Starting advice from someone that knows what they are doing...

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Hazarath, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. Hazarath

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    I was introduced to doing cool stuff with the old school Radio Shack Electronic Projects Lab kits. I must of had like, 5 of them. Including the big one that sadly got water damaged, and I was wanting to pick up the hobby again...

    Sadly, I am unemployed, and get money now and then that I can spare for disposable things, like hobbies... So, my question, is... what would you recommend as far as components to get that I could do experiments with so I can get back into the swing of things, but not cost a small fortune, and get the biggest bang for my buck? I want to do almost all that those kits offered. I want the lights, sounds, whatever I can get on the cheap.

    I would assume the projects they had in there with FM transmitters would be annoying, or maybe not?

    I am ok with reading schematics, and I am sure someone here would offer a link or several that could be useful for basic to advanced circuits I could try out.

    I recently picked up the Radio Shack Breadboard [Cat. No. 276-001] and the breadboard wire kit, and I picked up a little baggie full of assorted LEDs.

    I do have some random old electronics I could gut out, maybe get a few resistors, capacitors, etc... but, as you prolly guessed, I'd prefer something that has viable leads on them to use for projects, so, anything that comes in kits, like, the 20 LEDs I got for like, $5 would be awesome.

    I am seeing 555 often, seems I should get one or two of those timer circuits.

    I did gut some transistors I wanna try for randomness, but, the schematics seem to call for particular transistors, so, no idea what to do with those. Even more scared to go buy them individually, and come to find out that the next project I could try would need a totally different one.

    So, yeah. Any help would be greatly appreciated, and I look forward to doing something soon.

    Thanks for reading!
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  2. Alec_t

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 17, 2013
    Welcome to the forum :).
    Recommended, especially if you're on a tight budget.
    If you can get hold of a resistor kit (sets of different values) cheaply that will be useful.
    Some circuits are fussy, but many are not so can probably use any transistor of appropriate polarity that you have. It helps to have some low power, some higher power types available.
  3. Mike33

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 4, 2005
    +1 on the resistor kit, best money you'll ever spend - 1/4watt type....and if you can swing it, get a capacitor kit. Both you can find cheap on Ebay. Look for poly caps rated from .001uF to at least .1, .5 uF. They will come in a wide range of values. If you see a pack of ceramic caps at Radio Shack, you can grab them, too - they can be useful for bypassing, etc.

    Wire from old PCs or what have you, and alligator clips to make jumpers! A 9V battery clip with alligator clips on it to power your stuff (get red and black rubber covers so you don't confuse + and - ).

    Along with reading the Ebooks on this forum, and elsewhere, here are a bunch of projects that are pretty easy and fun:

    Like Alec said, a handful of basic transistors will get you thru these: 2N3904, 2N3906 (pnp, keep them separate!), 2N2222/BC547 being good ones to start with. Can be had at Mouser or other suppliers for about 20 cents (US) each.

    A bunch of 1N914 (also called 1N4148) silicon diodes are useful.

    A couple of relays might be good to have, say with 5V coil.

    A couple of potentiometers (pots), B taper, 1K, 10K, 100K, 1Meg

    Yes, a few 555's are great to have, plus a few TL071 and TL072 opamps. A couple of LM386 audio amp chips, they're used in a lot of fun things. Scrounge an old small speaker from a radio or whatever....

    I would try to buy from Mouser, or Newark Electronics, Allied, etc. rather than a local Rat Shack, as they're marked up quite a bit. A 555 can be had for 50 cents to 1.20 if you order online. $4 at RS!

    There are tons of parts you could get, a big wishlist, as I'm sure you know! But these will get you going on projects you can DO right now. The TL07x series opamps are a direct replacement for the old LM741 you'll see around, and are far superior.

    Hope this helps, good luck and happy building!
  4. sirch2

    Senior Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    As others have said having a pack of resistors and capacitors is very handy but if I was on a tight budget I wouldn’t buy much beyond that until I had something specific to build, then buy just the parts for that project. Check ebay first you can’t always get everything on there but when you can it is often the cheapest source but you may have to wait for delivery from the far east.

    A lot of projects use a microcontroller, given that Atmel and PIC MCUs are pretty cheap it may be worth going down this road. The programmers are the expensive part but even these are fairly cheap on ebay. However, once you have an MCU, a programmer and a few other bits and pieces there is a vast range of project you can build and since most of the time you will be writing software, not connecting hardware the on-going cost is very small.
  5. Zerotolerance


    Sep 18, 2011
    Why not just buy another one of those larger project kits and be done with it? Are you holding back on buying one due to finances? If you are wanting to save money and be the most efficient you can be on purchases, I would first figure out what types of projects I am wanting to do. Draw them out then buy the necessary parts for the project at hand.
  6. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    actually, I would sugest you get a decent digital voltmeter first. then you can actually test those bulk bagged resistors and pulls to make sure they are what they claim to be. there are a few things more agravating than a 5k resistor marked 1k, but I cant think of many right now.

    Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2012
    check ebay for transistor, capacitor, etc kits. Many chinese suppliers offer excellent deals and free shipping on various sized lots of commonly used components.

    Here are a few links to get you started.

    Also, if you like I can pass along some of the curriculum from my electronics course in college (2012-2013) which may include some labs to play with (most of which require a scope) and a bunch of theory stuff which may be helpful to you.
  8. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    I've been using my "resistor assortment" for years. So one more vote for that. Also, look around on e-bay for super bright LEDs and get yourself a bag each of several colors. They're very cheap, very bright and very useful for showing the on/off status of stuff on your breadboard. Like when you adjust your 555 oscillator, you can directly see the flashes, or when you divide down the frequency with a 4017 counter IC. My old LEDs I had collected over the years were all VERY anemic compared to modern ones.

    I've had decent luck with e-bay but you'll hear plenty of horror stories here, so buyer beware. You might consider Mouser, Newark or Digi-key for a more reliable source. I think you'll want at least one op-amp (maybe LM358N), a 555 timer, a 4017 counter, a comparator (LM339), and maybe a power MOSFET (I have IRF540N) although you can often find one of those to pull from old electronics also. You'll save on shipping if you can combine all these things in one order.

    I always pull the electrolytic caps out of any old electronics that are being thrown out. Although caps are the most likely component to fail from aging, so you can't trust them, it's still nice having an assortment on hand for breadboard (ie. non-critical) work. You WILL want to buy a number of 0.1µF ceramic caps, since you will use at least one for every IC, as a power decoupling cap.

    Buy the right wire in several colors for your breadboard. I believe that's 22 gauge but don't take my word for it. In addition to the wire, get a nice wire stripper. I used crappy ones for years and it was a headslap moment the first time I used a nice one. I know cash is tight but I would not try to go cheap on a wire stripper ever again.