Meet the Perfect
by Fred Eady
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The advent of the solderless breadboard brought about the decline of
breadboarding circuitry using point-to-point techniques that involved perfboard,
wire, and solder. Over time, solderless breadboards found their way onto
printed circuit boards (PCBs), acting as universal grazing areas for plug-in
connections and leaded electronic components.
Before moving on to SMT devices and specialized PCBs, I used solderless breadboards to permanently support often used circuit modules such as RS-232 interfaces and seven-segment displays. Previous to
becoming a full-time author, I worked as a design consultant
for a telephone company. I kept a work-in-progress solderless
breadboard that morphed differing telephony circuit
configurations as the customer’s requirements changed. After
becoming a writer, many a design was tested on a solderless
breadboard before being committed to a PCB.
As useful as solderless breadboards are, when you get
right down to it they are dumber than rocks. After you plant
all of the necessary electronic components on a solderless
breadboard, you still need to supply power externally and
electrically attach the necessary debugging and monitoring
equipment. Wait. You’re not done. Unless your application
only blinks LEDs, you’ll most likely need to write a companion
test application to interface to your solderless circuit. That
52 SERVO 01.2012
PHOTO 1. This is just another solderless breadboard … until
you turn it over.
average test application will need to provide stimulus to your
solderless circuit and react to the applied stimulus in a
predetermined manner. If your circuit fails to respond as
expected, that logic probe, voltmeter, oscilloscope, and signal
generator you have standing by may have to be called into
In the days of the dinosaur, the oscilloscope was the size
of a Volkswagen and all of that stimulus circuitry would be
sharing space on the plains of the solderless breadboard. The
crude test application would be a hastily thrown together
Visual Basic application that communicated with the
solderless circuit serially or via a specialized printer port digital
Dinosaurs no longer roam in large numbers.
Oscilloscopes aren’t built around a cathode ray tube. And,
.NET and Arduino are the new programming paradigms. This
is 2012 and the solderless breadboard has finally become an
intelligent part of the electronic hardware design process.
PHOTO 2. The Digilent Electronics Explorer is designed to
be an analog/digital instrument package. As far as the
PIC18F46J13 is concerned, the Explorer is a bunch of LEDs
and pushbuttons. It is also the PIC18F46J13's power
supply. We can even power a PICkit3 debugger from the
Explorer's fixed supply.