Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Bourns Thumbwheel Pots

In eChucK, Music on January 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

Thumbwheel Potentiometer

One of the keys to eChucK’s 0.1″ spacing miniaturization is potentiometers.  We must have a better way than huge alpha pots to krank up our wholesome goodness.  These thumbwheel pots from Bourns are just the trick.  Available in quantity one at $1.24 each from Digikey, they offer exceptional breadboard friendliness.

You can get these pots in horizontal or vertical arrangement, and a few flavors of each actually.  I recommend the above shown configuration.  These pots can be located at either the center of the breadboard or it’s edge.  They have a screwdriver molding for both flat and phillips screwdrivers.

These pots are available in many values including the popular 10k and especially 100k for eChucK, and 1Meg for Lunettas.  Other values are also available.  The pots are rated at 200 turns, but they last for a whole lot more in practice.



eChucK Supplier: sparkfun electronics

In eChucK, Music on January 28, 2011 at 4:36 am

One company that really catches my attention espeically for eChucK supplies is sparkfun electronics.  I have yet to get my finger on the pulse of this innovative group of individuals.  They seem to be collecting the coolest miniature prototyping parts for electronic builds of all types and offering them for silly-cheap prices.  Here’s a look at a few of them.

170 tie point breadboard

Miniature Breadboards sparkfun offers the 170 tie-point breadboard for $3.95 in quantiy one, part number PRT-07916.  Looking at that number, we see that we have five tie points on each node, and two such nodes per row.  So 10 tie points per row means we get 17 0.1″ pin spacings.  That’s enough for two 16 pin DIP chips or three maybe four 8 pin DIP chips.  The board lacks power supply tie points, so you’ll use some real estate up for power but that’s OK.  The total size of the board is 1.8″ x 1.4″, so a litle bit bigger than an inch and a half square in size.  Just for fun, these miniature breadboards are offered in several colors as well.

Spring Terminals another eChucK enabling part from sparkfun is part number PRT09077, a spring-terminal header.  To miniaturize eChucK we need a tiny connector system.  Hardly anything is cheaper than wire itself, so our cables are quite inexpensive, but we need a low cost pcb connector to complete the picture.  These spring terminals appear to be quite the part for the task.  They do not require a screwdriver and seem to be well suited for the task (having not tried them myself yet).

Another sparkfun alternative for eChucK is the miniature screw terminals on 3.5 mm spacing (remember, 2.54 mm is 0.1 inches).  One part number is PRT-08235.  These require a small screwdriver, and may hold more wires more firmsly.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better connector than this one for a miniaturized system like eChucK.

In addition to the parts mentioned above, there are many other interesting miniature parts with 0.1″ hole spacing, breadboard-friendly designs available at sparkfun electronics.  Have a look at their excellent collection of breadboards and LEDs and breakout boards, plus sensors and interfaces… sparkfun offers a great price on everything they sell and a lot of it is idea-fodder for eChucK.


eChucK Standards Document

In eChucK, Music on January 28, 2011 at 2:54 am

There’s a new type of music synthesizer on the horizon.  It’s simple, elegant, inexpensive, and can take many physical forms.  Born out of a desire to make electronic models of software music programs, the e in eChucK is for electronic.  The ChucK part refers to my particular favorite music programming language, but that is not important here.  What is important is the standard, linked below:


The eChucK_Standard document is very informal.  It’s not some fancy standards document intended to be a legal definition between corporations, rather it conveys the general idea (and lots of specifics) of a novel modular synthesizer system.

In addition to having roots in music software, eChucK has branches in the sky of business.  eChucK is an attempt to define a standard so that the average hobbyist can produce a module or collection of modules and have a ready-made market of enthusiasts who may choose to purchase those modules.  Whether it’s kits or completed modules that you are offering, or both, the goal of eChucK is to provide a framework of standards and marketplace for you to participate as a community member.

At this point eChucK is just an idea.  I personally am really close to offering some modules in kit form, though that may be a little while from now.  Some people in the Lunetta community are thinking about offering kits.  Famous synth makers have offered mini-synth boards.  Not-so-famous synth makers have come up with some really cool designs.

All this is happening in the chaos of the free market with all it’s incompatibilities and one-off prototypes.  That’s just fine, but what’s needed is a standard that provides a framework for such development efforts.  eChucK aims to be that standard.

OK, OK, what IS it then?  Well, imagine a modular synthesizer with the case and front panels removed.  You’ve got a bunch of circuit boards with wires hanging off of them scattered about on a desktop.  Now make each board small and simple by reducing it’s design to minimal form.  Now the circuit boards are really small and the wires just changed into 22 ga. solid hookup wire.  You rearrange the boards onto a panel or in free space, supporting their light weight with the stiff wire, and make your own free-form synth sculpture.  Rewire to your heart’s content to make the music that you want.  That’s the idea behind eChucK.

To summarize, eChucK is a standard of tiny simplified synth boards wired freely with various miniaturization tricks like thumbwheel pots and micro switches, mini screw terminals for pcb i/o, and plain old wire for hookup.

So have a look at the standards doc and if you’d like to start making eChucK modules for your own fun and profit, drop me a line and I will help.  Enjoy!

Hello world!

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 1:53 am

This blog is all about inventions, or more accurately re-inventions.  I like to use that term because so many inventions are actually reinventions, or modifications to an existing invention.  Occasionally something groundbreaking happens, but by and large it’s all today’s new twist on yesterday’s theme.  And that’s just fine.

I reinvent all kinds of stuff and in this blog you’ll read, see, hear, and experience all sorts of interesting what’s its and what nots, thingamajigs galore, and whodathunkits also.  Mostly what I’m into lately is music electronics, though you will also find other categories touched upon here.

That’s it, I like to be brief to save you reading endless meaninglessness and cram information into your head like an overstuffed piggy bank, haha!  So off to the next post you go…