Star Simpson is designing classic circuits from Forrrest Mims' "Getting Started in Electronics"

The talented engineer Star Simpson is designing circuits from in Forrest M. Mims' terrific 1980s electronics books published by Radio Shack. They look great!

Each circuit depicts an original, traced and hand-drawn schematic created by Forrest Mims for his iconic books Getting Started in Electronics, and the Engineers’ Notebook series. Every board includes a description of how it works, in Mims’ handwriting, on the reverse side.

Alongside the schematic is the circuit itself. Paired with the components you need to build up timeless examples such as the Dual-LED Flasher, the Stepped Tone Generator, and the Bargraph Voltage Indicator, each board is carefully designed for easy assembly recreating the wonder of learning how electronics work— whether it’s your first soldering project or your fifty-thousandth.

Here's Star on the O'Reilly Hardware podcast talking about designing beautiful circuit boards:

Notable Replies

  1. If they are from Forrest Mims' books, then she's not "designing classic circuits".

    She appears to be packaging those circuit, but that isn't all that clear.

    The point of the books were simple circuits for people to try at home, either by breadboarding or soldering (might as well start with simple circuits when starting to solder), using parts one could get at Radio Shack.

    But apparently simple is too hard for the masses, so others step in to sell them a Disneyfied experience, while putting a premium on the cost. How can "making" be great if it's really about some profiting off the experience?

    If you aren't doing some level of scrounging, you aren't doing anything. It's when you get to the point of some understanding so you know about scrounging that you've made progress. It has to get beyond hand holding. There are no exotic parts in those books, so take apart the VCR for some switches, motors, LEDs and generic transistors. Maybe you'll have to look elsewhere for the opamps and 555 timers. But the handholding of the "maker movement" is a liability, all those detailed parts lists and photos instead of conveying understanding.

  2. Not everyone is you. It's entirely appropriate to offer different levels of complexity for different people with different skill sets, priorities and interest levels. One size does not fit all.

  3. stars says:

    aw thanks :slight_smile:

  4. stars says:

    Hi Michael!

    I think the confusion here comes from the fact that I'm calling the series "Circuit Classics" which comprises printed circuit boards that I have designed.

    My goal in building these was to create the experience I wish I'd had when I was first learning to build electronics when I was 14. Breadboards are useful tools, but I find they tend to be confusing for beginners, and you can't keep your first work enshrined forever on a breadboard, since you'll probably want to reuse it for something else. Additionally, as Radio Shack leaves the communities it once served, it's harder than ever to get access to those basic tools (as I did.)

    That said, I hope I've solved some frustrations people while creating something beautiful, iconic and well designed that does help with developing an understanding. For example, the copper traces connecting components are highlit in white silkscreen to replicate what it was like for me, holding Good Old Green boards up to lamps to see how everything was connected. The point here is to give people a great first experience with hardware.

    And, to be clear — I'm all in favor of scrounging for parts! Love that. Have done so for many hours myself. Hopefully this way even more people will be introduced to building hardware/electronics and can learn to love it as much as you do too.

  5. stars says:

    I must know you! But I'm not having an easy time placing you by your username. Any hints?

Continue the discussion

7 more replies