Welcome to my humble website, home to a few retro video gaming projects – written by me, the Poor Student Hobbyist! My real name is Nick, I’m a 30-year-old Electrical Engineer from Ohio. I started messing around with electronics projects around 2009. I started this blog in the summer of 2013 (on Blogger), but because I’m such a busy person I take my damn good time updating these projects. I migrated my work to WordPress in 2017.
The original purpose of this blog was so that I have a record of what projects I’ve done for my own satisfaction, and for satisfaction of others. I feel like the internet is somewhat absent of thorough walkthroughs and explanations on how different practical electronics work. There is rarely any one single website that answers all of my questions, I usually have to go through multiple places to get all the answers to whatever I’m working on, so I hope that something like this blog could help answer most or all of the questions you’d ever have on these projects. I have a few other posts that I’ve started – just not finished up. Writer’s block and other distractions, you know how it is.
Anyway, to give you an idea of the breadth of equipment I use for my projects, I’ll go through in detail all the tools and parts I’ve acquired over the years.
Since I got a real person job and a steady income, I started slowly building up my workbench with parts. It also helped that I had a previous job at a company that was downsizing – I was allowed to take a lot of extra parts (mostly resistors) to add to my collection. Here’s some pictures of my workbench.
Here’s the heart of the collection: a soldering station, and a variable power supply. The power supply I got from my old job (it’s a bit flaky, but it was free) and I got the soldering station from eBay.
Here’s where I keep my parts. I bought this parts storage cabinet here. I’ve since bought a second one and mounted it on my wall. Parts in this cabinet include LEDs, op-amps, crystal oscillators, shift registers, capacitors, resistors, voltage regulators, diodes, transistors, logic gates, microcontrollers (ATMega328s mostly), flip flops, LCDs, servos, rechargeable batteries, buttons, and miscellaneous hardware. Parts that I use for products that I sell are mostly bought from Digikey, a very popular well-regarded parts supplier. Other miscellaneous parts that I got when I was first starting out were mostly from eBay. They have some very inexpensively priced parts.
Here are the rest of my tools – miscellaneous things that I use A LOT. First and foremost, SAFETY GLASSES. Seriously. Have you ever had a blob of solder hit your eyeball? No? Want to keep it that way? Then you better wear these. You’ll look like a dork (and your significant other will make fun of you) but it’s better than going blind.
You’ll also need wire strippers (yellow) and wire cutters (red). I recommend getting them separately instead of using the strippers for wire cutting, for more precision. Also not pictured here is my collection of ESD tweezers. These are indispensable – I use them for bending pins and forming wire, as well as placing parts on or in boards. Next, you’ll probably need a multimeter. Nothing fancy required, but it’ll definitely help you in finding out if you have faulty wiring. Speaking of wiring, I have a bunch of different colored wires. You can never have too many wires! I also have some 28 gauge wire for the stuff I don’t want to put stress on, like bent up pins (if you read through my NES repro tutorial, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Along with wires, you’ll need solder as well – I recommend actually getting some higher quality solder, not just the cheapest stuff you can find from China. I got some for $2 and it really wasn’t worth it. Buy some highly-rated solder from Amazon or something and save yourself some headaches.
As far as dealing with hardware, like housing for your circuits, Loctite super glue is extremely useful to keep everything together. For when you make mistakes in your gluing, or want to clean up your fixturing a bit, an X-ACTO knife is helpful for shaving off that excess glue or plastic. And a Dremel tool is excellent for cutting large parts, or removing large ICs without having to desolder every single pin.
Now onto some more expensive tools. These are optional, but very helpful if you have access.
This model of oscilloscope wasn’t too expensive, and it’s good enough for anything you’d probably be doing. Here’s the link to the scope, this thing is pretty nifty, and having four channels is amazing, especially for the relatively lower price. Again – this isn’t a necessity, but it’s hard to live without one after you’ve used it. I bought it originally as a gift to myself, that I justified with the fact that I had a few classes coming up that would be easier if I had an oscilloscope to work with.
Another extremely useful piece of equipment is a 3D printer. I actually got one – a Da Vinci 1.0A – as a wedding present (much to the dismay of my wife). It was really easy to use, but require you to get somewhat pricier proprietary filament. Over the years, it kind of got hard to work with and better printers came out, so I bought myself a Prusa Mini. This thing is amazing, and very easy to use. I use it for so many random things for my projects – like a SNES door stopper so I can put my cartridge PCBs in the slot easier. Once you have a 3D printer, you’ll find a lot of things that can be made easier with a little plastic doohickey.
So there’s a summary of my workbench. There are a few more specific pieces of equipment and parts I use, but I cover those in the other posts. I hope to add more projects that I’ll be working on in the future – other things I’ve made are a Skittle Sorting Machine, a handheld Raspberry Pi gaming system that plays games up to the N64 era, a binary clock, and a bunch of other various smaller-time projects that are mostly just concepts I have yet to grow into full implementation. My top future project I really want to tackle is a physical manifestation of the Tone Matrix from, like, ten years ago. I also plan to have some sections dedicated to explaining different components in better detail in the future. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!