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What You Need to Get Started

Now that you’re all excited about the benefits of working on electronics projects, you’re probably wondering what this will cost you in dollars and workspace.

How much will it cost?

We tried to keep the cost of the projects in this book to under $100; in many cases, the materials and parts will cost you under $50 or so. Depending on what you have lying around the house already, you might not have to invest in some of the basic tools, such as pliers or a screwdriver. You will probably have to spend $50 or so for electronics-specific tools and materials such as a soldering iron, solder, and a multimeter like the one shown in Figure 1-3.

figure 1-3

If you want to get really fancy, you could spend a couple hundred dollars on fancy testing equipment such an oscilloscope, but you don’t have to have that equipment to get through these projects, by any means. Of course, in the world outside this book, projects can cost you hundreds of dollars. Like any hobby, you can spend a few bucks to dabble or mortgage your house to get into it in a big way. To get your feet wet in electronics, though, the investment is not that great. Keep in mind that you can reuse some of the parts of one project (such as a breadboard) in another and cut your electronics budget further.

See Gathering tools for information about the parts and tools that we recommend you get to build your basic electronics workshop.

Space . . . the final frontier

One thing you do need to leap into the world of electronics projects is space. That doesn’t mean you have to take over your living room and build a fancy workbench. In most cases, a corner of your garage or laundry room stocked with a shelf where you can keep parts and a card table works just fine.

We do advise that you find a specific space for your projects. In short order, your workspace will be filled with tools and parts and all kinds of (useful) junk (see Figure 1-4). See "Avoiding shocks" section for advice about safety when working with all this stuff. For example, stock your workspace with safety glasses that protect you whenever bits of wire go flying, and find a place where you can keep your soldering iron in a stand so it doesn’t roll into your lap.

figure 1-4

We also recommend finding a spot that you can close off if there are others in your household — especially small children or pets — who could topple your work surface or eat tiny electrical parts and do themselves damage. Electronic projects don’t happen in a day, and you might work on a single project over a matter of weeks. If you have a small room with a door to keep others out, great. If not, use your common sense about what you leave out on your work surface overnight.