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Rarely Asked Questions – Issue 102, February 2014
Q: In Electronics is Fun, you tell of employers who encourage their engineers by allowing them to use test gear for personal projects. I work for Scrooge. Not only is this forbidden, but my salary is so low I can’t afford my own test gear. How can I pursue my hobby?
A: Discover the Analog Discovery. ADI’s Engineering University Program provides students and professors with a portable analog design kit that, to quote from its description, “...enhances engineering students’ educational experience by allowing them to experiment quickly and easily with advanced technologies and build and test real-world, functional analog design circuits anytime and anywhere.” It is also ideally suited for use in an analog engineer’s home workshop.
At the core of this kit is the Analog Discovery, a $219 ($99 as part of an accredited university course) electronic engineering workstation that, paired with a PC, provides electronic test gear for students and hobbyists. In a small case, it contains two 5-MHz oscilloscope channels, two 5‑MHz arbitrary waveform generators, and a 16-channel logic analyzer/digital pattern generator. It can be configured as a low-frequency (5 MHz) network analyzer and spectrum analyzer.
With nothing but this device and a PC, your home electronics workshop will better equipped than many professional labs were in the recent past. But you might add some extras:
Although the Analog Discovery contains a ±5-V, 50-mA power supply, and can be used to measure voltage, you might obtain a low-cost power supply (ideally fixed 5-V and variable positive and negative outputs, all with variable current limits). The “black brick” power supply used in notebook computers can be found at surplus stores and garage sales and is not hard to convert to a variable dc supply with a programmable current limit.
You’ll also want two or three low-cost multimeters. Type 830B DVMs from Hong Kong cost less than $5 each, postpaid (nobody can own too many). If you expect to work with ac power circuitry, you might also get one slightly more sophisticated multimeter capable of ac current and frequency measurement.
In addition, the Analog Discovery kit offers an adaptor that enables the use of conventional oscilloscope probes and a kit of electronic components that provides an instant analog electronics store cupboard.
I wish that I had been one tenth as well-equipped for most of my time as an electronics hobbyist. Just make sure that Scrooge doesn’t steal it all!
Fletcher, Ryan and Scott Wayne, Analog Devices' Engineering University--Why YOU Should Attend, Analog Dialogue, Volume 47, Number 1, 2013.
Course materials: http://www.digilentinc.com/Classroom/RealAnalog/index.cfm
Virtual Classroom: http://ez.analog.com/community/university-program
Have a question involving a perplexing or unusual analog problem?
Submit your question to: www.analog.com/askjames
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