Author Archives: Evan Walbridge

"Archives Exist to Keep Things Safe but not Secret" – Kevin Young

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the years, SparkFun has changed standard operating procedures on how we craft our tutorials, in order to provide the best customer experience. Our tutorials team regularly reviews our archives to make sure that we are keeping the hard work of our past team members relevant with the new content we release alongside our products each week. For today's tutorial update, these things range from small (.gif instead of a picture) to very useful; see below.

  • The tutorial is now searchable on sparkfun.com where you can read and comment.
  • There are links to all products and required materials used in the tutorial, as well as other color options.
  • There is video background content on the hardware – "How LCD Works."
  • We added additional features on RGB LED Backlight Control, which we curated since the original tutorial went live.
  • The overall formating matches the way we do things now (#OCDandproudofit).
New!

Basic Character LCD Hookup Guide

May 28, 2019

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are a great way to output a string of words or sensor data to a display for visual feedback. In this tutorial, we'll learn about LCDs, how to print a strings of words to a 16x2 basic character LCD, create custom characters.

You can still find our archived tutorials page, so keep an eye out for more additions and updates on learn.sparkfun.com as we revise and release them!

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Why Buy it When You can Build It?

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Working at SparkFun has all kinds of perks, many of which appeal to my need to constantly have a project in process. There are multiple 3D printers on each floor of the building; access to an entire warehouse of electronics prototyping parts; shipping that's better than Prime, since I'm already here every day; and a manufacturing shop that essentially serves as a members-only maker space on nights and weekends (provided you put the tools back and clean up afterward).

Recently, I spilled coffee on my keyboard, and now some of the buttons don't work (I brought home the Multimedia Wireless Keyboard that same day, causing minimal delay in access to full-screen typing). While chatting with my team, they floated the idea that I should build a keyboard to replace the damaged one. We had recently discussed how our Cherry MX Breakout and Cherry MX Switch sell really well, but we didn't sell any keycaps. For in-house projects we 3D-print them, but not everyone has access to 3D printers any hour of the day. Sometimes new product decisions are easy, and everyone loves when meetings end early, so if you haven't already noticed, SparkFun now has everything you need build a full mechanical switch: a breakout, a switch, keycaps and a hookup guide.

Cherry MX Switch Breakout

Cherry MX Switch Breakout

BOB-13773
$1.95
3
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

PRT-15305
$0.95
Cherry MX Switch

Cherry MX Switch

COM-13834
$0.95
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

PRT-15307
$0.95

Cherry MX Switch Breakout Hookup Guide

April 21, 2016

How to assemble and use the Cherry MX Switch Breakout, allowing you to turn a matrix of mechanical switches into a full-size keyboard!

Now building a custom mechanical keyboard breakout is on my list so I can put the wireless keyboard away for emergency use only – it's too small for my fingers anyway, and has no satisfying clicky sound. This brings to mind a question many makers are familiar with: "Why buy for $X, when you can build it for $10X and a week of your time away from all your other projects in progress, like that half a bike in the garage, the IoT doorbell and the four different prototypes of the SparkFun JetBot AI Kit Powered by NVIDIA Jetson Nano sitting on you desk at work?" Thankfully, the team and I dismissed these thoughts and got down to ordering and soldering. Thank you to those who choose to build incredible projects using SparkFun hardware – we are humbled by your enthusiasm, and we appreciate it!

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Microcontroller Power Consumption

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

All this talk about how “mind bendingly low” the power consumption is on Ambiq Micro's Apollo3 Blue microcontroller used on The SparkFun Edge reminded us to reflect back on some data gathering we did previously on some other of our very popular boards: the Arduino Pro Mini 5V and Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V. In fact, we just released some new starter kits for these boards a few weeks ago!

SparkFun Arduino Pro Mini Starter Kit - 5V/16MHz

SparkFun Arduino Pro Mini Starter Kit - 5V/16MHz

KIT-15254
$29.95
SparkFun Arduino Pro Mini Starter Kit - 3.3V/8MHz

SparkFun Arduino Pro Mini Starter Kit - 3.3V/8MHz

KIT-15257
$29.95

While the tutorial linked below was written back in 2016, the release of these starter kits shows how applicable it is today, especially if you're just getting started or aren't yet ready for the SparkFun Edge. If you are working with something like the SparkFun RedBoard, Arduino Pro Mini or any other kind of microcontroller, check out our tips for reducing Arduino power consumption, and see which ideas can be applied to your project to decrease the power consumption and increase the battery life!

Reducing Arduino Power Consumption

November 10, 2016

A tutorial about different ways to reduce the current draw for your next Arduino project the easy way.

As a reminder, The SparkFun Edge board currently measures ~1.6mA at 3V, and 48MHz and can run solely on a CR2032 coin cell battery for up to 10 days. For comparison, in our Reducing Arduino Power Consumption tutorial, we used an ATmega328 with Arduino Optiboot (Uno) on a breadboard to eliminate all the power hungry components. Spoiler alert: even with that bare-bones approach, the microcontroller pulled between 13.92-3.87 mA, depending on Vcc and clock speed.

Do you have additional ideas to reduce power consumption? Check out others' tips and share your ideas on SparkFun's forums at the power management page.

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