Sunday, November 27, 2011

Transistors Should Be Easy!

Be aware that the information provided here is an overview of transistors in a general sense. Transistor circuit analysis (the nitty gritty) which is a part of microelectronics, involves an understanding of electric circuit fundamentals, and also considerable experience solving circuits using equivalent circuit models (lots of diagrams and math). If you want the nitty gritty, my best advice to you is to watch online video lectures that are being taught by university professors, like those by rolinychupetin YouTube channel. These online video and tutorials are long and in depth. I highly recommend starting with the BJT videos.

History and Introduction of Transistors

The transistor is a 60-year old component that amped computer technology up to what it is today. The first transistor was invented in 1947 by William Bradford Shockley, John Bardeen, Walter Brittain. (More on Transistor History).
The importance of the device was that it was the first electronically controllable resistor. So, you can imagine a transistor is like a carbon film resistor with a slide switch
Today, transistors are used in computers, robots, and many other creations that rely on logic. Transistor logic is accomplished by combining the switch like behavior of several transistors together.

Interesting Fact: The name, "Transistor" came from "Transforming Resistor." It is surprising, but the transistor is really a resistor that changes its resistance valuedepending on the input signal.

The Bipolar-Junction Transistor

Bipolar junction transistor with labeled pins (E,B and C). The side facing you is considered the back of a transistor, in which has a semicircle shape. The front contains numbers (usually in white ink) used to locate data sheets that go with the specific transistor.

The bipolar-junction transistor (BJT) has only 3 metal pins:

  1. Emitter (E)
  2. Base (B)
  3. Collector (C)

Transistors in general have 2 basic functions:

  1. Switch
  2. Amp
What is a switch or an amp anyway? Try and define them yourself before reading on to get yourself thinking.

A SWITCH is a device that allows you to change values from on to off. This is also known as toggling. Such as the lights in your bedroom, they can be ON or OFF (two different values). The ON/OFF values are also referred to as "states" or more completely, "logic states,", in which ON means True (like "Yes") and OFF means False (like "No").

AN AMP is a device that increases an already defined value. A simple amp is a guitar amplifier. Notice amp is the start of the word amplifier.

With a little twist of thought a switch is an example of very an extreme amplifier. A switch is an "absolute" amplifier. What I mean by this is that a switch is usually 2 values that are extremes of one another (ON or OFF). An amplifier can be used to increase precision as well as distort precision of a value. The softer the guitar gets the harder it will be to hear.

Recap #1:                     ~all answers at the end of the post
 a. An amp is used to _____ an already existing value.
 b. A switch usually has only ____ values.
 c. A standard transistor has ___ metal pins.
Transistors: NPN and PNP
There are  two sub-types of bipolar-junction transistors: The NPN (on left) and the PNP (on right).

NPN stands for "Negative Positive Negative"!
PNP stands for "Positive Negative Positive"!

In order, the bipolar junction transistors' 3 metal pins (also known as leads) can be remembered by E.B.C. = "Eat Big Cookies".

The difference between NPN and PNP transistors is the direction of the flow of electricity (current). In the images above you can see that from bottom to top the NPN pins are EBC ("Eat Big Cookies") and PNP pins are CBE (the reverse order).

PNP = Points iN Proudly
NPN =  Not Pointing iN

-An important note to make is that the B or BASE pin of the transistor is always in between the C (collector) and the E (emitter).
-Also, the NPN and PNP bipolar junction transistor both have their arrows pointing from base to emitter.

When buying the standard JFET transistors, both NPN or PNP, keep the NPN and PNP transistors in seperate labeled bags. It is very difficult, tedious, and down right frustrating to sort through a mixed group of JFETs (PNP and NPN). So, when you buy transistors, buy a SET OF NPN (maybe 20 or so) and keep them all together, in addition to a SET OF PNP (20 would be plenty for basics).

Recap #2:
a. The letter, "e" stands for ______.
b. The letter, "b" stands for ______.
c. The letter, "c" stands for ______.
d. The base pin is always between the ______ pin and the ______ pin.
e. NPN stands for ___________________.

