Circuit Classics revive a golden age of electronics design

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Many budding electronics engineers cut their teeth on Forrest M. Mims iconic hand-drawn circuits, now one enthusiast has brought them to life as practical kits(Credit: Circuit Classics/Star Simpson)

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Aside from being a treasure trove of information for budding electronics engineers from the 1980s on, the down-to-earth style of Forrest M. Mims' Engineers' Notebook and Getting Started in Electronics series of books was a large part of their appeal. Now a crowdfunding project is looking to bring back some of that original charm by producing a limited set of working circuit boards in the Mims' style, replete with accompanying explanations and a wooden stand to display these electronic works of art.

Star Simpson, a young San Francisco electronics enthusiast and designer, is working directly with Mims to bring a limited collection of his designs in "Circuit Classics." With three designs being made available – a Dual LED Flasher, a Stepped Tone Generator, and a Bargraph Voltage Indicator – each circuit board has an etched copper circuit and solder-mask overlay to make it look just like each of the Mims' circuits it replicates, right down to a hand-written explanation on the face of the board.

Designed to be assembled by the purchaser, each kit comes with all of the through-hole components required to populate the boards. With overlays depicting both the copper (track) side and the component side of the boards, Simpson claims that following the accompanying instructions and soldering in the electronic parts is easy thanks to large, gold-plated pads and generous spacings.

Each of Mims' hand-drawn schematics is also replicated directly from the originals on the right hand side of each board, which align the circuit diagram with the physical hardware to aid in comprehension. And, with the use of masking overlays that show the circuit tracks beneath the components, Star says that learning electronics construction without having to constantly flip boards or hold them up to the light during assembly, makes the whole experience that much more pleasant.

The boards also have book and page number references to make it easy to look up the original circuit, whilst Mims' signature is boldly emblazoned across the lower right-hand corner. Each of the circuits is powered by a standard CR202 button battery or two in a holder attached directly to the board, though the batteries themselves are not supplied. The whole kit does, however, come with a specially-crafted blond ash wood stand to hold completed boards and show off your finished project.

All of the boards are constructed from FR4 PCB material (a composite made from from epoxy resin and woven fiberglass cloth that is flame retardant – hence the "FR" appellation) and though the prototypes are shown in an eye-catching mauve color, the creator promises that production versions will come in a standard and, some would say, more soothing blue.

As for price, each of the three boards on offer costs exactly the same; $US44 with free US shipping (or a $10 flat rate worldwide). Reprinted copies of Mims' Getting Started in Electronics are also available separately at $24 each (with an additional $8.00 for international shipping).

All going well, Simpson expects to begin shipping her creations sometime around the third quarter of this year.

The video below shows Simpson explaining a little more about her creations.

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