Retro Gadgets: The 1974 Breadboard Project

It is hard to imagine experimenting with electronics without the ubiquitous solderless breadboard. We are sure you have a few within arm’s reach. The little plastic wonders make it easy to throw together a circuit, try it, and then tear it down again. But, surprisingly, breadboards of that type haven’t always been around, and — for a while — they were also an expensive item. Maybe that’s what motivated [R. G. Cooper] to build Slip-n-Clip — his system for quickly building circuits that he published in a 1974 edition of the magazine Elementary Electronics.

The system isn’t really what you would think of as a breadboard today, but it was effective and certainly cheap to build. The biggest problem? It wasn’t something you’d use with DIP ICs. But in the early 1970s, you might not be building very much with ICs, and the ones you used might be in oddball transistor-like packages. Things were strange in the 70s!

A Brief History of Breadboards

In the very old days, people built radios and such on wooden substrates that were actually bread-cutting boards. That’s where the name came from. It was common to draw a diagram with the physical layout you had in mind, glue it to the board, and use it as a guide for building and troubleshooting. Wood was easy to drill and cut. A nail or a thumbtack would make dandy terminals. Probably the last time we saw that done was about a dozen years ago in Make Magazine. Even then, it was only a novelty — few people still build circuits like this, but you can see how [Colin] did it in the video below.

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