When I first got into electronics and computers, I
spent all my money on what I will call “toys.” Some new IC
or computer peripheral would come out and I had to have
it. This resulted in no budget for “tools” — especially test
equipment. When something needed to be repaired, I had
to resort to very primitive methods to troubleshoot, borrow
the tool, or, in some cases, build my own test tools.
Over the years, my philosophy has changed. It is more
important to me these days to have decent tools and test
equipment before I even think about buying parts or
things I don’t need — no matter how good of a deal it is.
My packrat status has evolved into a need for useful tools
to help me realize not only my project goals, but to
troubleshoot, debug, and even hack.
An Efficient Workstation
It used to be that the majority of my tools were home-brew. Over the years, I have learned which commercial
tools I prefer to use, and have acquired most of what I
Looking at my workstation, you can see most of the
tools I tend to keep handy on or near my bench. Some
are in a rolling drawer cabinet to the left of my work area.
In my normal duties for Parallax, I provide technical
support to customers having issues getting products to
work. Sometimes this involves determining if the customer
has the appropriate test equipment to do things, like
obtain voltage measurements on various pins, check for
I also design some of the sensors and other products
Parallax offers. For this task, I especially need the right
Most people who know me, know
that I am a "tools over toys" kind of
guy. That is, I would prefer to have a
new useful piece of test equipment
over some new tech toy. You may
have heard the quote, "The right tool
for the job." In any profession (or
project build, for that matter), things
go smoother when you have the
correct equipment to accomplish
what you're trying to do.
By Chris Savage
46 November 2014
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