7 April 2008

1. Introduction

When I grew up, I was fascinated by electronics. I had one of those 150-in-one kits, where components could be hooked up by connecting wires between springs. Each spring had a number. I didn’t really understand what everything actually did. I just followed the instructions. Connect 12-15-25-3. And so on. After 20 minutes, you had a working siren, or an AM radio, or a light detector.

Eventually I started to buy electronic magazines. Back in those days occasionally the magazines would include a printed circuit board on the front panel. One of the first kits I made was a space invaders game. That’s what they called it. There was a vertical row of leds, and the leds would light in succession from top to bottom. The idea was to press a button when the lowest led was lit, there by killing the space invader. If you did that, then your score (which was indicated at the top of the board in a binary form, again in leds) increased by one. The second last led was red – if you pressed the button when that led was lit, then your score went back down to zero. It was a really simple game, but it took four or five integrated circuits from the 4000 series and a bunch of other components to make it work.

Years later I’m still making leds light up. Trust me, getting this all working is quite a challenge the first time. It’s a great feeling when you finally get that led flashing…

- Photo thanks to Chris Glass

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