I'm guilty too

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by KL7AJ, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
    One of the criticisms put forth against Arduino and the related devices is that it encourages inexperienced folks to "use a sledge hammer to drive a thumbtack." Indeed a lot of applications are supreme overkill.....Why use a 555 timer chip when you can use a whole microprocessor to blink a light? We still need technicians and engineers who can build lean and mean circuits to do things.

    However.....we need to remember that Arduino and Raspberry Pi and other similar widgets are bringing in a whole new generation of technicians who otherwise never twiddle an electron at all. I have to admit, I have a BLAST doing cool pointless stuff with my Arduino. If "yutes" are getting into electronics for the same reason, who am I to squawk?

    So...I think we do need to teach classical electronics along with Arduino.....at least until they have Arduinos that work at radio frequencies.

    What are your thoughts?
  2. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    Pretty similar to yours. Like most things, Arduinos are a mixed bag that can either be used well or abused horribly -- and that's from both a technical and an educational standpoint.

    Yes, they can help draw in people that otherwise would never have given electronics a try. That's arguably good -- only arguably because many of those people (not all, by any means) are people that probably should have never given electronics a try. But we have lost so many of the traditional ways of drawing people in, such as home automotive maintenance and amateur radio, that we need to find new ways and things like Arduinos are one such way.

    The flip side is that, even for many of the people that had an interest in electronics anyway, things like Arduinos (and the list of other things is insanely long) have a tendency to let people accomplish their project goals while never gaining an understanding of what is really going on. To some degree this isn't a bad thing, but it does rob us of large numbers of people that have sound, fundamental skills.
  3. BReeves


    Nov 24, 2012
    The thing I sometimes question is when someone answering a question on this forum about a fairly simple circuit recommends using an Arduino instead of a couple ICs and a few resistors.
  4. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    Often that's a symptom of exactly what I was referring to -- many of those recommendations come from people that only know how to throw an Arduino at it. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks suspiciously like a nail.
    cmartinez and dl324 like this.
  5. shteii01

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2010
    That is lack of education and experience.

    Take me. I have BSEE. I never touched 555 in my life. While doing some discussion on the forums here, I accidentally found chapter about 555 in my transistor/op-amp/electronic circuit design textbook, I did not even know it was there.
  6. MaxHeadRoom


    Jul 18, 2013
    I guess it is handy to learn the hard way when the avail of IC's did not exist, and circuitry was done the 'hard' way, discrete transistors, if you wanted a Schmitt trigger, flip-flop, RC TC/RX receiver et.al.;)
  7. cmartinez

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    You're right, I think. Most noobies are attracted to electronics by the lure of the easiness to mount their ideas on top of an Arduino... the hard part is motivating them to work downwards from there... like challenging them to build the least expensive, leanest version possible of their original idea. But most of them will never feel the need to do that, since their ideas won't have economic implications in their lives. Why bother learning how to cook in an elegant and nutricious way, when you can find affordable frozen tv dinners at your local walmart?
  8. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    I think it depends if the electronics are the project or the electronics are the "nice-to-have" addition to the project. Also, I view each gate as one line of code. After 4 or 5 chips, the arduino becomes much easier.

    My pet peeve is when members recommend Arduino's and micro controllers interchangeably. An Arduino is not just a Microcontroller. An Arduino includes an onboard voltage regulator and programmer and connections from programmer to chip. Download the software and plug the arduino into your computer.

    Also, an Arduino does not require a user to find the PGM or PGC pins and connect to pins to connect to a purchased programmer (e.g.PICKit3). Most importantly, no need to understand setting up tri-state pins or analog pins and the difference between PIN numbers and Port Numbers and Analog channels. You simply enter what you want the PIN number to do in your script.

    Think about setting up a specific pin on a Pic Port A to output a high signal and another to be an analog input.

    The analog input is already set up.
    The user has to
    - figure out which analog channel the pin corresponds to.
    - change that channel to Digital I/O
    - figure out which Port and Port number the pin corresponds to
    - change that port Pin to "Output" via the correct Tris Register
    - set the correct bit on the port (or LAT) to high or low.

    On arduino, simply set
    Pin(13) = on.

    An LED can be blinking in 30 minutes with Arduino.

    So, be careful guys, the next person saying "use any Microcontroller including an Arduino or PIC or what ever" will be told they have their head on crooked.

    Each project is an optimization.
    If the goal is leaning electrons, maybe we should teach how to make an astable with a pair of transistors, four resistors and a pair of caps. On the other hand, if the goal is to put a flashing LED on an RC boat, how much researching, PCB building, or parts cost saving does the OP want? If he has a couple thousand dollars in a model boat or model railroad, what is $7 for an arduino? Nothing.
    MaxHeadRoom and Sinus23 like this.
  9. Sinus23

    Active Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    When I went back to school I was unemployed and broke so the whole time I just had a multimeter, breadboard and wire cutters(Plus some screwdrivers and miscellaneous everyday stuff). I didn't have any electronic components that weren't salvaged from some scraps. Then my father died and I had to put school on hold temporally. Shortly after the economy picked up and I had employment. With little responsibilities other than to myself I started to order parts so I could finally put together some circuits at home. Without the time limits of the classroom.

    Here is a list of the first parts I ordered...Resistors, capacitors, 555s, 4017s, potentiometers, LEDs, Pushbutton switches, 1N4148, 2N3904s and 2N3906s.

