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.
I could picture using one of these shields to develop a nice efficient high power led driver interfaced with the arduino. Most of the led drivers I've been finding seem to be SMT which is kind of hard to breadboard at least for a beginnering with little equipment. Though I do need to pick a good soldering iron up before I go getting the boards. But having the source for an arudino shield made board and the SMT to DIP adapter makes planning for it easier. So thank Schmartboard
## There is a lot happening in the self learning electronic development kits.
I agree -- especially over at SparkFun (www.SparkFun.com). I believe that they are one of the fastest-growing companies around. They do everything from organizing soldering classes to development kits to robot vehicle competitions -- plus everyone I've chatted to from SparkFun seem to be real nice folks.
I was worried that electronics hobbyism (is that a word?) was dying out, but this sort of thing gives me a lot of hope.
What we need, I think, to get to the next phase in DIY evolution is a better approach for code sharing. If we could get most DIY developers to use some common interfaces (Software interfaces), test platforms, and documentation think of the massive wave of new designs that would be enabled. Much like the wave of Zombies in World War Z, the DIY development trend would become unstoppable!
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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