PART 3: Transistors will Vary

Transistors mainly differ in the following ways:
   -size (think about the tiny ones in your computer)!
   -pin orientation
   -level of voltage 

Transistors come in a high voltage from and low voltage form.
The low voltage use transistors (JFETs) tend to be smaller than the high voltage use transistors (MOSFETs).

JFET stands for Junction Field-Effect Transistor.

JFET transistor

MOSFET stands for Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor

Did you know that microprocessors (CPU*) have millions/billions of microscopic transistors in them? Fresh reminder: Transistors are just special resistors.

Not only is it true, but it is an extremely important part of the computer. The microprocessor (millions of transistors and other micro electronics) is in charge of LOGIC and CALCULATIONS (Processing).

*Technically, CPU stands for Central Processing Unit which is a part of a microprocessor so the terms are not equivalent (technically). However, in the real world people use the terms CPU and microprocessor interchangeably.

Due to the fact transistors can act as switches, combinations of these switches/transistors can be used to represent data. When combined correctly transistors can function together as AND, OR, and NOT gates (AOI logic). AOI stands for And Or Invert. More on AOI and Logic later.

TTL = Transistor-Transistor Logic 
RTL = Resistor-Transistor Logic
DTL = Diode-Transistor Logic

The average discrete transistor (both bipolar-junction and field-effect) is about 1.5 cm long. Now, can you imagine squeezing millions/billions of transistors into a CPU (Central Processing Unit) that is only about one squared inch big?!
Central Processing Unit (CPU)

If it weren't for transistors, you would not be on my site reading this right now.

Recap #3: 
a. __________s rely on transistors to perform logic operations
b. What does GDS stand for?
c. MOSFET stands for Metal-Oxide-___1c____-Field-___2c____-____3c_____.
d. JFET stands for _____________.
e. TTL stands for ____________.

Final Recap:
a. "Transistor", the term itself came from what original name. _____1a____ _____2a____
b. Bipolar-junction transistors are often abbreviated as _____'s.
c. Transistors two basic jobs are: __________ and _________.

The following videos are some of the BEST TRANSISTOR LESSON VIDEOS on the web

KPSec Transistor Component
Talking Electronics: PNP or NPN
KPSec Transistor Circuits

Recap #1 Answers:
a. increase; amplify
b. 2
c. 3

Recap #2 Answers:
a. emitter
b. base
c. collector
d. collector, emitter
e. negative positive negative

Recap #3 Answers:
a. computers
b. Gate, Drain, Source
c. Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor(1)-Field-Effect(2)-Transistor(3)
d. Junction Field Effect Transistor
e. Transistor-Transistor Logic

Final Recap Answers:
a. Transforming(1) Resistor(2)
b. BJT
c. amplifying & switching

Saturday, November 26, 2011

3x3x3 LED Cube First!

I plan to create an 8x8x8 LED grid (512 LED's) sometime in the next four months. Looking at the DIY (Do It Youself) projects that could prepare me for the construction of the 8x8x8 LED cube I found 4x4x4 LED cube and 3x3x3 LED cube. The 3x3x3 is absolutely the most ideal project in preparation for the 8x8x8.

This is the best DIY for the 3x3x3 LED cube:
 3x3x3 LED cube DIY (my personal recommendation)

It requires only 27 LED's to build which means that you do not need hundreds of LED's to create a small version of the 8x8x8 one (512 LED's). The process of creating an 8x8x8 LED cube or even a 4x4x4 LED cube is much more involved than the 3x3x3.

*You will need a soldering iron, solder and wires as well, but I'm assuming you may already have them.
Material List (very minimal):
  -Arduino Uno  <-- ($20)  reusable

  -27 LEDs (and some extras)   <--  ($1-$5) TRY EBAY

  - 1kΩ (BROWN BLACK RED) Ohm resisters   <-- ($1-$5) TRY EBAY

10 Significant Steps Toward Blogging Success!

1. Blog about a topic that you truly enjoy and know a lot about.

2. Try to post at the very least on a weekly basis.

3. Do not include risky material, such as racist jokes.

4. Share all of the resources you like and use. Your followers will appreciate the suggested resource, and will come back to you for more resources.

