Tag Archives: PCB

SmartParallel: laying out the PCB

We’ve been here before, but now it feels like we’re finally getting somewhere. The long-running saga that is my SmartParallel serial-to-parallel dot matrix printer interface is nearing completion. Well, maybe. Having solved (I think) the back-powering problem, and with a prototype that I believe actually works, I’ve decided to call Rev 2.0 of the design schematic the final version. All… Read more »

ATMEGA328PB breakout and prototyping board

The first thing I did when I progressed from Arduinos to programming Atmel 8-bit microcontrollers in the raw was build a programming and prototyping board. [BTW, for once, this is not going to be a multi-post project. I’m putting a bit of background here, but will put full, constantly updated details on the GitHub page.] Arduinos make it easy for… Read more »

DIY joystick for the BBC Micro – part 5 – completed (pretty much)

Having got impatient waiting for my PCBs to arrive from China, I went ahead and cobbled together some interim solutions for this project. And what happens? The PCBs arrive the next day. These are the ‘fixed’ PCBs with the proper footprint for the DB15 connector. And what can I tell you? They work. There is one slight issue that I… Read more »

DIY joystick for the BBC Micro – part 3

Ah well, another valuable lesson learned. The PCBs for my homemade joystick, designed to work with the BBC Micro and Master, should have been very simple. They are very simple. And yet I still managed to screw up. The PCBs for both the main adapter, which plugs directly into the computer, and the connector for the joystick arrived the same… Read more »

SmartParallel: Centronics breakout board

Creating a full breadboard version of the SmartParallel board is turning out not to be a five-minute affair. It has to be done meticulously and methodically if it is to have any value as a prototype. Fitting it all on to a single breadboard is proving challenging too. And that got me thinking. What about replicating at least part of… Read more »

SmartParallel: fixing the PCB layout

Hmm, yes, clearly it wasn’t going to be as easy as all that. While creating the PCB layout for the SmartParallel serial to parallel printer interface, I shuffled a few of the pin assignments on the Atmel ATMEGA328PB microcontroller. The reason was simply to make routing a tad easier. But I had a nagging feeling that this might cause a… Read more »

DIY joystick for the BBC Micro – part 2

In the first part I described the interface between two RJ45 Ethernet sockets and the BBC Micro’s analogue port. The idea behind using RJ45 connectors is that you can use any old Ethernet cable to connect the joysticks. But as these are homemade joysticks, they’ll need RJ45 sockets of their own into which one can plug the other end of… Read more »

DIY joystick for the BBC Micro – part 1

My recent PC build was undertaken partly to allow me to play Elite: Dangerous. There was no small amount of nostalgia involved in that decision: the original Elite was one of the few games I played back in the 8-bit days. But while I can now play the two incarnations of the game – separated by 30-odd years – side-by-side, there… Read more »

SMD soldering coda: KiCad, PCBs and pad sizes

In many ways this is Part 5 of my four-part series on SMD soldering because it addresses problems I had with reflow soldering and TSSOP ICs. I used two TSSOP chips – the TXB0104 and TXB0108 level shifters. Both have pin sizes of 0.3mm and a pin pitch – the distance from the centre of one pin to the centre… Read more »

SMD soldering setup – just add air

It was time to get serious about SMD soldering. And I have to say, I’m really pleased how well this has worked out so far. Now that I’m getting into, and hugely enjoying, PCB design and getting boards fabbed, I can’t escape tackling SMD (or SMT if you prefer) components. And this is a good thing. For a start, an… Read more »

First PCB and more mistakes

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Okay, so I’ve already fessed up to some errors I made with my first-ever PCB. Now I’ve discovered another, and it’s a doozy. It’s also a valuable lesson. I’m waiting for a few bits of kit in order to do surface mount soldering. I’ll be writing more about this when it’s all installed (but as a teaser, it’s a hot… Read more »

A PCB virgin no longer

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Well, it’s happened. My first PCBs have arrived. Now it’s just a matter of summoning the courage to solder on the parts and see if it works. This is the board I designed as part of my Eagle vs KiCad series. It breaks out a Centronics-compatible DB25 socket, with the data lines being driven by a shift register. There’s a… Read more »

PCB design: laying out the board with Eagle

[Eagle vs KiCad part 10] This is going to be a fairly short post because most of what I have to say can be summed up with: Eagle’s board layout program works very well and I had very few problems. It also offered very few features I wanted that KiCad didn’t. To create a board that will sync with your schematic… Read more »

PCB design: laying out the board in KiCad

[Eagle vs KiCad part 9] Once you’ve finished your schematic, creating a board in KiCad involves a number of steps. First, while still in Eeschema, you need to ensure all your components are ‘annotated’. When you drop a component in the schematic, it will be shown with an identifier plus question mark – for example, an IC might have the label… Read more »

PCB design: Eagle vs KiCad – a different direction

[Eagle vs KiCad part 8] So, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve decided to change direction slightly. Rather than continuing with the HexMonitor project to a completed and fabbed board, I’m going with a slightly simpler project. The reasons are two-fold: first, the HexMonitor board is sufficiently complex that I figured it had no chance of working, this being… Read more »