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Equipment and Supplies to buy for Electronics Experimentation.

A “breadboad” to quickly test circuits.

It is time to start talking about things necessary to buy if you want to experiment with electronics. I do really hate making recommendations because no matter what I suggest it will not be what you really need to complete your project. However, it is necessary to try.

My Digital Multimeter


First and foremost you will need a multimeter. Primarily you will use it to measure voltages, but sometimes you will use it to measure resistance and even continuity. I have yet to meet a Macgyver that can look at a circuit and immediately know to cut the red wire and even which red wire. The 2nd picture is a picture of my multimeter. I have had it for a lot of years and it served me well doing electronics as well as troubleshooting automobiles and even wiring a house.

The important things to me is 3 1/2 digits display. The 1/2 digit is a leading 1 because most of the ranges are values that begin with 2.  (i.e. 200 mV, 2 V, 20 V, etc.)  The lowest resistance range includes a beeper to check continuity.  This is very handy if you do any troubleshooting  and you cannot watch the meter but want to know you are on the other end of the same wire.  The things this meter has that have not been used or used very little, is a transistor hfe check and a capacitor check.   This meter does not have auto-ranging.  I would recommend not spending a lot of money on the meter, but I would not buy the cheapest available.  Jameco & MCM seem to have some good meters at a reasonable price.

The next thing you will need is a solderless breadboard like the one shown in the first picture.  This is designed so you can plug in resistors and other components and quickly check a circuit.  The spacing of the holes is designed to accommodate electronic devices packaged in the DIP (Dual Inline Package) package.  The op-amp IC (Integrated Circuits) we have started discussing can be found packaged in this form.  Along with the breadboard you will also need some “jumper wires” to connect various points together.  Those can usually be found at the same place that has the breadboad.

An old computer power supply used to power my projects.

Next you will need some way to power your projects. Ideally for Op-amp circuits we would like a dual power supply that will provide +15 V and -15 V. However, we can get by much cheaper. In school we used two 9 V batteries to provide +9 and -9V for our Op-Amp circuits. A very good source is the one I show in my 3rd picture. I used the power supply from an old computer. It has values marked as -12V, -5V, _5 V and +12V. All of these were very close except the +12V that only supplies 10.16V. For some reason I had to put a load on the power supply so I have a 10 Watt 10 Ohm resistor wired between the +5V and common wire. (The resistor only consumes about 2.5 W but a 10 W was all that was available when I built this.) Should you decide to go this route make sure you insulate the switch wires like I did to keep from getting a possibly fatal shock.

Now that we have the main things covered, we will need parts. You will need a good selection of 1/4 or 1/2 watt resistors from about 100Ω to 1 MΩ.  Several of the suppliers mentioned later have resistor assortments at a very reasonable price.    You will also need some Op-Amp IC “chips”.  I would buy at least 3 or 4 of those.  Make sure it comes in a DIP package (Probably described as a DIP-8 — meaning it has 8 leads or “legs”).  The type of Op-Amp for now will be described as a “general purpose” Op-Amp.  Some good part numbers for now are UA741, LM741, and LM301.  Later, we will be looking at some other parts but this will get us started.

Some suppliers I have used are:

Jameco Electronics ( http://www.jameco.com/)   This is probably about the best for hobby type electronics that I have dealt with because they are willing do deal in small amounts and have reasonable shipping costs.  Almost every part has a datasheet available for download in pdf format.  I noticed they seem to have good deals on a DMM and I am sure you can buy the breadboard there also.

RadioShack (http://www.radioshack.com/) is good because they have stores almost everywhere.  However you do pay for the convenience and for larger orders you are often better off to purchase via the net.  http://www.radioshack.com Over the years RadioShack has got a lot of my money.

MCM Electronics, http://www.mcmelectronics.com/, is dedicated more for repair technicians and less so for the general hobby electronics.   However, in the past my son and I ordered some nice amplifiers there to put an audio system in his car when he was a teenager.   They also seem to have a good deal on the DMM’s.

I have bought some from Electronics Goldmine. They are more into the electronics surplus and some hobby kits so I have bought very little from them.

I have no experience with the following companies.  I will state why after I post their names.

BG micro  — I just learned of them, but looks interesting
Digi-Key — Name brand components and full line.  I have never been able to get a list big enough to get minimum order of components.
Mouser Electronics  — Very similar to Digi-Key and not used by me for the same reason.

I am sure you can find many others as well, but those are good sources to start with.  I will cut and paste the supplier information into the Resources Page very soon.



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