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500-in-1 Electronics Kits? 125

Posted by Cliff
from the more-circuits-than-you-can-shake-a-diode-at dept.
Oneamp asks: "I'm interested in a '500-in-one' type electronics kit. Amazon lists a few, but I've seen some user reviews that maybe they are not all they're cracked up to be. Most of the complaints seem to be of the 'Manual sucks' variety. Nevertheless, I'm sold on the idea. Can any of you, who have had actual experience with any of these kits, recommend a good one?"
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500-in-1 Electronics Kits?

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  • well (Score:2, Insightful)

    If its 500 in 1 that manual would have to be huse to, um, not suck. # 152 [page] starter course manual! # 78 page advanced course manual! # 140 page programming course manual! ------------ 370 / 500 = .74 pages per project.
  • give it a try (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ditto999999999999999 (546129) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:32AM (#18204556)
    Surely the manual won't explain the electronics behind it... but if you want to have fun building stuff, then go ahead a try it.

    I had a few of these as a kid, and they were almost certainly not disappointing... It makes me want to buy one right now! ;)

    Ditto
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neonleonb (723406)
      I had one as a kid, and I was wildly disappointed. I followed the directions in the manual, and made circuits that did things, but I had no idea how anything worked. All the circuits used op-amps and similar crap; even after taking a college electronics class for physics students, I still don't understand how an op-amp works. I know more or less what it's supposed to do, but its guts are a mystery to me.
      • If found this [wikipedia.org] to be really good explaining what it does and, in the end of the article, one example of how it does it.
      • by pe1chl (90186)
        That is the idea of building blocks. You know what external effect they have, but the internal workings are more complex and not necessarily one requires knowledge of the internal workings to use the building block.
        When I was a kid, those kits had only about 20 projects in the box and it contained transistors, resistors, capacitors, etc.
        You would build a blinking light, a morse code tone generator, stuff like that. The most complex kit would build an AM radio.

        With opamps and digital ICs you can build more
      • Op-amps (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2007 @07:04AM (#18205462)
        An op-amp is basically two transistors with the emitters joined together and connected to ground through a large resistance (ideally, a constant-current sink; but bear with me for now). The collectors are connected to supply via load resistors, and one of them is labelled as the output. (The other collector can be used as an inverted output, for connection of another stage to give more gain.) The two bases, with series resistors, are the inputs; the non-inverting input is the base of the transistor not serving the output.

        When a voltage is presented at the inverting input, a current flows into it; the transistor on that side tries to let a larger current through its collector (and thus its emitter). The voltage at its emitter -- the output -- goes down. When a voltage is presented at the non-inverting input, a current flows into the base of the transistor on that side and it tries to let a larger current through. But the shared emitter resistor means that the other transistor can't let so much current through anymore, so the voltage at its collector goes up.

        The reason for using a constant-current sink in the emitter path is that the changing collector-emitter resistances of the transistors can be significant, making the transfer function horribly non-linear unless the device is only working over a very narrow voltage range (much less than the supply voltage). This was never a problem with valves, when the circuit was called a "long-tailed pair" in reference to the large resistance between the two common cathodes and ground. Fortunately, constant-current sources and sinks are not hard to build using transistors, as long as you can find a pair which have similar electrical properties (obviously) and are in good thermal contact (so temperature variations affect both equally). Such conditions are easily met in an IC.
        • by soloport (312487)
          An op-amp is basically two transistors with the emitters joined together and connected to ground through a large resistance (ideally, a constant-current sink; but bear with me for now). The collectors are connected to supply via load resistors, and one of them is labeled as the output.......

          8-|

          Ooh! Look! Shiny banner ad. Ooh! Two posts down is +Funny! Wonder what poster says...
        • by R2.0 (532027)
          Dude - you spent 3 paragraphs giving the "operation", but still didn't say what it DOES. What function does it perform? You sound like the professor in my ECE81 class at Lehigh. He could give us chapter and verse about how a circuit did what it did, but as a mechanical engineer I first wanted to know what the damned thing was used for.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tchuladdiass (174342)
            From what I recal, the purpose of an op amp is to perform math operations on the input voltages (i.e., if one of the inputs is 2 volts, the other is 1.5, the output will be 3.5 volts). They can also be wired up to do substraction, and other operations.

