Max, prototyping used to be done with a soldering iron, but these days it is much more likely to be done with a C/C++ compiler. That is one of the remarkable things about Arduino and the current generation of microcontroller and sensor technology. It is certainly more exciting these days for those of us on the firmware / software side of the fence when we can buy components for pocket change that can be plugged together Lego-style and start hacking code for it almost immediately!
Those SchmartBoards look pretty nice. Now, if I can just find a compatible wire-wrap socket...
I don't know why you're down on wire-wrap. It was a great technology, allowing easy changes to prototypes. As long as you're careful, you can be quite accurate, though you should buzz out the board after wiring to make sure. If you're making a big board, you need a computer-generated netlist and a fully-automated or semi-automated WW machine.
@Max: "I remember working on humongous wire-wrap prototypes ... if you messed up a connection it could take ages to track it down."
I remember that too... because I did it not so long ago!!
About three years ago, when I was working in the R&D department of an Electronic Manufacture Service provider, we used wire wrapping for building the first concept prototypes by attaching breadboards to standard development kits.
But even more interesting, the BOD --Bed Of Nails-- testers were completely customized using wire wrapping... and when systematic failure was detected, evaluating the hundreds of connections of the whole test board was a real headache!!
I don't think Cray-1 backplanes were exactly wire-wrapped, but all connections between boards were individual twisted pairs driven by differential ECL with proper termination to avoid reflections. Cray-1 clock frequency was 80 MHz, so it had a 12.5 ns clock period. The twisted pairs had precision lengths to provide the correct delay. If the line was long enough, the signal would go into the next clock cycle and the twisted pair acted like a pipeline register. Wire makes a great delay line, because it doesn't vary much with temperature or manufacturing process.
Here's the Wikipedia article on Cray-1 with pretty pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cray-1
I've used twisted pair wire-wrap for 20 MHz clocks, and I believe you can go up to about 100 MHz with differential ECL as long as your signal and ground pins (or differential pins) are close enough.
That was the XMP and YMP I think, the ones that looked like a big C that is extruded vertically. They reason they were C shaped and used wirewrap was so that the backplane interconnects could be as short as possible. Not to be discriminatory but the job was usually filled by a smaller sized woman as they could fit in the confined space easier and had to pay attention to not miswrap a connection. I remember a story about one woman having a million wraps with no mistakes.
The Other Tesla David Blaza5 comments I find myself going to Kickstarter and Indiegogo on a regular basis these days because they have become real innovation marketplaces. As far as I'm concerned, this is where a lot of cool ...