In high school, I used to love building electronic things. That was so long ago, I was using vacuum tubes to make power supplies.
Once I made an audible tachometer for my car from a schematic in Popular Science. I even thought I wanted to be an EE and started at UC Berkeley in the School of Engineering. After a few quarters I realized that if I didn’t like learning engineering, I probably wouldn’t like doing engineering. (I think my friend Dan Kalman told me that)
Over the years, I still enjoyed making electronic things. Back in the mid 70’s, I had just moved to New York.
As a photo assistant, I used an answering service home answering machines weren’t in wide use.
By the late 70’s, I bought an answering machine and a pager. In those days, the only people who used pagers were doctors. I needed a way to know immediately that I had received a message on my answering machine.
I put a roller switch on one of the answering machine cassette solenoids that triggered a bunch of 555 timers. That dialed my pager’s number from a chopped up Radio Shack phone that had my pager’s numberprogrammed in one of the speed dial locations.
Years later, answering machines had their own call transfer feature.
When Make Magazine started publishing, I became a charter subscriber. The projects they were doing were all the kinds of things that I used to do. One of the projects I saw at the Make Blog, was kit called the MintyBoost, a USB charger designed by ladyada, that fits in an Altoids tin and runs on two AA batteries.
It basically takes the 3 volts from the batteries and boosts it to the 5 volts that USB devices use. Since we have a couple of iPods and cell phone that can be charged with the MintyBoost, I bought a kit.
You can update the v1.1 by adding a resistor.
It’s a great beginner’s kit and easy to assemble. You have to solder the components to the circuit board but you’ll learn basic soldering skills in the process.
The hardest part for me was finding the Altoids gum.
Once you’ve built the charger, you’ll have a something that is useful and may give you the satisfaction of making something yourself. That’s got to be worth something.