            Now, what good is this? One example is to decode an FM stereo signal. When stereo capabilities was added to FM radio, it had to remain compatible with mono radios. So the idea of broadcasting the left channel on one frequency and the right channel on anoth
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mollymoo (202721)

            Dude - you spent 3 paragraphs giving the "operation", but still didn't say what it DOES. What function does it perform?

            It was in response to somebody saying they knew what it did, but not how it did it...

            But anyway, operational amplifiers amplify the difference in voltage between their two (inverting and on-inverting) inputs. They're largely useless used open-loop, as they have voltage gains of tens of thousands to millions, so even slght noise sends the ouptut swinging about wildly. They are virtuall

          • Two things:

            1) You almost never see one used without negative feedback (which just means there's a way for some or all of its output voltage to find its way back to its inverting input).

            2) By varying the voltage at its output pin, an opamp with negative feedback will do whatever it takes, subject to its DC and AC specs, to make the voltage at its - input equal to whatever voltage is applied to its + input.

            That's 99% of it. No, really.

            Opamps are cool because it's easy to apply negative feedback to them. Neg
        • The op-amp, "operational amplifier", is a transistor device which has two input terminals, the inverting (-) and noninverting (+) inputs, and one output. It also has two voltage supplies, positive and negative. It has the following properties which make it interesting:
          • The input terminals draw very little current, in other words a "high impedance" input -- in most cases you can assume that it is drawing zero current from its inputs. This means preceding stages in an amplifier achieve the highest gain pos
          • by mollymoo (202721)

            There is a "virtual short circuit" across the input terminals. This is to say that the voltage difference between them is very close to zero at all times.

            This is only true of op-amps used with negative feedback. They are usually used with negative feedback of course, but it's still a property of op-amp circuits, not of op-amps themselves.

            • by krog (25663)
              It remains true until the user forces it to be false, such as in comparator operation. But you are of course correct that the virtual short can be defeated.
              • by mollymoo (202721)
                No, it remains false until the user (ther person designing the op-amp circuit) creates the virtual short by introducing negative feedback. If you don't have negative feedback (which is not built-in to general-purpose op-amps), there is nothing to defeat. Try it: Take an op-amp, hook up the power then put 1V on one input and 1.5V on the other (via say 1k resistors, to give whatever magic you think drives the inputs in the absence of feedback a chance). There will be a 0.5V difference between the inputs. Wher
            • Yes. And it's not really a short circuit, because no current flows through it.

              The reason why the input voltage difference is nearly zero when negative feedback is applied, is because the amplifier is operating linearly. So actually, the difference between the two input voltages is the output voltage, divided by the open-loop gain. But the open-loop gain is huge, so the input voltage difference will be tiny.

              Now, there's a thought. If you applied the same inputs to a second op-amp on the same chip (so, hopefully, having the same open-loop gain), would you get a sane voltage at the output, even with no negative feedback?
        • by mkiwi (585287)

          When a voltage is presented at the inverting input, a current flows into it; the transistor on that side tries to let a larger current through its collector (and thus its emitter). The voltage at its emitter -- the output -- goes down. When a voltage is presented at the non-inverting input, a current flows into the base of the transistor on that side and it tries to let a larger current through. But the shared emitter resistor means that the other transistor can't let so much current through anymore, so the

      • Re:give it a try (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mikkeles (698461) on Friday March 02, 2007 @07:07AM (#18205474)
        '... but I had no idea how anything worked....'

        That's sort of like complaining that Tinker Toys or Lego don't come with detailed descriptions of strength of material and molecular dynamics.

        • by bcattwoo (737354)

          '... but I had no idea how anything worked....'

          That's sort of like complaining that Tinker Toys or Lego don't come with detailed descriptions of strength of material and molecular dynamics.

          But even the dullest kid with minimal physical intuition could be creative with those and figure out how to build something other than what was pictured on the box. Try being creative with electronic components you have no understanding of and you will likely either end up with nothing or worse let out the magic smoke.

