Breadboarding for Beginners

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Breadboard is the common term for a solderless prototyping board for electronic circuits. Using a breadboard is a good way to try out different circuits wihtout the need to learn to solder (or desolder). Unlike a printed circuit, a breadboard is a perfectly generic arrangement of connection points that makes it simple and quick to connect various components, and especially integrated circuits in a dual inline package (DIP chips).

If you think in terms of building a circuit around an IC, you have to somehow connect various components, plus power and ground, to the legs of the IC. The breadboard is arranged to give you rows of tie points grouped by fives that are electrically connected. If the leg of an IC takes one, that leaves you with four attachment points for each leg, which is almost always enough. A breadboard may also offer you bus strips to carry the connections from your power supply across the various rows of tie points. This is terribly handy if you connect multiple ICs (since each one will need a power and ground connection–you can keep the layout very tidy with bus strips).

tie point layout in rows of five
groups of five tie points run vertically, bus strips horizontally
DIP chips straddle the channel
a 14-pin DIP chip installed

All sorts of components that are suitable for use on circuit boards will either have the standard 0.100″ lead spacing needed to work with this layout, or have flexible enough leads that you can make them fit. Removing and replacing components is very easy. The connectors beneath the surface of the boards grip the components lightly to hold them in place until you remove them.

Make connections using solid (not stranded) wire, usually 22AWG, but a little smaller or larger will often work. You can buy kits of wires cut, stripped, and bent to exact multiples of the hole spacing (and color-coded with the resistor color code). These kits are good for those neat freaks out there. Or you can just buy (or salvage) hookup wire and cut it to length yourself.


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