Help Me Find Interesting Stuff

Hi there!

Like you, I often browse catalogs or look at the “New!” sections of my favorite retailers to find cool electronic components and equipment. Sometimes, however, I am unable to locate exactly what I’m searching for, despite months of effort.

This page lists things that I’m current looking for. Please contact me if you have any sources or suggestions.

New Oscilloscope

For many, many years, I’ve used a Velleman PCS64i digital oscilloscope. I’ve been perfectly happy with it. The trace screenshots have appeared in my books and throughout this website.

Velleman PCS64i Oscilloscope

Velleman PCS64i Oscilloscope.

Unfortunately, the PCS64i requires a parallel port, which most modern motherboards lack. Originally, the software didn’t work with parallel PCI cards. Apparently the WINDSOfg v1.25 software now works. I haven’t tried the latest software because my current computer doesn’t have an open PCI slot.

I could pick up a parallel to USB cable, but I’m not sure whether it would be compatible. I disinclined to make further investments in an obsolete oscilloscope.

That means I’m in the market for a USB oscilloscope with at least two analog inputs, moderately fast sample rate, decent buffer, and software that produces attractive-enough traces to post online.

I already have a digital logic analyzer, so digital inputs aren’t necessary, but I suppose they are beneficial when analyzing a mix of digital and analog signals simultaneously. I’ve read numerous articles, but I am hesitant to make a decision due to the cost of the purchase.

Help me out. What oscilloscope do you recommend?

Pushbutton Variations: Normally Closed (NC) and Dual Action (shutter)

On a recent project, I ran out of microcontroller pins but still needed one more digital input. I combined a tactile pushbutton with a potentiometer to create a digital value and 128-bit analog value through one analog input.

Tactile pushbutton

Tactile pushbutton.

It occurred to me that I could do much better (0-250 analog + digital) if I had a tactile pushbutton that was normally closed (NC) and would open when pushed. Almost every tactile pushbutton is normally open (NO) and closed when pushed.

I ran across a surface-mount, half-width, normally-closed, tactile pushbutton that was relatively expensive. I could use a standard spring-loaded pushbutton rather than a tactile pushbutton, but the height of spring-loaded pushbuttons is excessive for most projects.

So, does anyone know of a standard-width, compact-height, through-hole, tactile pushbutton in a normally closed state?

Slide-On Test Lead Hooks

For about a decade, I’ve used these convenient test lead hooks to attach to the ends of my multimeters.

Multimeter test leads slide-on hook

Multimeter test lead slide-on hook.

I originally purchased them at a local RadioShack (270-334) when they actually carried electronic components, rather than the sad low-end consumer goods that they do today. UPDATE: They are in stock again.

For future reference, does anyone know of an alternative source? Marlin P. Jones parts #7161-MI and #7163-MI are not hook adaptors that can be put onto the ends of test probes, they are simply hooks without the wires attached.

Fragile Mini Hooks

Speaking of hooks -- many builders have mini-hook test leads for making temporary electrical connections. I am tired of the tips flattening or the wires snapping:

Broken IC test lead mini hook

Broken IC test lead mini hook.

The tip can be bent back into shape with needle-nose pliers, and the wires can be soldered back on. But, it is extremely annoying as it usually happens in the middle of a major debugging session. Sometimes you just can’t rely of the connectivity of the test lead.

Has anyone come across some really high-quality test leads with mini hooks? I wouldn’t mind paying a premium if I knew that the leads would work without issue and last me a lifetime.

Atmel AVR ISP6 6-pin Ribbon Cable Socket Connector

Most of the Atmel AVR programming cables have a 6-pin socket on the end. If you lose your cable, your cable wears out, or if you want a longer cable, then you need to obtain some 6-pin ribbon cable sockets.

6-pin ribbon cable socket connector

6-pin ribbon cable socket connector.

Unfortunately, the 6-pin connectors seem to be very elusive to locate. The smallest commonly available are the 10-pin connectors.

At one point, a kind reader sent me a dozen of the 6-pin connectors -- so I’m set. But, the reader didn’t know the source part number or supplier. I’d like to recommend a supplier to the Robot Room readers.

Anything Else Interesting?

I'll update this article based on the feedback I receive and whenever there is another part or tool that I’m looking for. If you know of something that you think I’d be interesting in, please let me know.