You Wanna Be A Tinkerer, Eh?

So, you are interested in hobby electronics but don’t know where to start?  It might seem scary diving into something you are not familiar with.  I thought the same thing a few years ago when I started in electronics.  But, as I started learning about electronics and the awesome things you can do, I realized tinkering is not only fun, but it can also be very rewarding… especially the first time you make an LED light up.

To get started in hobby electronics, you will need a few things to help you along the path of creating your great invention.  This is part 1 of a...Umm…I’m not sure how many part series.


I learned hobby electronics hands-on, and the best way to do it is with making actual circuits.  To do that, you will need a bread board.  A bread board is a solderless prototyping board which allows you to place components on it, connect them together with wires, and power them.    Why do they call it a bread board you ask?  Well, back in the day, before my time, people used to actually use wooden bread boards to mount their circuits.  Almost all people who make electronics use bread boards for prototyping projects.  What makes a bread board so awesome is that you can use it to make a project, but then take it apart and make another.

Bread Board Layout
Click to enlarge

A bread boad is divided into segments.  There are vertical segments where each individual column is connected together.  There will be 5 sockets connected together in each column.  There are also horizontal segments which are groups of 5.  The horizontal segments are used for power and ground for your project.  These are also connected together horizontally.  You will also notice an empty space in the middle of the bread board.  This seperates the top of the bread board from the bottom.  The seperation is perfect for placing integrated circuits (ICs) onto the bread board.  Components for your project are hand pressed into the vertical sockets, and then wires are used to connect them all together to make your project.  You can use a bread board to make simple projects like this one:

Simple Bread Board Layout

Or complex like this one…….Yikes!


Placing components on the bread board is simple, but it must be done correctly.  Take an LED for example.  It has two legs.  One positive leg and one negative leg.  The positive leg will always go to the positive rail on the bread board or to a digital pin on a micro controller such as an Arduino.  The negative leg will always go to negative (ground) on the bread board or ground on a micro controller such as an Arduino.  It is very import to make sure each leg is in its own column on the bread board rather than sharing the same column.  See below.

component placement bread board

There are occasions where you would have more than one component in a single column.  Some examples would be if you needed to connect a resistor or a capacitor to one of the legs of a component in your project.

Now you know what a bread board is, how it is laid out, and how to properly put components on it.

Need a Bread Board? Get one with jumper wires right here!

In the next part of the series we will talk about this new fangled thing called a Multi-Meter….

Happy Tinkering