Operated by a hand crank.
This notation is designed to be relatively easy to write. This is achieved by not drawing ultra complex ASCII art boxes of every component. It would be slightly more readable if we did that, but prioritizing the writer here.
Two wires are only joined if + is given. E.g. the following two wires are not joined:
but the following are:
Simple symmetric components:
  • -, + and |: wire
  • AC: AC source. Parameters:
    • Hz: frequency
    • V: peak voltage
    If only one side is given, the other is assumed to be at a ground G.
  • C: capacitor
  • G: ground. Often used together with DC, e.g.:
    means applying a voltage of 10 V across a 10 Ohm resistor, which would lead to a current of 1 A
  • L: inductor
  • MICROPHONE. As a multi-letter symmetric component, you can connect the two wires anywhere, e.g.
  • R: resistor
  • SQUID: SQUID device
  • X: Josephson junction
Asymmetric components have multiple letters indicating different ports. The capital letter indicates the device, and lower case letters the ports. The wires then go into the ports:
  • D: diode
    • a: anode (where electrons can come in from)
    • c: cathode
    Sample usage in a circuit:
    Can also be used vertically like aany other circuit:
    We can also change the port order, the device is still the same due to capital D:
  • DC DC source. Ports:
    • p: positive
    • n: negative
    E.g. a 10 V source with a 10 Ohm resistor would be:
    |              |
    If only one side is given, the other is assumed to be at a the ground G. We can also omit p and m in that case and assume that p is the one used, e.g. the above would be equivalent to:
    If the voltage is not given, it is assumed to be a potentiometer.
  • T: transistor. The ports are sgTd:
    • s: source
    • g: gate
    • d: gate
    Sample usage in a circuit:
    All the following are also equivalent:
  • I: electric current source. Ports:
    • s: electron source
    • d: electron destination
  • V: Voltmeter. Ports:
    • p: positive
    • n: negative
    If we don't need to specify explicit positive and negative sides, we can just use:
    without any ports. This is notably often the case for AC circuits.
    Optionaly, we can also add the sides as in:
Numbers characterizing components are put just next to each component with an underscore. When there is only one parameter, standard units are assumed, e.g.:
|     |
C_1p  R_2k
|     |
  • a capacitor with 1 pico Faraday
  • a resistor with 2 k Ohms
Micro is denoted as u.
Wires can just freely come in and out of specs of a component, they are then just connected to the component, e.g.:
means applying a voltage of 10 V across a 10 Ohm resistor, which would lead to a current of 1 A
If a component has more than two parameters, units are used to distinguish them when possible, e.g.:
means an AC source with:
Video 1.
Open Circuits book interview by CuriousMarc (2022)
. Source.
Main implementations: the same as electronic switches: vacuum tubes in the past, and transistors in the second half of the 20th century.
Video 1.
How to make an LM386 audio amplifier circuit by Afrotechmods (2017)
. Source. Builds the circuit on a breadboard from minimal components, including one discrete transistor. Then plays music from phone through headset cables into a speaker.
The fundamental intuition about capacitors is that they never let electrons through.
They can only absorb electrons up to a certain point, but then the pushback becomes too strong, and current stops.
Therefore, they cannot conduct direct current long term.
For alternating current however, things are different, because in alternating current, electrons are just jiggling back and forward a little bit around a center point. So you can send alternating current power across a capacitor.
The key equation that relates Voltage to electric current in the capacitor is:
So if a voltage Heavyside step function is applied what happens is:
  • the capacitor fills up instantly with an infinite current
  • the current then stops instantly
More realistically, one may consider the behaviour or the series RC circuit to see what happens without infinities when a capacitor is involved as in the step response of the series RC circuit.
Video 1.
Finding Capacitance with an Oscilloscope by Jacob Watts (2020)
. Source. Good experiment.
This is what happens when you apply a step voltage to a series RC circuit: TODO graph.
