Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Engineer, developer, entrepreneur

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

Back to hardware, next step: Pi-Top

January 29, 2015 — Carlos Fenollosa

One of the things I always regretted from college is that our hardware hands-on experience was pretty meager. We designed a lot of digital circuits but never got to build one, not even on a breadboard.

A great perk of taking a sabbatical year is that you can learn whatever the hell you want. Like, for example, complementing your college degree with those topics you used to love but couldn't experiment with enough. Money + free time + engineering curiosity = win.

I used to build computers from components long ago, but that was too much of a hassle, plus you had to keep up to date with new technologies which essentialy made everything incompatible with last years'. So it may not be the best of the ideas to go back to that.

I found an interesting crowdfunding campaign: Pi-Top, a laptop you build yourself. It's basically a bit of electronics + 3D printing + the power of a Raspberry Pi + some robotic modules (HATs). An excellent way to dive into electronics without hurting oneself too much.

The 2010s are every engineer's dream. Hardware is cheap and nicely packaged into higher level components, there are plenty of sensors, wireless is everywhere, batteries can last forever on low-power chips, and there is plenty of documentation on the Internet. In a couple years, 3D printers will be cheap enough to buy one for home; meanwhile, there are 3D printing hubs that you can reach to print any design.

It's a fantastic time to buy breadboard, some chips, and build simple circuits, like a clock, some light control with sensors, wireless remotes, etc. And those can finally have real life applications. Just a few years ago, without ubiquitous wireless, homemade circuits were just a novelty. Nowadays you can build yourself a sweet home automation system for a few bucks if you know how.

I can't wait for my Pi-Top to arrive.

Tags: hardware

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