    I was able to put together numerous circuits with just those components and gaining some confident doing so. Since then I've been seriously been bitten by the ease of ordering components online bug and my component list grows every month. Even to the point that I have some back log in playing around with some of them.

    Now I have an Arduino Uno, Mega, PICkit and just received my OrangePi today. So far I've only been able to play with the Uno for more than that is, testing if the unit wasn't a dud.;)

    But to the point. Playing around with the Arduino pretty much only taught me "some" programming and mostly to tweak other peoples code. Playing around with ICs and discrete components taught me about electricity in the real world...
  10. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    Define "least expensive, leanest version possible of their idea". The fixed setup costs on a production run of one unit are enormous. What if their time is worth more than $1/hour. Define leanest version again. How many hours will it take to design a circuit, make a prototype PCB, build it, rebuild it because of a bug or inferior result.

    An arduino is perfect for cost optimization. I would argue it IS the leanest solution to implement their idea for a on-off solution. The goal is not always to learn electronics. How many people use computers but don't want to learn how they work? Why do you think Arduino's are any different. It is a tool and a reason NOT to learn electrical engineering. That is in the original press releases explaining why the Arduino platform is revolutionary.
  11. Sinus23

    Active Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    Pretty much my rational when I bought mine even though I had nothing set in stone when it came to what to do with it. Other than gaining some familiarity of course.:)
    GopherT likes this.
  12. cmartinez

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    Ok, you got me on the "least expensive" part. It is arguably less expensive to a noobie to use an Arduino, most of the time. But lean is lean, and by that I mean the least amount of discrete components, and also the use of components instead of lines of code. Nothing wrong with code, but most of the time it gets in the way of the learning process, which in electronics is sometimes not linear, like code is.
    I guess it all depends on how deep one wants to get into stuff like this... for instance, I don't grow my own germanium crystals so I can fabricate my own transistors... but it would be of huge personal value if I were ever to learn how to do something like that. I once found a tutorial in youtube of a guy showing how to build your own LCD displays at home!
    But there's a limit to everything, and a do-everything-yourself attitude won't get you too far either.
    Sinus23 and GopherT like this.
  13. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
    Different courses for different horses.

    I have a couple of Arduinos, but hardly ever get one out of the box; they seem like overkill for many projects. I have a PICkit 2 and a PICkit3 and a box full of PICs. I have built a few circuits that include PICs, but I find they are too difficult to set up to be much fun. I have a TI launchpad and went through the tutorial for it. I have an RPi and currently am using it as a controller for a microscope camera; it's a very powerful platform, but overkill for most projects. I have settled on PICAXE ucs; they require bare metal programming, use PICs with bootloader code, and are just the right mix of power and ease of use for my temperament.

    Years ago, when I first started in ham radio, a lot of the gear was homebrew, and those who bought everything were called "appliance" operators. Now, almost all hams are "appliance" operators when it comes to their main gear. A quick glance inside a modern transceiver is enough to convince most of us that we could never build one that was even remotely comparable in features and performance. I liken those who never know anything beyond Arduinos and their ilk as "appliance" programmers. It's not for me, but it hits the sweet spot for a lot of people.
    Sinus23, OBW0549 and GopherT like this.
  14. dannyf

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2015
    a 16-bit voltage-controlled pwm generator / half bridge driver (capable of 0 - 100% duty cycle), all in its glories:

    At some point, it becomes silly NOT to use a mcu.
  15. crutschow


    Mar 14, 2008
    No one has mentioned that the "simplicity" of using a micro presumes you understand how a micro works and know how to code one.
    Perhaps that's trivial to learn for some people but it certainly wasn't for me.
    And C is like learning a cryptic foreign language (my favorite take on that is that it was actually an April Fool's Joke.)
    So I think the effort needed to understand how a micro works and learning a computer language, as well as buying and learning to use the programmer and it's operating environment, needs to be factored in before it is suggested to a newbie that he use a micro for the job. ;)
  16. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
    What's an Arduino?

    Sounds like a wine name or food or something. Does it taste good?

  17. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    Umm, did you check the date of that article?
  18. OBW0549

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Or some exotic subatomic particle recently discovered by that wondrous machine the BBC once referred to as the "Large Hardon Colliider."
  19. OBW0549

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Very true, and a good point; there's a hefty learning curve involved with microcontrollers. For some, learning to use micros is relatively painless and for others, it's a major challenge.

    However, the same could be said-- and far more frequently, I think-- about the effort needed to learn circuit theory, especially analog circuit design in all its complexity and subtlety. What for you and me has become very easy, through years of practice and study, is often utterly incomprehensible to beginners, with many of them struggling to wrap their minds around even the most basic DC circuit theory. We see that here on AAC, and even more on the Arduino forums, with many beginners, who may be at least somewhat fluent with coding, having enormous difficulties with even simple μC interfacing tasks like driving LEDs or relays or designing simple opamp circuits to amplify and/or offset a sensor output so it can be read by their μC's ADC. Likewise, with beginners who are attempting non-μC design tasks. Electronics ain't easy.

    My own opinion is that fluency with microcontrollers and a solid understanding of circuit theory and electronic design practice are both necessary if one is to get very far in electronics.

    I'm with you there. While I can use C if I absolutely have to, and provided the task is a relatively simple one, I much prefer to work in assembly language.
    cmartinez likes this.
  20. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    I felt tempted to post a reply - I could be champion of necroposting.