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Help buying first breadboard

  1. Dec 27, 2009 #1
    Help buying first breadboard :)

    As a current undergraduate computer engineer, sophmore division, I still have quite a way to go but I want to start putting things together in front of me more physically on the home front...nothing massive just some simple circuits to start with such as

    7- segment display with decoder repeating with clock impulse implementing flips flops?

    What would I need to buy exact besides the bread board so I can power up some simple circuits to begin with?

    I've seen some bread boards with the whole shindig but I am unsure it comes powered as Ive only used a breadboard on a giant bread board simulator with the whole shebang.

    Also would I be able to simply run a 7 - segment display for fun? what would I need? thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2009 #2
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

  4. Dec 28, 2009 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Good goal. It would help us a lot to see pointers to what you are looking at. A simple solderless breadboard, some assorted solid wire colors (24AWG), wire strippers, needlenose pliers, and a power supply are about all you need for your basic kit. The simplest power supply would be a 5V wall wart transformer adapter, with appropriate adapters to plug its output into the power distribution rails of your breadboard.

    (EDIT -- or 3.3Vdc, depending on what logic you want to experiment with first. If you want analog too, then you should invest in a basic 5/3.3V and +/-12V DC power supply.)
  5. Dec 28, 2009 #4
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Also need a multimeter, and a wide assortment of parts - resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, ICs ...

    have a look at the electronic bench suggestions:


    of course, don't need all these at first, but it will give you an idea.
  6. Dec 30, 2009 #5
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Sparkfun sells tool kits for getting started in electronics for a decent price. These kits don't include a breadboard but the ones they sell aren't that good anyway.


    As for a breadboard, I highly recommend you get something of good quality and not one of those cheap plain white ones you can get at radio shack. I've got one of these:


    and its pretty nice as breadboards go. Just make sure you ground the breadboard to the aluminum plate everything is mounted on.

    I would imagine he would be able to get all this stuff from his university/IEEE office. Universities are usually good for basic through-hole components and sometimes they are nice enough to order parts for you even if its for a personal project. Also, don't forget about free samples. I've gotten a ton of stuff from microchip and analog devices just for being a student.

    A good first project might be to modify a PC power supply to use for your projects. Its a pretty simple thing to do and much more economical than buying a bunch of wallwarts or a benchtop supply.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
  7. Dec 30, 2009 #6
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Breadboard. So 20th century. IMO modern approach is to use simulation software, like Multisim, CircuitLogix, etc. And student versions are usually free.
  8. Dec 30, 2009 #7
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    @ berkeman

    Thanks for the great suggestions!
    I am fixated on your edit:
    As powering the bread board would be my main objective.


    I do need a new MM, I have a few old ones laying around but nothing worth bothering with. I'll stock up on resistors, capacitors, transistors, when I become more familiar with them, I am just gonna start off with a bunch of combinational logic IC's to start off with to get things going

    @ Topher925
    Thanks for the links, I will be definitely checking those out
    I def. love the second link alot, I already have a solder and a good set of precision screw drivers and pliers, however I am gonna invest in a new MM, that magnified holder for the solder, and whats that gold stuff? Sorry I still fairly up and coming and I havent seen it before

    As for the breadboard I was checking out the fairly decent one on spark electronics
    Also good looking out for the University idea, I am unsure if they will carry these items but its worth a look.
    Also I like this idea alot...
    Any tutorials? I seen one vide once where he had a simple 12 volt wall jack and some adapter and regulator drop to lower voltages

    I've used multi-sim before, as well as eagle, but I am more hands on and like getting hands dirty. Better experience for me
  9. Dec 31, 2009 #8
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Tutorials? Salvage one from an old PC, wire the connectors and the switch. And you have a high quality +/-5V; +3.3V;+/-12V PSU.
    BTW. Obviously you can get electrocuted [STRIKE]if[/STRIKE] when you poke inside while it's on (or have been on) and touch that heat sink.


    Breadboards are for 5-year-olds.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  10. Dec 31, 2009 #9
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Some times you need to actually make things in the real world, and bread boards are a great cheap way to prototype. The robotics club at my school uses them all the time precisely 'cause they're easily replaceable. Plus not having to solder/desolder is great when you're still in the prototyping stage.

    Google turns up a lot of labs, 'cause it's a standard for EE labs. They all have material lists. The hardest part is gonna be properly generating binary signals, but use a microcontroller for that bit. The ones you can get for free may be up to the task, and mplab may be floating around your school.