5. Do not have so many ads that your blog is difficult to read or view.

6. Revise and improve your old posts! It takes less time and creates more popularity for your blog. One amazing post is worth more than 1000 bad posts.

7. Follow and learn from other blogs that are in your niche, or category of content.

8. Create posts about information that no one has seemed to post successfully.

9. Keep your blog organized and neat.

10. Provide Email contact and comment posting so you can show your dedication to your readers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steps To Take When A Project Is Not Going Well

1. Take a break (as small or as long as you want it to be)

2. Think about a logical way to fix your problem without just jumping right in. You could write it on paper or on a word document or even draw pictures and diagrams of fixes or adjustments for your project.

3. Do something that makes you feel good!
 Some ideas: -coffee -sleep -sports game -massage chair -bath/shower -Solitaire -browse my site -paint -eat -bike -walk -play with your dog/cat -beer -Youtube videos

4. Promise to yourself that you will learn from this nightmare project.

5. No shame in asking a friend for help or simply telling a friend about the project.
We all need to vent out a little. Even Chuck Norris.

Feel free to email me about your dilemmas and I'll be glad to read and respond.

12 Resources To Accelerate Your Understanding Of Physics

This list will save you a lot of time searching for "the good ones." I promise at the very least, one of these websites will become a part of your favorites. Have fun and good luck!

7. < The best from my experience
12. Legitimate Physics Games!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Computer Timeline 1940 - 2010

I put a lot of work and research into this timeline, but if there are any errors on my part please comment, or email me, so I can keep this timeline at its best! Enjoy!

A Scroll Through Time


The Complex Number Calculator (CNC) was created in 1939 by Bell Telephone Laboratories. It is considered the first computer to be able to perform remote access calculations.


Image Source

6 Signs You Need a New Computer

Most of the following reasons can be summed up to an evaluation of..
- time 
- energy
- money
- level of necessity

6 Signs That You Need A New Computer
1. If your computer has no upgrades for an extended period of time.
This means that the company who gave put together the software and hardware, has moved past your computer in terms of importance.

2. If the computer repair stores cannot help you with your computer for a price lower than a fourth of the computer's original value.
This is because your used computer's repair would cost more than its current value. The exception may be if there is a lot of important files on your computer that you need to take care of.

3. If the speed of your computer has reached an unusable amount. 
*It would be a good idea to talk to a tech savvy friend before buying the new computer because sometimes an increase in RAM (Random Access Memory) can bring your computer's speed back up.

4. If your computer smells burnt.
Burned parts can not be easily replaced, and definitely cannot be fixed. If a certain piece on your motherboard was burned, then you may need to replace the WHOLE motherboard. Your better off with the new computer.

5. If your computer is "not compatible" with common (current day) software. 
Software is basically all the stuff in a computer that you cannot see. The software could include programs like Ad-Aware, or Type To Learn.

6. If a desktop is 6+ years old or a laptop is 3+ years old with daily use.
No computer will live forever, similar to us human beings. The average desktop lives to be about three to six years of age. If you have a desktop that is six years old or older, then the computer is most likely ready to go. Laptops lifespan is shorter than desktops due to the compactness of the hardware.

How It Works: LEDs

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

The LED becomes bright because it turns the current of electrical energy into light energy (photons are waves of light). The symbol (Schematic symbol) for an LED looks like so:

This picture is even more helpful because it labels the Cathode and Anode of the LED. Do you see the arrows pointing out from the triangle in the schematic symbol? That is light energy that is released when the electricity passes from the Anode to the Cathode. A Cathode is known as the "Negative Lead" and the Anode is called the "Positive Lead."

The light waves (photons) are created when the electricity arcs over from the PLUS (+ Anode) lead to the MINUS (- Cathode) lead of the LED. An led runs on a minimal amount of electricity (about 1.5 to 2 V). The larger the LED, the more electricity it will most likely need to function.

The Anode, the positive and longer side of the LED, also can be identified by the flat side of the LED. This is handy when you have leads that are the same length.