        • That's not really true. If I show you a few Lego bricks, and maybe snap them together for you once, you basically ought to be able to grasp the concept of putting them together into arbitrary configurations in order to make anything you desire. Strength of material and molecular dynamics are not required in order to understand the key principles of operation, namely, that the bumps on top of the bricks stick into the bottoms of other bricks and they hold themselves together.

          However, if I were to give you a
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MindKata (957167)
        "I had one as a kid, and I was wildly disappointed. I followed the directions in the manual, and made circuits that did things, but I had no idea how anything worked"

        I had a few of the earlier kits like this back when I was still at school. (Thinking back it must have been around about 24 years ago!) ... I think they are a great way to get into learning about electronics. They also allow building circuits faster than with a soldering iron so again good for learning. They are also a starting point to find
      • by walt-sjc (145127)
        I had one when I was a kid too, but it was back in the days when the most complicated circuit in the kit was a transistor, and radio shack actually carried electronic components. They used to carry kits for building radios, and other things. My first major project was building one of those table-top AM radios, which worked well enough that when I connected the antenna lead to my wire book shelf, I could pick up stations over a thousand miles away on the skip.

        The kit itself and it's manual wasn't enough to l
      • by mikael (484)
        For me, understanding what the different components did wasn't the hard part (an op-amp was simply a varying resistance resistor controlled by another current). The hard part was getting all the different wires to stay in the springs as the circuit was assembled. You would have short red wires, medium length green wires, and long yellow wires. Putting together a circuit would involve making around 20+ connections for a simple circuit, and 100+ connections for a complex circuit. Some circuits would require 5
      • by WED Fan (911325)

        even after taking a college electronics class for physics students

        Sorry to say, but you took the wrong course. Waste of time if your goal was to figure out how an op-amp works. How ever, almost any book about solid-state electronics would have sufficed, the library is a wonderful place.

        As a former USAF avionics specialist, electronics school in Biloxi was not my first foray into the field. I was lucky enough to live in Japan, near Tokyo, during my high school years and was able to visit the electronics ma

  • by User 956 (568564) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:34AM (#18204570) Homepage
    I've seen some user reviews that maybe they are not all they're cracked up to be. Most of the complaints seem to be of the 'Manual sucks' variety.

    That's not a very nice thing to say about Manuel. You know, he's trying the best he can.
    • He's from Barcelona.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by polar red (215081)
      Basil: Manuel! (Nothing) Manuel! (Still nothing - totally
      apopleptic now) MANUEL! (Manuel enters from the dining room)
      Manuel: Que?
      Basil: (Holds up vase) What is this?
      Manuel: Ah, is voz.
      Basil: No.
      Manuel: Que?
      Basil: (Patiently) No, try again.
      Manuel: Oh, um - ah! Is flower pot?
      Basil: (Grinning a very scary grin) No.
      Manuel: Que? (looks over to Polly and Sybil) Mister Fawlty, is
      crazy! (Whereupon Basil removes the flowers from the vase and dumps
      the water over Manuels head, then as Manuel is spluttering, whaps
      him i
  • I'm still building the DIY Home CPU Kit, and I will tell you that the gates are a #*@% to install.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Scarletdown (886459)

      I'm still building the DIY Home CPU Kit, and I will tell you that the gates are a #*@% to install.


      And the ballmers are an even bigger PITA to install; so frustrating you will end up throwing a few chairs.

    • Ah! I've got the DIY Oxygen gas molecule kit. Very tough to build. I keep losing those damn electrons and once those Quarks get stuck together they're nearly impossible to get loose again. Not to mention how trick the neutrons are. If you add one too little or one too much the whole thing splits in two.
    • by lwriemen (763666)
      Gates has always been an impediment to home PC advancement. :-D
  • To be honest, I think your best bet is to get the kit and the "manual" separately.

