Belkin surge protector with USB chargerFinally, the solution to my mobile charging needs: the Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger.

Coming soon from Belkin this small device offers surge protection for your laptop and devices when you travel and also has two USB charging ports! You should be able to charge many cell phones (like the Razr or Blackberry) and devices like iPods right off the USB ports eliminating the need to keep your computer awake while your devices charge. This should also be nice if you want to leave the computer behind but still need a way to charge your iPod (it’s been a long time since iPods came with 110 volt chargers.)

Belkin is listing the surge protector with a modest $25 price on their site and list it as “Coming soon”. As soon as this becomes available I’ll grab one and post a review here.

via the Daily Giz Wiz podcast

Sanyo Eneloop AA BatteriesRecently when listening to the Daily Giz Wiz netcast (easily the most jingle-laden netcast ever to grace my iPod) Leo and Dick got into a discussion about rechargeable batteries and their typical shortcomings like the need to charge them before use and their tendency to loose their charge over time. Recently Sanyo has released a new battery called Eneloop which does not suffer from these problems.

Sanyo eneloop batteries are a rechargeable NiMH battery which claim to only loose 15% of their charge in a year. That means you can charge them and use them when you need them. Like other NiMH batteries they can be recharged hundreds of times, but one of the big advantages is that they come pre-charged! You could buy a set in a drug store, use them that day, then take them home and recharge them.

I’ve only seen these on Amazon so far, but I’m using them in just about everything I have that takes AA batteries, especially my Wii remotes. At first I was disappointed that the Wii remote didn’t come with a rechargeable battery but now it seems much more clever that they went with an industry standard (AA size) battery which can be easily replaced without having to look up a model number.

Eneloop batteries are available in four packs of AA and AAA and 8 packs of AA, but I recommend starting off with the charging kit which comes with the charger and four AAs. The charger will charge AA and AAA sizes and can charge one, two, three or four batteries at a time.

I have been using these rechargeable batteries for over a year now in my Wii controllers, talkabout radios, remotes, wireless computer accessories and more. They have cut my AA consumption down considerably, and when they do eventually die they are recyclable like other NiMH batteries. While there are AA rechargeables which have a higher capacity the low self-discharge of the Eneloop batteries makes them last longer in all but the highest current applications.

The first transistorSixty years ago today (December 16, 1947 for those who may not read this right away) there was one transistor in the whole world. The transistor had just been invented by three physicists at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, USA who were looking for a viable alternative to traditional vacuum tubes which were comparatively large and also consumed much more power.

The basic function of the transistor is to act as an electronic switch (without any moving parts.) By combining several of these switches it is possible to make simple decisions based on input and perform basic (binary) math.

While the transistor has at times been the target of an analog-vs-digital style debate in the music field there is no debating that the transistor has changed our world. The modern computer processor contains hundreds of millions of transistors and every pixel on an LCD display has an accompanying transistor lending a few hundred thousand more transistors to the average computer.

Every modern electronic device more sophisticated than the flashlight contains transistors, usually by the hundreds or more. The relatively small size of modern hand-held electronics (e.g. cell phones) is largely due to the ever-shrinking transistor.

Just think how many other advances have been enabled by the mainframe computer and now the microcomputer. The transistor will go down as one of the most significant inventions of the 20th century and will continue to shape our digital world for quite some time to come.

Thanks to the MAKE magazine blog for mentioning this milestone. They also point to an article from Forbes.com which makes for some good reading.

electronics, electronic, transistor, electric, computer

Holiday Decorations SpecI’ve written about it before, but it’s that time of year and I know some of you are wondering exactly how many bails of hay should be placed out for the reindeer (8) or what type of brace to use to secure the angel to the tree (Simpson H7), so here’s the gratuitously detailed PDF for holiday decoration.

All the info is there: tolerances, clearances, capacities, material specifications and more. There are even helpful notes like “Use of alcoholic beverages may increase overall merriment but should not be consumed until tree is installed and electrical items plugged in.”


christmas, decoration, fun, funny, xmas, engineering, humor, specifications

Love Tester ProjectFor those of you who are interested I have now posted the complete Bloc-Troic manual in my gallery!

From cover to cover (well, not really, the back cover was blank so I didn’t scan it.) the manual contains 163 electronic experiments. Each experiment illustrates the block layout for the kit and also includes a standard schematic for those who want to breadboard or permanently build any of the projects.

The experiments span from a simple conductor/insulator tester to a sound level meter to a basic radio with microphone mixing. While the Bloc-Tronic set was designed for children completing every, or even most projects in this book would be quite an accomplishment!

Unfortunately I have not transcribed the text from these pages to make them searchable. Perhaps someday I’ll get around to that, or better yet, maybe some fan of the set will volunteer to do part or all of them for me. (It took me a year to even get the images up, so don’t hold your breath on my account.)

If you’re having trouble making out something in the images notice that you can switch to a high-res version. The shadows in the image are the experiment on the back of each page bleeding through which should give you an idea of the quality of paper used in this manual. I have made it available because it seems to be orphaned. It is no longer made or distributed, the company named on the manual and box seems to have disappeared and there isn’t a copyright to be found anywhere in the materials.

I hope some others can find this useful with either the set or for building experiments on a breadboard.

electronic, toy, project, make, build, build your own, electronics kit

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