By Bryan Bergeron
The Digilent Electronics Explorer Board — which I’ll refer to as the EE Board
— is marketed as an all-in-one analog circuit design station. With the
addition of a laptop or desktop computer, I found this to be true.
To determine if this solderless breadboard and virtual instrument suite
is for you, read on.
If you’re into low cost electronics experiments, you’re familiar with breadboarding. Solderless breadboards enable anyone to insert wires and leaded components,
test a circuit, and make rapid changes as necessary — all
without damaging the components. Breadboards come in
a variety of sizes, from a few square cm to page-size
boards that can hold dozens of components. Some have
built-in power supplies. Others can be powered readily
with plug-in supplies, such as the Breadboard Power
Supply 5V/3V from SparkFun ($10).
What sets the Digilent’s EE Board apart from the pack
is the programmable power supply and data I/O hardware
combined with a formidable array of virtual instruments
and controls. Figure 1 shows the breadboard and
component kit. For about $600 ($400 for teachers and
$300 for students), you not only get a 6. 5” x 4” solderless
breadboard, but an impressive set of virtual instruments
that are as powerful as they are easy to use. There’s a
virtual oscilloscope/spectrum analyzer, waveform
generator, power supply, voltmeter, logic analyzer, digital
pattern generator, and static input/output interface.
Highlights of the test and
measurement specifications for each
virtual instrument/test device are listed
below. Refer to the user manual
(downloadable from www.digilent
inc.com) for more details.
• Oscilloscope/Spectrum Analyzer
— Four-channel, 40 MSps (million
samples/sec), AC/DC coupling, ± 20V
input range. There’s an FFT function
and support for data capture and
• Waveform Generator — Two-channel, 4 MHz bandwidth, 10V
output, with frequency sweep and
FIGURE 1. The breadboard and