    A few years ago I had the opportunity to tutor an absolutely prodigal young kid, who happened to be 'into' electricity that season. I couldn't find any electricial kits that seemed up to snuff in both the hardware and manuals departments, so instead I ended up taking one of the bigger Radioshack kits, and then using some of the Forrest M. Mims III [amazon.com] books as project guides. Why they don't have that guy do the manuals for the kits I have no idea, because he's really quite good.

    For the few projects we wanted to do where the board didn't have the right parts, I just hacked them on, either in place of parts that I thought were trivial (resistors, etc.), or just by drilling a new hole in the board surface and adding it in.
  • by linuxtelephony (141049) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:49AM (#18204634) Homepage
    I remember playing with these in the early 80s. I think I had a 150 in one, and then they came out with the 160 and 500, but it has been so long I don't remember for sure. There were no ICs, just bunches of resistors, capacitors, etc., all with wire jumpers that were held in place by springs. Seems like there were all kinds of circuits you could build, from water and light sensors, to a radio.

    I don't know if they are "worth it" as far as parts are concerned, but if a kid is wanting to play with and learn about basic electricity and electronics, it can be a good toy. In my case, my father worked on electronics and I grew up calculating resistor values by color and reading schematics.

    Kits like these might be a good way to gauge the interest of a young person in electronics. If they really enjoy the kit, then it's probably going to be worthwhile to invest in more serious projects, books, and so on.

    It used to be you could buy all kinds of chips and components from radio shack to build your own stuff. Over time a lot of those have fallen by the wayside. It's still possible to get some of them, but not like it used to be. Instead, I find Fry's Electronics to have all kinds of kits and things to build, like Radio Shack used it.

    • Same here, except in my case it was more like 33 years. I loved it and made all the projects available then went on to buy parts and create my own. Lead me into Ham radio and eventually IT. Just reading this takes me back a long time. I'd definitely buy one if I wanted to get into electronics its a good basic grounding.
    • Cellular Shack, Big-Boy ToyBox, etc.

      They've definitely moved away from the electronic-component store to a much more consumer electronics store. I still go there to get basic soldering supplies, fuses and the occasional coax connector and to their credit they carry a few basic components, but few and far between. However, it seems the only way to get most electronic components from them is through their website. I've switched to a local electronic supply company for most of the electronic components I need.

  • by jackb_guppy (204733) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:53AM (#18204646)
    Was around 7. It was no fun compared to my mother's uncle or my older brother "sets". There are lots of things you can do with just wire, battery, old can and some nails. "Grow" salt crystal and build a radio (AM). Telegraph key and receiver. Motor.

    True come are not electronic but the basics are there. There are big and easy to debug. Then get to into a TTL or Analog IC Manual. You can build from parts timers, radios, computers (from ALU and gates)

    After all that start into computers like Z80 or V30. Look at embedded controlers.

    After all all of this is just build blocks like legos!
  • I just bought... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2007 @04:15AM (#18204708)
    Weird this question should come up. I'm just sort of starting to learn about how electronics work, and picked up this thing [amazon.com] at Fry's for $12.99. It's for kids, and I'm in my 30s. But what the hell.

    It comes with a 76 page illustrated book that takes you through building circuits of greater and greater complexity. I'm only up to page 22 or so (capacitors). The illustrated book is fairly clear, uses a water/pipe analogy to explain what's happening..

    This, along with this free book [ibiblio.org], has provided hours of fun and an interesting intro to how these electric devices we see all the time actually work...

    I haven't used a 500-in-1 kit yet, but considering how cheap this was, I feel like I've already gotten my moneys worth in watching a capacitor charge at different rates depending on the resistance I throw in front/behind it.

    I know, I know. I'm easily entertained. Can't wait to make the transistor radio. That'll be cool. I mean, when it's done... I'll know how a radio works!

    For anyone who's ever been interested in electronic machines and how they operate, I highly recommend the book ("Lessons In Electronic Circuits"), which is easy to read, and getting one of these little kits. Good times.
    • by wkitchen (581276)
      Gotta agree. During a visit to a local electronics surplus store (which also sells some new items as well), my daughter, who was about to turn 9, saw this very same kit and decided that was what she wanted for her birthday. So I got it for her. She loves it. And I'm pretty pleased with it too. Yes, it's aimed at teaching children. But I have no reservation about recommending it for adults.