Ideally can be thought of as a one-way ticket gate that only lets electrons go in one direction with zero resistance! Real devices do have imperfections however, so there is some resistance.
First they were made out of vacuum tubes, but later semiconductor diodes were invented and became much more widespread.
Figure 1. . Source. This image shows well how the diode is only an approximation of the ideal one way device. Notably, there is this non-ideal voltage drop across the device, which can be modelled as constant. It is however an exponential in fact.
Video 1.
Diodes Explained by The Engineering Mindset (2020)
. Source. Good video:
The first diodes. These were apparently incredibly unreliable, especially for portable radios, as you had to randomly search for the best contact point you could find in a random polycrystalline material!!
And also quality was highly dependant on where the material was sourced from as that affected the impurities present in the material. Later this was understood to be an issue of doping.
It was so unreliable that vacuum tube diodes overtook them in many applications, even though crystal detectors are actually semiconductor diodes, which eventually won over!
For a long time, before artificial semiconductors kicked in, people just didn't know the underlying physical working principle of these detectors. What I cannot create, I do not understand basically.
This was the first generation of commercially successful radios.
It uses a crystal detector as its diode, which is a crucial element of the radio, thus its name.
They were superseded by transistor radios, which were much more reliable, portable and could amplify the signal received.
Video 1.
How a Crystal radio Works by RimstarOrg
. Source.
GPIO generally only supports discrete outputs.
But for some types of hardware, like LEDs and some motors, the system has some inertia, and if you switch on and off fast enough, you get a result similar to having an intermediate voltage.
So with pulse width modulation we can fake analog output from digital output in a good enough manner.
Notably used to connect:
You can buy large sets of them in combitation of male/male, male/female, female/female. Male/male is perhaps the most important
Video 1.
Making Jumper Wires by PCBurn! (2018)
. Source.
These often come pre-soldered on devboards, e.g. and allow for easy access to GPIO pins. E.g. they're present on the Raspberry Pi 2.
Why would someone ever sell a devboard without them pre-soldered!
Figure 1.
6x1 pin header
. Source.
Figure 2.
Underside of a Raspberry Pi 2
. Source. At the top of this image we can clearly see how the usually pre-soldered pin header connectors go through the PCB and are soldered on both sides.
Allows you to connect two adjacent pins of a pin header. Sometimes used as a hardware configuration interface!
Something where DC voltage comes in, and a periodic voltage comes out.
Video 1.
Oscillators: RC, LC, Crystal by GreatScott! (2015)
. Source. Good video. Contains actual breadboard experiments on oscilloscope and circuit diagrams
Oscillator made of an LC circuit.
Video 1.
From Raw Crystal to Crystal oscillator
. Source. by United States Army Signal Corps (1943)
Although transistors were revolutionary, it is fun to note that they were just "way cheaper and more reliable and smaller" versions of exactly the main functions that a vacuum tube could achieve
The first working one in 1947 by John Bardeen and walter Brattain in Bell Labs Murray Hill.
People had already patented a lot of stuff before without being able to make them work. Nonsense.
As the name suggests, this is not very sturdy, and was quickly replaced by bipolar junction transistor.
As of 2020, not used anymore in logic gates, but still used in amplifiers.
Video 1.
A Perfect Electronics Bench? by Keysight (2021)
. Source.
Video 1.
FNIRSI 1014D review by Kerry Wong (2022)
. Source. One of the cheapest oscilloscopes available at the time.
Video 1.
DIY Oscilloscope Kit (20$) VS Regular DS Oscilloscope (400$) by Great Scott (2016)
. Source.
Video 2.
Hantek 6022BE Review by Adrian's Digital Basement (2022)
. Source.
By Andy Haas, an experimental particle physics professor: as.nyu.edu/content/nyu-as/as/faculty/andy-haas.html What an awesome dude!
Video 1.
Haasoscope prototype, 2 4-channel boards
. Source.
899 USD as of 2022, takes a year to ship as they gather up a lot of orders before producing.
