Sidney Darlington

In a field where components and systems are often known by sterile strings of characters that manufacturers assign or by cutesy names that are clearly products of the marketing department and their focus groups, having your name attached to an innovation is rare. Rarer still is the case where the mere mention of an otherwise obscure inventor’s name brings up a complete schematic in the listener’s mind.

Given how rarely such an honor is bestowed, we’d be forgiven to think that Sidney Darlington’s only contribution to electronics is the paired transistor he invented in the 1950s that bears his name to this day. His long career yielded so much more, from network synthesis theory to rocket guidance systems that would eventually take us to the Moon. The irony is that the Darlington pair that made his name known to generations of engineers and hobbyists was almost an afterthought, developed after a weekend of tinkering.

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Animating an LED matrix without a microcontroller

[Konstantin] had some extra 27C256 EPROMS lying around and decided to use them to animate an 8×8 LED matrix. He’s not only using them to store data, but driving the display with them as well. The chip holds 32 kilobytes of data which equates to 4096 frames of animation. A 32 kHz clock circuit works with some ripple counters to scroll through each byte of stored data, turning on the columns while sinking the proper row. Of course current protection is a must so there is a ULN2308A darlington driver and some 2N2907 transistors at work, but you won’t find a programmable microcontroller. Neat!

Yep, you read that right. The picture above shows an EPROM chip that requires a UV light source to erase the data.

[Thanks Kopfkopfkopfaffe]

Simple touch sensor and other lessons

[HankDavis] sent along this link to a video showing a tutorial on how to make touch sensors using a “darlington pair”. In the video we are taken through the idea and how we’re going to construct it.  [Thad]explains in detail how this works in simple terms and illustrates it clearly. Unfortunately they don’t show an actual constructed system, but this is so simple you could toss it together quickly and see for yourself. This is a great lesson on how to get a simple touch sensor into your projects. This video appears to be one of a series of class visuals, and you can find several others on youtube under this account.

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Beginner concepts: LPT instead of uC

We see it all the time, a post based on an Arduino board with multiple comments calling it overkill. How exactly should you control your homemade peripherals if you’re not using a microcontroller (uC)? [JKAbrams] and [Tim Gremalm] answered that question with this printer port (LPT) adapter. They wanted an indicator light when someone in an IRC room was talking to them. By connecting a blue rotating light through a relay to the output of this fob they’ve done just that, but there’s room for much more.

The adapter uses a Darlington transistor array IC to protect the computer. A resistor between the LPT and the base pin on the chip ensures that current flow will be well within the safe levels for the computer. The Darlington transistor amplifies the output using an external power supply in order to drive heavier loads.

If you want a deeper understanding of the printer port check out this tutorial. LPT ports are becoming less common and that’s why so many projects are migrating over to USB (plus there’s no need for external power with most USB connected projects) but if you’ve got one, it’s probably not being used for anything else.