      IMHO, a small number of simple projects with good explanation is much better for learning than hundreds of projects that
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I guess nowadays you are supposed to do everything with ICs. When I was a kid the kit I had had a couple of basic ICs (NAND and NOR gates IIRC) and it came with about a hundred other discrete parts, resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors and LEDs to speakers, meters, and photocells. These kits look like they have a handful of ICs and almost nothing else. The LCD is a nice touch though, a lot better than the 8 segment LED I had.

    One thing I remember is that, when you're 8, an IC might as well be a devi
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      I guess nowadays you are supposed to do everything with ICs.

            That's sort of the whole point of technology and progress, isn't it? I mean I guess they COULD sell a kit that ran with a water-wheel and belts but it's just so out of fashion now ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)
        Um, no. The point of ICs is they have many advantages over purely discrete designs, but if you're trying to learn the fundamentals of electrical theory, they won't help very much. To learn the fundamentals of something, you can't start with the state-of-the-art in that area.

        Worse, most ICs require some external discrete components to operate. If you don't understand the fundamentals of capacitors and inductors and such, how will you understand how to select the proper components to use with a special-pur
  • Just bought mine.

    I've been an amateur radio operator for 13 years now, so if the manual atleast has a circuit diagram, I think I can figure it out. Probably even come up with a few things not in the manual. I recommend looking into the Knight Electronics mini-lab as well.

    I know Ramsey has a lot of experience in the DIY kit business. I would have more of their products, but I deliberately prevent myself (aside from this purchase) from spending money on their kits because there would be "one more thing" until
  • The best combination is a kit + a good electronics book (get Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill and tell your kid to skip the math he doesn't understand). I remember being very disappointed with my electronics kit when I was a kid as it did not explain how the circuits worked and how to design your own.
    • I second that. The Art Of Electronics is the best book on electronics I got my hands on.
      • For a home learner, a better choice is the Art Of Electronics Student Edition.
        Its a series of labs that works you through, in a very practical manner,
        what each component does and what it means. If refers to you readings
        from the Art.

        Absolutely brilliant.
    • The Horowitz and Hill book is an absolutely great book. More for those starting their degrees etc and often quoted as a course required book. I was impressed on how readable the book was, I'm not sure how well a young kid will get on with it as even the book is a bit of a weight and the content more so. Having said that it does have many different layers and you can read the bits that would be appropriate to you or more importantly who the kit was for. Maybe the "hardcore" stuff in there to will entice t
  • You could do it the proper way, buy yourself a DC power supply, a whole bunch of breadboards, and a bunch of basic components.
    You'll spend not much more money but you'll have the makings of a pro lab-bench.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And you'll also have no fucking idea where to start, and you'll probably end up setting something on fire.
    • You could do it the proper way

      There's really no good way to bootstrap that process. If you're just starting out experimenting in electronics, you don't know enough to even make the shopping list. Just pick a kit that looks interesting, use it a little while, and use that experience to get your next one -- whether it be a bigger kit or a collection of parts.

  • I started with electronics in that way (at age 11), in the days when we'd only just started to leave the radio lamp era behind (yeah, I'm /that/ old but I refuse to grow up :-)

    The manuals tend to tell you how to put things together and how to move from the schematics to the physical side of things, but few of them even have the most basic theory in.

    Putting designs together is good to start with, and changing components to see what happens is also educational (as long as you stay with low voltage battery pow
  • The amazon one isn't too bad. The one I used as a kid thousands of years ago had wires you stuck into little springs. This one has a real breadboard area, an LCD and look at that nifty little keyboard! :) Actually, I could use one of these things at work when I need a quick and dirty test fixture to provide some simple control signals. Cheaper than having our assembly area cobble something together. They ought to make one with a small FPGA on it. And an Ethernet to serial port bridge to explore networking
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      I bet one could put an Ethernet port and small FPGA on the breadboard. And with some long pieces of wire/ribbon cable, one could use an external breadboard.
  • Even the description is hard to understand:

    Item Weight: 1300 hundredths-pounds
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:36AM (#18205064)
    ...guy. From the Amazon blurb:

    We went one step beyond our 300 in one lab kit! Yes, 500 in one, PLUS comprehensive learning course manuals!
    Come on, everyone knows that one step above 300 is 301. Doesn't "we went 200 steps beyond our 300-in-one lab kit" sound more impressive?

