiteboard art than one might otherwise be able to.

AxiDraw is available to order today, and begins shipping next week. See it in action and learn more on the product page.

555 Teardown

Ken Shirriff has posted a teardown of the beloved 555 timer IC. He sawed the top of a metal can packaged 555 to expose the die underneath.

On top of the silicon, a thin layer of metal connects different parts of the chip. … Under the metal, a thin, glassy silicon dioxide layer provides insulation between the metal and the silicon, except where contact holes in the silicon dioxide allow the metal to connect to the silicon. At the edge of the chip, thin wires connect the metal pads to the chip’s external pins.

He goes on to explain how it works and its cultural significance. He even mentions our discrete 555 and 555 footstool in the footnotes.

The Adafruit Dronies

I’m pleased to announce that I’m on the judging panel for the new Adafruit Drone Film Fest, the Adafruit Dronies 2016.

The Adafruit Dronies celebrates videos taken from drones. The contest is open to everyone in the United States to show and share their amazing drone videos. You’ll be judged on creative use of technology, storytelling, and cinematography.

Entries are limited to five minutes and winners receive trophies as well as gift certificates to the Adafruit store. The lineup of judges is amazing, and  we’re looking forward to seeing your entries!