Sounds so cool, especially the multi functionality. Shame so expensive.
Video 1.
ThunderScope presentation for Hackaday Prize (2021)
. Source.
They do seem to have been very innovative, and have had a very good work culture. They also had a huge impact on the Silicon Valley startup scene.
Some products they are known for:
Video 1.
The decline of HP by Company Man (2022)
. Source.
Video 2.
HP Origins promotional documentary by HP (2006)
. Source. A bit too star eyed, but gives some good ideas.
In a way, Agilent represents the most grassroots electronics parts of HP from before they became overly invested in laptops and fell.
They spun out the electronics part as Keysight in 2014, becoming life science only.
This is the cutest product name ever.
Since 1992, Mr. SQUID has been the standard educational demonstration system for undergraduate physics lab courses.
YBCO device, runs on liquid nitrogen.
This is how electronic circuits are normally prototyped!
Once you validate them like this, the next step is usually to move on to printed circuit boards for more reliable production setups.
Breadboards are a thing of beauty and wonder.
Figure 1. . Source. Predecessors to breadboards from where the name came. A thing of beauty, so vintage. You could actually write stuff on those with a pencil!
Video 1.
Breadboards - Trash or Treasure? by Keysight (2020)
. Source.
Bluetooth support: not enough RAM for it, though in principle its chip/transceiver could support it! microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/v1.0.1/ble.html
Supported editors: microbit.org/code/
MicroPython web editor and compiler: python.microbit.org/v/2
Everything in this section is tested on the Micro Bit v1 from Micro Bit v1 unless otherwise noted.
Microbit simulator using some Microsoft framework.
TODO the Python code from there does not seem to run on the microbit via uflash, because it is not MicroPython.
forum.makecode.com/t/help-understanding-local-build-options/6130 asks how to compile locally and suggests it is possible. Seems to require Yotta, so presumably compiles?
Presumably this is because Microsoft ported their MakeCode thing to the MicroBit, and the Micro Bit foundation accepted them.
E.g. there toggling a LED:
led.toggle(0, 0)
but the code that works locally is a completely differently named API set_pixel:
microbit.display.set_pixel(0, 0, )
Microsoft going all in on adopt extend extinguish from an early age!
When plugged into Ubuntu 22.04 via the USB Micro-B the Micro Bit mounts as:
for username ciro.
Loading the program is done by simply copying a .hex binary into the image e.g. with:
cp ~/Downloads/microbit_program.hex /media/$USER/MICROBIT/
The file name does not matter, only the .hex extension.
The back power light flashes while upload is happening.
Flashing takes about 10-15 seconds for the 1.8 MB scroll display hello world from microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/v1.0.1/tutorials/hello.html:
from microbit import *
display.scroll("Hello, World!")
and the program starts executing immediately after flash ends.
You can restart the program by clicking the reset button near the USB. When you push down the program dies, and it restarts as soon as you release the button.
To use a prebuilt firmware, you can just use uflash, tested on Ubuntu 22.04:
git clone https://github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython
cd micropython
git checkout 7fc33d13b31a915cbe90dc5d515c6337b5fa1660
uflash examples/led_dance.py
What that does is:
  • convert the MicroPython code to bytecode
  • join it up with a prebuilt firmware that ships with uflash which contains the MicroPython interpreter
  • flashes that
To build your own firmware see:
TODO didn't manage from source Ubuntu 22.04, their setup bitrotted way too fast... it's shameful even. Until I gave up and went for the magic Docker of + github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython, and it bloody worked:
git clone https://github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython
cd micropython
git checkout 7fc33d13b31a915cbe90dc5d515c6337b5fa1660
docker pull ghcr.io/carlosperate/microbit-toolchain:latest
docker run -v $(pwd):/home --rm ghcr.io/carlosperate/microbit-toolchain:latest yt target bbc-microbit-classic-gcc-nosd@https://github.com/lancaster-university/yotta-target-bbc-microbit-classic-gcc-nosd
docker run -v $(pwd):/home --rm ghcr.io/carlosperate/microbit-toolchain:latest make all

