Finally, A Machine To Organize Resistors!

Perhaps it’s a side-effect of getting older, but it seems like reading the color bands on blue metal-film resistors is harder than it was on the old brown carbon ones. So often the multimeter has to come out to check, but it’s annoying. Thus we rather like [Mike]’s Resistorganizer, which automates the process of keeping track of the components.

At its heart is a fairly simple concept, with the microcontroller reading the value of a resistor by measuring the voltage from a potential divider. The Resistorganizer extends this using an array of analogue multiplexer chips, and is designed to plug into one side of a breadboard with the idea being that each line can have a resistor connected to earth through it. Of course it’s not quite as simple as that, because to maintain a readable range a set of resistors must be switched in and out to form the other half of the divider for different ranges. Thus another multiplexer chip performs that task.

Finally a set of digital multiplexers handles an LED to see which of the many resistors is currently selected through a pair of buttons, and a dot-matrix LCD display delivers the value. We want one already!

Watch Those 1% Resistors

Decades ago, electronic components were not as easy to acquire as they are today. Sure, you could get some things at Radio Shack. But you might not have many choices, and the price would be on the high side. TV repair components were another option, but, again, big bucks. Some places sold surplus parts, which could be cheap. These often came from manufacturing runs where a company bought 10,000 components and made 8,000 products. But today, you can order parts inexpensively and get them on your doorstep in a day or, sometimes, even less. Are these inexpensive parts really any good? [Denki Otaku] likes to find out. In a recent video, he checks out some Amazon-supplied 1% resistors to find out how good they are. You can watch his results below.

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Hackaday Links: March 26, 2023

Sad news in the tech world this week as Intel co-founder Gordon Moore passed away in Hawaii at the age of 94. Along with Robert Noyce in 1968, Moore founded NM Electronics, the company that would later go on to become Intel Corporation and give the world the first commercially available microprocessor, the 4004, in 1971. The four-bit microprocessor would be joined a few years later by the 8008 and 8080, chips that paved the way for the PC revolution to come. Surprisingly, Moore was not an electrical engineer but a chemist, earning his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1954 before his postdoctoral research at the prestigious Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins. He briefly worked alongside Nobel laureate and transistor co-inventor William Shockley before jumping ship with Noyce and others to found Fairchild Semiconductor, which is where he made the observation that integrated circuit component density doubled roughly every two years. This calculation would go on to be known as “Moore’s Law.”

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A close-up view of surface-mount components on a circuit board

Smaller Is Sometimes Better: Why Electronic Components Are So Tiny

Perhaps the second most famous law in electronics after Ohm’s law is Moore’s law: the number of transistors that can be made on an integrated circuit doubles every two years or so. Since the physical size of chips remains roughly the same, this implies that the individual transistors become smaller over time. We’ve come to expect new generations of chips with a smaller feature size to come along at a regular pace, but what exactly is the point of making things smaller? And does smaller always mean better?

Smaller Size Means Better Performance

Over the past century, electronic engineering has improved massively. In the 1920s, a state-of-the-art AM radio contained several vacuum tubes, a few enormous inductors, capacitors and resistors, several dozen meters of wire to act as an antenna, and a big bank of batteries to power the whole thing. Today, you can listen to a dozen music streaming services on a device that fits in your pocket and can do a gazillion more things. But miniaturization is not just done for ease of carrying: it is absolutely necessary to achieve the performance we’ve come to expect of our devices today. Continue reading “Smaller Is Sometimes Better: Why Electronic Components Are So Tiny”

Why Do Resistors Have A Color Code?

One of the first things you learn in electronics is how to identify a resistor’s value. Through-hole resistors have color codes, and that’s generally where beginners begin. But why are they marked like this? Like red stop signs and yellow lines down the middle of the road, it just seems like it has always been that way when, in fact, it hasn’t.

Before the 1920s, components were marked any old way the manufacturer felt like marking them. Then in 1924, 50 radio manufacturers in Chicago formed a trade group. The idea was to share patents among the members. Almost immediately the name changed from “Associated Radio Manufacturers” to the “Radio Manufacturer’s Association” or RMA.  There would be several more name changes over the years until finally, it became the EIA or the Electronic Industries Alliance. The EIA doesn’t actually exist anymore. It exploded into several specific divisions, but that’s another story.

This is the tale of how color bands made their way onto every through-hole resistor from every manufacturer in the world.

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A Very Different ‘Hot Or Not’ Application For Your Phone

Radioactivity stirs up a lot of anxiety, partially because ionizing radiation is undetectable by any of the senses we were born with. Anytime radiation makes the news, there is a surge of people worried about their exposure levels and a lack of quick and accurate answers. Doctors are flooded with calls, detection devices become scarce, and fraudsters swoop in to make a quick buck. Recognizing the need for a better way, researchers are devising methods to measure cumulative exposure experienced by commodity surface mount resistors.

Cumulative exposure is typically tracked by wearing a dosimeter a.k.a. “radiation badge”. It is standard operating procedure for people working with nuclear material to wear them. But in the aftermath of what researchers euphemistically call “a nuclear event” there will be an urgent need to determine exposure for a large number of people who were not wearing dosimeters. Fortunately, many people today do wear personal electronics full of components made with high purity ingredients to tightly controlled tolerances. The resistor is the simplest and most common part, and we can hack a dosimeter with them.

Lab experiments established that SMD resistors will reveal their history of radiation exposure under high heat. Not to the accuracy of established dosimetry techniques, but more than good enough to differentiate people who need immediate medical attention from those who need to be monitored and, hopefully, reassure people in neither of those categories. Today’s technique is a destructive test as it requires removing resistors from the device and heating them well above their maximum temperature, but research is still ongoing in this field of knowledge we hope we’ll never need.

If you prefer to read about SMD resistor hacks with less doomsday, we recently covered their use as a 3D printer’s Z-axis touch sensor. Those who want to stay on the topic can review detection hacks like using a single diode as a Geiger counter and the IoT dosimeter submitted for the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Or we can choose to focus on the bright side of radioactivity with the good things made possible by controlled artificial radioactivity, pioneered by Irène Joliot-Curie.

[via Science News]

The Printed Solution To A Handful Of Resistors

Resistors are an odd bunch. Why would you have 1.0 Ω resistors, then a 1.1 Ω resistor, but there’s no resistors in between 4.7 Ω and 5.6 Ω? This is a question that has been asked for decades, but the answer is actually quite simple. Resistors are manufactured according to their tolerance, not their value. By putting twenty four steps on a logarithmic scale, you get values that, when you take into account the tolerance of each resistor, covers all possible values. Need a 5.0 Ω resistor? Take a meter to some 4.7 Ω and 5.6 Ω resistors. You’ll find one eventually.

As with all resistor collections, the real problem is storage. With SMD resistors you can stack your reels in stolen milk crates, but for through hole resistors, you’ll need some bins. [FerriteGiant] over on Thingiverse did just that. It’s a 3D printable enclosure that takes all of your E24 series resistors.

The design of this resistor storage solution is a bit like those old wooden cases full of index cards at that building where you can rent books for free. Or, if you like, a handy plastic small parts bin from Horror Fraught. The difference here is that these small cases are designed for the standard length of through-hole resistors, and each of the bins will hold a small 3D printed plaque telling you the value in each bin.

While this is a print that will take a lot of time — [FerriteGiant] spent 100 hours printing everything and used two kilograms of filament — it’s not like through-hole resistors are going away anytime soon. This is a project that you can build and have for the rest of your life, safely securing all your resistors in a fantastic box for all time.