Switching: from Relays to Bipolar Junction Transistors

How many remote controls do you have in your home? Don’t you wish all these things were better integrated somehow, or that you could add remote control functionality to a random device? It’s a common starting point for a project, and a good learning experience for beginners.

A common solution we’ve seen applied is to connect a relay in parallel to all the buttons we want to press. When the relay is triggered, for example by your choice of microcontroller, it gets treated as a button press. While it does work, relays are not really the ideal solution for the very low current loads that we’re dealing with in these situations.

As it turns out, there are a few simple ways to solve this problem. In this article, we’re going to focus on using common bipolar junction transistors instead of relays to replace physical switches. In short, how to add transistors to existing electronics to control them in new ways.

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Breadboarding RAM

If you’ve ever wanted to dive in and take a look at how memory hardware is implemented here is a good example of how to implement some latching circuits with ether BJT or CMOS transistors. BJTs require biasing resistors which increases the complexity and power consumption when compared to CMOS. If power consumption isn’t an issue you could certainly make some really fast logic.

Most modern on chip RAM is made using SRAM because it only takes six transistors to implement(vs eight) and is pretty fast. When it comes to density DRAM can get one bit of storage by using a single transistor and capacitor(putting the capacitor underneath he transistor can save even more space). All that said, latches and flip flops are still a very useful (and common) tool when working with digital circuits.