# Build one.
tools/makecombinedhex.py build/firmware.hex examples/counter.py -o build/counter.hex
cp build/counter.hex "/media/$USER/MICROBIT/"

# Build all.
for f in examples/*; do b="$(basename "$f")"; echo $b; tools/makecombinedhex.py build/firmware.hex "$f" -o "build/${b%.py}.hex"; done
The pre-Docker attempts:
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:team-gcc-arm-embedded
sudo apt update
sudo apt install gcc-arm-embedded
sudo apt install cmake ninja-build srecord libssl-dev

# Rust required for some Yotta component, OMG.
sudo snap install rustup
rustup default 1.64.0

python3 -m pip install yotta
The line:
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:team-gcc-arm-embedded
E: The repository 'https://ppa.launchpadcontent.net/team-gcc-arm-embedded/ppa/ubuntu jammy Release' does not have a Release file.
N: Updating from such a repository can't be done securely, and is therefore disabled by default.
N: See apt-secure(8) manpage for repository creation and user configuration details.
and then the update/sudo apt-get install gcc-arm-embedded fails, bibliography:
Attempting to install Yotta:
sudo -H pip3 install yotta
python3 -m pip install --user yotta
was failing with:
Exception: Version mismatch: this is the 'cffi' package version 1.15.1, located in '/tmp/pip-build-env-dinhie_9/overlay/local/lib/python3.10/dist-packages/cffi/api.py'.  When we import the top-level '_cffi_backend' extension module, we get version 1.15.0, located in '/usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/_cffi_backend.cpython-310-x86_64-linux-gnu.so'.  The two versions should be equal; check your installation.
python3 -m pip install --user cffi==1.15.1
did not help. Bibliography:
From a clean virtualenv, it appears to move further, and then fails at:
Building wheel for cmsis-pack-manager (pyproject.toml) ... error
error: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: 'cargo'
So we install Rust and try again, OMG:
sudo snap install rustup
rustup default stable
which at the time of writing was rustc 1.64.0, and then OMG, it worked!! We have the yt command.
However, it is still broken, e.g.:
git clone https://github.com/lancaster-university/microbit-samples
cd microbit-samples
git checkout 285f9acfb54fce2381339164b6fe5c1a7ebd39d5
cp source/examples/invaders/* source
yt clean
yt build
blows up:
annot import name 'soft_unicode' from 'markupsafe'
Official support is abysmal, very focused on MicroPython and their graphical UI.
The setup impossible to achieve as it requires setting up the Yotta, just like the impossible to setup Compile MicroPython code for Micro Bit locally on Ubuntu 22.04 with your own firmware setup.
So we just use github.com/lancaster-university/microbit-samples + github.com/carlosperate/docker-microbit-toolchain:
docker pull ghcr.io/carlosperate/microbit-toolchain:latest
git clone https://github.com/lancaster-university/microbit-samples
cd microbit-samples
git checkout 285f9acfb54fce2381339164b6fe5c1a7ebd39d5

# Select a sample, builds one at a time. The default one is the hello world.
cp source/examples/hello-world/* source

# Build and flash.
docker run -v $(pwd):/home --rm ghcr.io/carlosperate/microbit-toolchain:latest yotta build
cp build/bbc-microbit-classic-gcc/source/microbit-samples-combined.hex "/media/$USER/MICROBIT/"
.hex file size for the hello world was 447 kB, much better than the MicroPython hello world downloaded from the website which was about 1.8 MB!
If you try it again for a second time from a clean tree, it fails with:
warning: github rate limit for anonymous requests exceeded: you must log in
presumably because after Yotta died it started using GitHub as a registry... sad. When will people learn. Apparently we were at 5000 API calls per hour. But if you don't clean the tree, you will be just fine.

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