    The purely hackish (and dangerous) way to do this is to look up the power schematic for atx connectors of different voltages. That'll tell you what the power and ground lines are for each voltage. Then you can just run wires straight from the pins to your bread board (you just have to short something, google for what it is) and you're set.

    For the record, adjustable voltage supplies are about 5 bucks on ebay, and poor enough quality that you'll probably have to repair 'em a few times, but it's basic. You can make a power supply out of any adapter pretty much by buying the oppositely gendered connector and attaching a wire to it.
  11. Dec 31, 2009 #10
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Can somebody find a neat vid with a smart looking five year old boy playing with some LEDs? That's the closest I've been able to find so far: http://www.vimeo.com/4313755

    He is a second year college student. Engineering. He should know what he is doing. Besides, I've given the link to the tutorial. This tutorial is adequate (though IMHO that dump load is bit of an overkill).
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  12. Dec 31, 2009 #11
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    I've worked with lots of second year college students (and all the other years) a lot and I know technical skill and knowledge vary widely. I wasn't suggesting that he doesn't follow the tutorial (honestly I'd totally rig something like that up), just that if the tutorial doesn't work for him for whatever reason, there's a quick and dirty way to do it to that doesn't require him opening up the psu or wrecking it if he ever wants to use it again.

    I never said children can't use them; I actually totally support that. Breadboards are a good tool for all ages.
  13. Dec 31, 2009 #12
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    The "gold stuff" is just an abrasive pad for cleaning the tip of the iron. A moist sponge works well also.

    Theres lots of tutorials for making benchtop supplies from PC PSUs. I know one has already been posted but heres another.

    No, not really. While most basic circuits can be easily simulated, many can not. For example, circuits that have high impedance components or are very sensitive to temperature or external noise can be very difficult if not impossible to simulate. Optical circuits, such as a pH meter, are notoriously difficult to simulate accurately and usually require physical prototyping.

    There is also something to be said for hands on experience, especially when starting out. While software is nice and can save you some time, if you don't completely understand what it is that you are actually simulating then you're just wasting your time anyway.
  14. Dec 31, 2009 #13
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Just keep a water bottle with a sports cap nearby, 'cause it dries out fast.

    That's the whole point of having labs in EE; Shiny physical implementations so you can see the difference between the theoretical (simulated) and real results. We always had to simulate circuits in multisim before throwing them on a breadboard, which was very useful 'cause then there was a map of where all the little wires go. (And yeah, if doing a bread board, keep the layout clean or debugging it will be torture.)

    Sometimes you also just want the physical device 'cause you want a blinky led set up.
  15. Dec 31, 2009 #14
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Thanks for the suggestions fellas, that what we would do last year, play around on multisim then implement it on a bread board. I ll be digging around for an older PSU I got laying around some where, any other recommendations for sites other than sparkfun?
  16. Dec 31, 2009 #15
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    digikey and Jameco stock just about all the parts you'll ever need, as does good old ebay. Radioshack is also decent when something breaks or runs out and you don't want to wait for shipping.
  17. Jan 2, 2010 #16
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    **** I am just trying to find a dirt cheap PC PSU to convert, I went looking around for one to buy put the nearest half way pc shop was closed so I dug through the trash but all 3 I found were dead :( boo
  18. Jan 3, 2010 #17


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    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    I would LOL, but doesn't sound like you're in the mood for that...

    BTW, if you want to go for the cheapest PC PSU that you can find, what do you need to keep in mind (add extra) compared to standard PC PSUs?
  19. Jan 3, 2010 #18
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    He just needs something that won't blow up on him. Because this is a test bench, he doesn't need to deal with the wattage, noise, and modularity issues that usually push up the price. I've used a seriously underpowered micro-atx case freebie to power a laser, so I'm pretty sure anything he digs up will work.

    So places to find cheap power supplies:
    school - see if your tech department/computing department is throwing out any old machines and if you can salvage some parts. Ours has a website for that stuff.
    friends - some of your friends may have a psu or two floating around that they don't mind giving up/selling cheap
  20. Jan 3, 2010 #19
    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Oh I did dig through the trash finding 3 dead older model PSU's dead of course, I am just salvaging the fans and wires for later use. I thought about returning to my old high school and ask the old fella who claimed to be the IT "master" if he had dirt laying around, I went to ebay and browsed fairly cheap on there, but before those I am gonna go to this whack PC shop where this crazy old chinese fella runs things and see if he is nice enough to sell one for like 10 bucks
  21. Jan 4, 2010 #20


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    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Help buying first breadboard :)

    Not exactly true. Some of the (mostly older and cheaper) PC PSUs have minimum output current specs. If you don't meet those, your rails typically go out of spec.... upwards.
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