If you have heard of an electric arc then that is what you should think of an LED light as. A very small electric arc. The material used in the LED determines the color it will create; not the color of the plastic. Usually the plastic will be the same color as the light, but on occasion you will be using white colored LED's that release blue, red, green light. An LED supplied with too much power will break, similar to that of a fuse, but the LED is not created to be used as a fuse (fuses break upon excessive current (Amperes).

If you wish to use an LED in any project:
-buy an appropriate resistor for each LED you purchase. 1k Ohm would work in most DIY projects (BROWN - BLACK - RED - ANY). For most projects the fourth band of the 4-band resistor is gold. when a 4th band is golden, it has a 5% tolerance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LED Tetris with an Arduino Chip!

I am excited to share this video with you and explain a little bit of what is going on in this program/project.
*This is not my work*

The tetris grid is made of 16x16 LEDs or 256 LEDs! If you are unfimiliar the term LED, it stands for "Light Emitting Diode," and is (in simple terms) a light. So, LEDs emit  light. The Arduino chip is used to tell which LEDs to light up at a given time. It would take an extremely unreasonable amount of space (or memory) and time to program all combinations of the 256 LEDs in their ON or OFF state. To avoid wasting time, a program that can execute decisions in nanoseconds (.000001 second = 1 nanosecond) is updating the LED changes on the fly. When a certain time has past in a game of Tetris, the Tetromino (group of blocks) moves down by one unit which requires an adjustment of the states of a few LEDs. There is no need to change all 256 if only the borders of the tetromino could have changed state. 

I have an Arduino Uno that costed around $25, that I plan to create Tetris on sometime soon, before my big project: 8x8x8 LED cube. I am hesitant to add a 3rd dimension to my projects until I have mastered 2-Dimensional projects. Arduino is a very fun gadget because it bridges the world of Computer Science (Digital World) with Engineering (Physical World). The Arduino makes decisions using logic gates which all rely on microsized transistors, just like our computers. Though, our computers rely on zillions of transistors packed up into a chip called The Microprocessor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Debug a Computer Program

There are a ton of things that could and will go wrong when coding a program:

Systematic Error; Syntax Error; Mathematical (Calculation) Error; Infinite Loop; Null Pointer Exception; A Computer Hardware Error; Invalid Input; Transition Error; Compilation Error........

Nearly all programming errors can be fixed using print line statements:

Insert 3 (or so) print lines in the most important parts of your programming. This would probably be best done with no print lines in the same general area of the others. Keep in mind that what the line prints out to the console, or whatever interface, will need to be identifiable.

Example 1: (java print lines for debugging) [CODE]
System.out.println("This may be error. LOCATION ONE. Method:__________");
System.out.println("This may be error. LOCATION TWO. Method:__________");
System.out.println("This may be error. LOCATION THREE.  Method:__________");

 History tends to repeat itself so try to think back to your previous coding errors and think of where those may occur in your current program.
Inserting print lines will make your program slower and bigger, but it useful for isolating problematic areas.

If I put a print line statement in every loop that occurs in my program that all have a different output, I could run the program and look for which output keeps repeating itself.

Loc 1
Loc 1
Loc 1
Loc 1

if my program keeps outputting Loc 1 then I have most likely found the faulty loop.

Infinite loops are one of my errors you could have, so you are probably wandering what about the other errors. The print lines can take care of those various errors by outputting class variables to the console. For example, a mathematical or calculation error could be identified if a method or function called getEvenInteger() outputs an odd number to the console like so:


The "9" that was printed out should not have been printed out by the getEvenInteger method (or function) because 9 is not an even number.
Knowing this, you should attempt to solve your error from inside your getEvenInteger method.

This process if better defined as debugging by isolation as opposed to print line injection debugging.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tiny Computer We Call Arduino

Have you ever heard of Arduino?

Whether or not your answer to this question is a yes or a no, I would like to share the magic of Arduino with you in addition to some great links for DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. I recently purchased my own Arduino Uno (the standard arduino chip) for just about $25, but they sell for less than that on eBay ("Arduino" on eBay). *This is not my hand, nor my chip (below)*

Arduino Uno

Arduino is the name of the chip or device which is used to record and execute programs that normally involve more than just a console (Print out screen). Usually, an arduino project include LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), speakers, motors and utilize digital logic to solve complex problems. Arduino's are made in Italy and are part of the open source movement that you may be interested in: .

