AC8VK | Ugly Prototypes – Learn to Love Them

I love prototyping electronics projects – really projects in general – and I hope you do (or will soon). One trap that many Makers, tinkerers and would be citizen scientists get caught in, is holding ourselves to high design and finish standards.

This post was inspired by “What’s All This Pease Prototype Stuff, Anyhow?” – check it out.

In my youth, I had the great fortune of living within walking distance of a library that had the “maker” publications of era: QST, 73 and CQ – in addition to other hobby magazines. Currently we have access to tremendous volumes of build and prototype content via Maker oriented magazines, electronics blogs galore and youtube.

One thing to keep in mind, is that very often we are not seeing raw, first-draft, or one-off project builds. Often these projects were built and then re-built for the magazine photos or for the video. This creates an interesting gap – where many folks are frustrated by their build skills and reluctant to share what they are working on. I myself fall into this trap all of time, especially when in comes to finishing a project with a case.

What I love about the Electronics Design article is that is shows some of the raw, ugly prototypes that were used by electronics design geniuses. The article involves unpacking prototypes from Bill Pease’s lab at Texas Instruments. (Bill Pease is a legend in analog systems design. His career has a long list of innovations associated with it.)

So what does a prototype, for a potential improvement to a classic IC like an LM317 look like? Does an IC prototype have to be laid out on a PCB, or use exotic micro-build techniques? Nope. Check this out:

Photo Credit: ElectronicsDesign.com

Not pretty. Not cased up or ready for some kind of presentation. Not laid out in a perfect grid. This is an example of raw, real, visceral work of electronics. Laid out with a plan but also with plenty of room of exploring alternative designs. While I will never posses the genius insights of the analog engineering team from Texas Instruments – this looks like a prototype technique that I could have fun with!

Three content creators I follow that have great content on prototyping techniques are EEVBlog ,W2AEW, and Andreas Spiess. Here are a few of my favorite prototyping videos of theirs:

Bottom Line: Learn to embrace the imperfect, never make perfect the enemy of the good.

I have tons of ideas for this AC8VK channel here – and I’ll try to take my own advice and get less perfectionist about content and get posting faster! My tendency is to have multiple projects going at the same time and jump between them, one of the ones I have had planned for a while is to take a simple circuit and tryout many different prototyping techniques… Maybe that project’s time has come.

73, Erik / AC8VK

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