    Anyway, I had one of those old stick-wire-in-spring kits back in the day, and it claimed a whopping 50 projects, ranging from basic instruction on concepts like resistance on up to basic crystal and transistor radio. A bit basic in terms of theory, but frighteningly close in scope to the hands-on experience I got while earning my degree in EE years later.

    If you're a bit more hardcore, you can probably do better with some modular breadboard (you can buy build-it-yourself kits that include complete instructions for the power supply), a good electronics textbook, a multimeter, and a local electronics hobby shop. Avoid Radio Shack like the plague, and ask the EE department at your local university if they have any recommendations for where to buy discrete parts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As an EE who started off with one of those 50-in-one kits when I was 8, I have a few recommendations. I had a 200-in-one, but the more impressive projects on it required so many wires it was nigh-impossible to get things to stay working. Put one in and two fall out.

      You can start with one of those kits, but once you get to the point where you'll really learn what you're doing, go look for books and kits separately. Look for books by Forrest Mims III [forrestmims.org] and Don Lancaster [tinaja.com] (TTL Cookbook and CMOS Cookbook are cl
  • by Cheesey (70139) on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:57AM (#18205144)
    When I was younger I had this 200-in-1 kit [quasarelectronics.com] which I am amazed to see is still being made! The manual for this one was good, at least in the edition I had. It included circuit diagrams for everything along with some explanation. Early circuits included wiring instructions - later on, you were supposed to figure those out from the circuit diagram. The projects start simple: by the end, you're using almost all the components on the board.

    I see that the same company makes a 500-in-1 kit. Assuming this is of the same quality, it would be worth considering.

    The problem with the 200-in-1 kit is probably common to all such kits. The transistors, ICs and LEDs are real - they are easy to damage by incorrect connection. You can replace the transistors with a bit of effort, but some components are soldered directly to a board. It's a real pain if you damage anything. I also don't like the use of batteries as a power source. I suppose that's a safety thing, but I'd prefer a good quality low-voltage PSU with an electronic fuse.

    I think the next step after a kit like this is making your own circuits from 74-series logic ICs, which provide basic logic functions and some more complex devices like flip-flops, registers and counters. You can make all sorts of fun stuff with this, and you really only need a data book that covers the 74 series, a breadboard and a 5 volt PSU. This is great fun. Especially when you add a microcontroller!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gmarsh (839707)
      Nice! I grew up on the same electronics kit.

      I actually found an old exercise book in a closet, from back when I played with that thing when I was 8 years old. I can't believe I was inventing circuits like this:

      Two transistor oscillator -> third transistor amplifier to boost output to CMOS capable level -> 4000 series JK flip-flop -> two LEDs from complimentary outputs. Got a decision to make? push the button, the LEDs would toggle back and forth at ~1KHz. Let go of the button, you've got a decisio
    • by jonwil (467024)
      I also had that same kit (or if not that one, one that was almost identical) when I was a kid. Great kit actually :)
    • by Ant P. (974313)
      Wow, I had no idea that thing was so common. I had one when I was about 9, though I didn't really know what I was doing so I ended up frying all the LEDs :(
    • by MarkRose (820682)
      I also had that kit, and can vouch for it and its manual. My only complaint is that the variable resistor eventually wore out -- that's how much I enjoyed using the kit. Some kits skimp on the logic gate stuff, but this one has dozens of projects that use the IC's extensively. I'd definitely recommend it!
    • by Headw1nd (829599)
      Yeah, I had one of these, along with a bad habit of forgetting certain crucial resistors.