Here is a good diagram that identifies various components on the Arduino (Arduino Diecimila).

The programming in Arduino is relatively simple, but I am biased because I have been programming for a while now. Arduino code filed are called "sketches." So feel free to search around for sketches being exchanged or shared on websites. They are everywhere.

Let's take a look at some of the interesting projects people completed with the Arduino.
For instructions for your own Arduino projects skip to bottom of post.

Rumble Robots With Arduino

8x8x8 LED Cube With Arduino

If you liked this post:

Arduino Projects For You:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Three Requirements to Create A Successful App

Video game and application programming, especially on computers, smart phones, and tablets is VERY profitable. In order to create an "app" or application/game is:

Without energy you can't get your ideas into code. Short and simple. If necessary, have that one extra coffee to finish the job. If you need additional help, motivation, or energy it is best to find a few friends who would like to help create the app.

2. Mediocre Programming skills Or Above.
 Even if all you can do is display images, prompt users for input, and use if else statements, you can create an interesting app. (of course more experience helps, though!) Don't get to know a thousand languages sort of well. You are better off specializing your skills in one particular programming language. My most developed knowledge of any programming language is Java. Coding is not made for everyone, but is worth a try. Feel free to email me Java (or even other languages) questions or comments.

3. A Creative, Innovative, and Observant Mind.
When you create programs, you will get the best response from people who have never experienced such a program. If you are able to create or fill a niche or type of app or game that is unlike the many others in existence, then you are set for success.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Difficult Captchas to Create Account
Believe it or not, if you ever created an account that required you to interpret a box twisted of letters or characters (Ex. 'a', 'b' '7' '2'...) and it was labeled in red with Re-Captcha, then you have served the worlds efforts to digital the millions of literature.

Examples of typical Captcha boxes.
The sole purpose that websites use Captchas is to verify if you are a human being. The concern is not foreign members, space aliens or ghosts, but is to deny mass account creation completed by programs. People can and do create programs that create billions of accounts in a day for a few simple reasons:

1. Make your opinion heard. Any poll offered only once to each user account of a website would be slaughtered by an account making computer algorithm. (in most cases this is illlegal)

2. Hatred or dislike for any affiliated with the website, companies, or poll question and answers.

3. Account names are often sold for money, illegally. If a person creates account name: IHeartJesus1, IHeartJesus2, IHeartJesus3..... IHeartJesus9999999999. Then anyone who really wanted one of those names IHeartJesus1 - IHeartJesus9999999999 for their account is probably willing to pay $1 to have the person delete their account that was being held, or simply given the password.
Reserving names of .com (ending) or .net (ending) can be lucrative, especially if the name of the site is a common word like. "".

4. Just recreational horseplay

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Technological Look At Eleven Eleven Eleven

Thank You Veteran's. (Today is also Veteran's Day which is more important)
Today is 11/11/11 and I'm sure you know this, but did you realize that today is the last binary day for about a century (100 years).  Binary numbers consist strictly of 1's and 0's. The only exception to the binary day celebration is that 11/11/2011 is not a true binary day because the 2 of two thousand is not displayed in DD/MM/YY. The most specific 11/11/11 would have to be at 11:11AM with 11 seconds, 11milliseconds, 11 nanoseconds.....
Imagine how special it would be to be alive in November 11, 1111 at 11:11:11AM. I'm sure it was a lot harder to manage time then than it is today.

Has anyone told you to make a wish because it is 11:11AM or 11:11PM?

Either way, this tradition was at its climax today at 11:11AM, so I hope you made a great wish! If you forgot to wish before 11:11AM then you can sneak a small one in tonight at 11:11PM, but the effect will not be as strong due to the time being 23 hours and 11 minutes into the day as opposed to 11 hours and 11 minutes.

Don't you love numbers?! HAPPY BINARY DAY.