I'm Lonnie, I run this little blog. Let me tell you a little about myself.
1973 - I'm born
1979 - We get the Atari 2600
1983 - We get the ColecoVision
1984 - I take electronics and use the Radio Shack Science Fair 200 in 1 electronics kit.
1984 - My first computer class. I learn basic on the Apple II in 6th grade.
1985 - We get our first computer at home - the Commodore 128. I start using dial up BBS's with my 300 bps modem.
1989 - We get the Commodore Amiga and upgrade to a 1200 baud dial up modem.
1991 - I go into the Air Force and learn basic electronic theory and all about multiplexers and Microwave RF radio systems. I spend my career in the Air Force never touching a soldering iron once I leave the Basic Electronics course. We didn't repair to the component level!
1994 - I buy my first IBM compatible machine - a 60 MHz Pentium 1 machine with 8 Megabytes of RAM and ~ 420MB hard drive. I paid around $2500 for this Packard Bell beast.
2000 - I briefly spark an interest in electronics and build the TRaCY robot from The Robotics Club of Yahoo.
2002 - I build my first of many computers.
2011 - I buy my first Arduino
2012 - I design and build Clusterbot, a simple autonomous robot.
2012 - I design and build the Lite Brite LED clock.
I didn't become an electronics hobbyist until December of 2011. I was trying to think of something cool to buy my nine year old daughter for Christmas. We saw some cool videos of things people were building with Lego Mindstorms and she looked a little interested in that. I was a little hesitant to drop $200 plus dollars on a toy there was a good chance she wouldn't be into, so I decided to buy her an electronics kit instead.
While searching for an electronics kit like I had when I was a kid, I happened to find the Arduino, which I knew nothing about. I had never even heard of it. Well, I ended up ordering an Arduino Uno, a few basic components and a soldering iron.
It turns out my daughter doesn't like electronics even a little bit. At least not yet. It also turns out that I do. I ended up building a robot using the Arduino, a Tamiya gearbox motor, a Toshiba motor driver, an HC-SR04 and a few other odds and ends. I wrote all the code myself and it worked just fine. It was pretty exciting to build a robot that wasn't just a kit I was following the instructions from.
After that, life got in the way and I let dust start gathering on the electronics gear for a few months.
At the beginning of this summer, a good friend asked me if I would mentor his son in his senior project at school. After some guidance and looking around Instructables.com, his son decided he wanted to build a 4X4X4 LED cube for his project. This kid knew nothing about electronics or programming when we started.
Several work sessions spread out through the summer later, I had taught him basics of electronics, how to solder, use a multimeter and even program the Arduino microcontroller - it was more a function of this kid being incredibly sharp than me being a good teacher, but it was still an incredibly fulfilling experience for me. In the process, I also learned a lot.
After our last build session, I was sitting at the desk where we were working, picking up the extra LED's that were left over, wondering what I would do with them. It was at that moment that my 3 year old daughter walked in the room holding a Lite Brite. I noticed the Lite Brite pegs looked a lot like the LED's I was picking up.
That was the birth of the Lite Brite LED clock. I quickly envisioned how I would build the clock, even though I had never built or programmed a clock before in my life. After a few days, I was 100% successful. I had a working clock, just like I had envisioned it. A little bit of knowledge, the experience I gained helping my son's friend (I used the same multiplexing scheme as the cube), and some awesome development tools allowed me to bring the project from an idea to reality in a short time.
I was pretty stoked about the build, including the entire time I was working on the clock. My daughter joined in, recording my progress with camera and video for me. Her and I spent two days straight working on the project. I had a feeling it was something special.
After I finished the clock, I posted it on Instructables.com. The editors there featured it on the front page. A few other blogs ended up posting articles about the clock. Finally, I got an email from an editor at Make Magazine, offering me money to write a how-to article for the next issue.
So, I am hooked on electronics now. It feels like I should have always been. The maker movement has certainly helped me along. Sites like Instructables, Adafruit and the EEVblog have been very helpful and inspirational. The support internet forums provide the electronic hobbyist now is incredible too. Add to that the amazing tool that is the Arduino microprocessor and it is easy for those of us that are interested to get into the hobby now.
This blog used to be for computer enthusiasts, but it had no real direction. Now the direction is clear. I will simply cover my journey as an electronics hobbyists. I hope a few people will find it interesting.
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