      As a result, it mostly just taught me to recognize the smell of burning electronics.
  • Radio shack use to have lots of them, also isn't there a store called Brainy Kids or something like that they would probably have a wide range of them.
    • by smchris (464899)
      What I remember from Radio Shack is that they used to have a lot of books: an IC Projects series, at least one similar to an electronics kit projects, and some references on using test equipment and the like. A natural tie-in to their component sales to build your own kit.
       
  • is that most of these kits are like low end chemistry sets: toys designed to appeal to parents. My wife bought one of those for my daughter; I went through the manual, and you couldn't do any of the interesting experiments with the basic kit. Instead it had you doing things like mixing sugar and iron filings, then separating the mixture with a magnet. I get the point, but it's hardly going to ignite a lifelong pssion for chemistry.

    A good educational kit should allow you to interesting things at every l
  • My brother got one of these 150-in-one electronics kit when I was a kid (mid 80s).

    It came with a thick book that had a one-page writeup of each circuit. I studied each one until I started to catch on. Then I went to the public library and read their (abysmal) selection of electronics books.

    Now I have my MSEE and I can still remember some of the experiments. The perplexing explanations I now realize were wrong. The Internet has made getting answers and datasheets to almost anything possible.

    To someone st
  • Dick Smith Electronics [dse.com.au] sells a few of these. You can find the 300-in-1 kit by visiting the main page and searching for "K0030" (for some reason they prevent deep-linking). I played with a few of these things back in the day and I remember them being pretty fun. However, these days I'd probably recommend Lego Mindstorms [lego.com] instead. With the kit, you're pretty much stuck with the 300 (or whatever) things it can make. With Mindstorms there's a huge fan base with new things being created and details published
  • by quadshop (806550) on Friday March 02, 2007 @08:28AM (#18205914)
    Get this one: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?produc tId=2102913 [radioshack.com] It has a VERY good "manual". Actually, there are two - one focused on digital, one on analog. This is the kit that started me on a long journey from "I don't know what a resistor is" to taking graduate classes in electrical engineering. You will also want to get Horowitz and Hill's "The Art of Electronics". If you have any interest at all in learning about circuits, you'll want that book.
  • It's been years, so I doubt if the specific ones I have would still be on the market. I have a small one (a ten-in-one I think) that I got when I was in about third grade, and a somewhat larger one that I got when I was in about sixth or seventh grade I think. I haven't played with them in a good while either, but I'll tell you want I remember, in general: they're a lot of fun.

    You do have to be diligent to go ahead and do all the projects in the book, even if some of them don't sound exciting and interes
  • I've always been a fan of the "Engineer's Mini-Notebook" [forrestmims.com] series from Forrest Mims. You can get them at Radio Shack, most HAM radio shops or online here. [forrestmims.com] (were originally like 10 books, they've now condensed them down to 4)

    Entry-level electronics projects with detailed explanations and parts lists. You'll have to get the parts yourself, but with companies liker Mouser, Graybar and Fry's, that shouldn't be a problem.
  • While I dug the Radio Shack ones, and my runner up was the previously mentioned 200 in 1, for sheer fun, my favorite was the Gakken EX 150 system [wikipedia.org]. Everything was inside little blocks that you fit together. The manual was not something I would call stand-alone though, nor should it be. If you want to learn more, you start digging into Forrest M. Mims' books. You can't expect a toy manual, regardless of level of detail, to explan PNP versus NPN.

    Seeing this post took me back to the many mis-spent hours of my y
  • They were called "junk TV sets". The "manual" was the ARRL Handbook.

    Just buy a solderless breadboard, some parts, a power supply, a meter, and some books and start messing around. Circuit simulation software can be cool, too. Some packages:

    gnucap - GNU Circuit Analysis package
    klogic - digital circuit editor and simulator for KDE
    ksimus - KDE tool for simulating electrical circuits
    ktechlab - circuit simulator for microcontrollers and electronics
    qucs - Quite Universal Circuit Simulator

    There are also simula
  • I don't recall exactly which kit I had, but I loved it when I was a kid. I think I was 11 when I got my first kit, which was a crystal radio set. The second kit was one of the 100-in-1 kits, and included a simple digital readout and some relays among the standard parts. The thing is-- you weren't really limited to 100 projects, because once you started to understand some of the patterns, and once you learned some of the basic concepts (Ohm's Law, and so on), you could come up with your own designs. I us
  • Depending upon the age of the child, you might want to consider the Snap Circuits line of electronics learning kits [hobbytron.com]. I got the 500-in-one Pro version for my seven-year-old (now nine), and it worked out quite well.

