Creator’s guide to circuits and tech

Pighixxx has been making circuit diagram art for a few years now, and has just come out with a book that’s available on Kickstarter. He started out making very pretty and functional pinout diagrams for many microcontrollers, and then branched out to modules and development boards like the Arduino and ESP8266. His graphical style has been widely copied, which truly is the sincerest form of flattery.

But after pinouts, what’s next? Elaborate circuit diagrams done in the same style, of course. “ABC: Basic Connections” started out life as a collection of frequently used sub-circuits in Arduino projects. But you can take “Arduino” with a grain of salt — these are all useful for generic microcontroller-based projects. So whether you want to drive a 12 V solenoid from a low-voltage microcontroller, drive many LEDs with shift registers, or decode a rotary encoder, there is a circuit snippet here for you.

One of the things that I like most about the graphics in “ABC” is that they’re not dumbed down — they’re fundamentally just well-done circuit diagrams, but with graphic touches and extra detail where it actually helps to clarify things. This is a middle ground between the kind of schematic you use in a PCB layout program and the kind of diagram you get from Fritzing. In the former, every part has a symbol, but multi-functional parts like microcontrollers are just represented as squares loaded with pin numbers. In the latter, wiring up an IC is easy because the parts and pins are represented graphically, but you quickly run out of colors for the different wires, and it turns into a rat’s nest with a circuit of any complexity.

“ABC” takes the middle road, using standard circuit diagram style overall, but also the nice graphic representations of the ICs and modules for which Pighixxx is known. Is a 2N2222 pinned EBC or BCE? You don’t have to look that up, because it’s sketched out for you here. I’d guess that this attractive, but information-rich style is a great fit for the target audience — people with some electronics experience who do not yet have their favorite transistor symbol tattooed on their forearm. Pighixxx’s diagrams are simple, easy to understand, easy to use, and just plain pretty.

There is a planned online counterpart to the book, with further elaborations of all the circuit setups. They’re not finished yet, but they have a lot more of the flavor of the Fritzing-style “this-wire-goes-to-that-hole” diagrams. This style does work better in an online format than in a physical book, because you can build up the rat’s nest in bite-sized steps. But honestly, for an advanced beginner or intermediate electronics hacker, the book can be treated as stand-alone. The web content may help the rank newbie when they get stuck.

The extent of circuits in “ABC” is wide, covering most of the microcontroller-interfacing problems that we will ever encounter. None of the circuits are revolutionary; they’re the tried-and-true, correct solutions to the various problems, rather than anything too hacky or clever. These are basic connections after all, and a solid collection of them.

To sum up, “ABC” is an attractive book in a handy binder format that would make a great collection of solutions for anyone who is just getting started in the whole “Arduino” scene but who gets hung up on interfacing the chips with the real world. It’s a handy reference for the pinouts of many frequently used parts, combined with the resistors, flyback diodes, level-shifting circuits, and whatever else that you’d need to make them work. It’s what we wish our simple circuit diagrams looked like. I like it. Do you? Let us know in the comment section below.

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