    The thing comes as a flat clear plastic board with little nubs on it, like Lego. Then there are a number of flat snap-on pieces with various electronics components on them. Included are just about anything you could imagine, up to and including some specialized DSP chips to help the kids exper

  • I'm a 37 year old software engineer. About 3 years ago I decided I wanted to learn about electronics. I started with one of these [radioshack.com]. It was nice, and had some very nice example projects - both analog and digital. It also came with a nice supply of op-amps, transistors, resistors, capacitors, and other goodies.

    The only complaint I might proffer is that I very quickly outgrew the relatively small breadboard and graduated to something like this [allelectronics.com]. I was infinitely more pleased with the layout. If you enjoy it, a b
  • This isn't a basic electronics kit, but Parallax sells some starter kits [parallax.com] with their BASIC Stamp microcontroller. They have a built in breadboard and some basic components. They have a large number of excellent manuals online which can be downloaded for free. Download [parallax.com] some of the manuals and/or school curriculum [parallax.com] to see if it might meet your needs.
  • I like the idea of the 500-in-1 kits, and have used a couple for education purposes (I volunteer as a technology teacher for primary education courses.) The nice thing with the kits is that everything's tested, so if you do the experiment as listed, it will work. They also often have safety stuff built in: the LED's have current-limiting resistors integral to the LED so you can't burn them out.
    If the student isn't particularly motivated, is a sort of passive person, the 500-in-1 kits make a lot of sense.
  • from our conversation.

    "Heathkit".

    Damn, I miss that company.

  • When I was a kid, 3 decades ago(!), my father bought an electronics blocks kit that was imported from Germany to Japan. It was a great kit because each component was mounted on a block which had schematic representations of wires and components imprinted on the top. It was easy to compare the schematic in the guidebook to the components that you placed in the carrier, and when you were done, you could easily take your finished project around the house and use it.
    And the thing looked much cooler than the s
  • Here are some other resources to check out. Any of these would be better than a 500-in-1 kit, and all are cheaper.
    • Elmer101 [eksfiles.net]
      a tutorial on radio theory with practical experiments. Think of it as a grown-up's version (you are a grown-up, right?) of the 500-in-1 manual. It's based on an existing design, a transceiver kit from Small Wonder Labs [smallwonderlabs.com], and so you can read it and do experiements with with your own parts or with the kit. [A ham license to use these kits no longer requires a morse code test, ju
  • http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/PB-400 / 105/BREADBOARD,_400_CONTACTS_.html [allelectronics.com]

    Get yourself a couple of good project books at the library, find a local electronics shop and buy a battery holder and a few parts and some hookup wire and go to town. Smaller, cheaper, and you won't grow out of it so quick-- those 500 kits have about 485 projects that you could care less about, and after you build the ultra-simple blinky light, and AM crystal radio, electronic organ and a couple others you'll tire of
  • And some good books on both analog and digital theory.

    So for a couple hundred bucks you have a virtually unlimited 'electronic kit'.
  • The problem with the kits is that they are limiting. Get one to see if you're really interested in electronics, and if so, then get a solderless breadboard system. Here's one with a triple power supply built in: http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/PB-406 0 /105/POWERED_BREADBOARD_.html [allelectronics.com]

    Pre-formed jumper wires: http://www.allelectronics.com/cgi-bin/item/JW-140/ 105/140_PIECE_JUMPER_WIRE_ASSORTMENT_.html [allelectronics.com]

    Add a $15 DMM, then trot down to your library and grab a couple of Forest Mims books. Go nuts.
  • Get the Radio Shack Electronic Learning Lab (#28-280) [radioshack.com]. The manual was written (and kit designed?) by Forrest Mims [wikipedia.org]. It doesn't get any better than that. I got my son one.

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.

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