A Technophilic Winter Interlude

My life recently has seemed to take even more of a slant towards computers than usual, invoking a sort of single-mindedness that I rarely exhibit. The realisation that I have finally found the subject that I appear to be most talented at has given me a new focus on life and on my studies, reigniting my competitive spark, but cutting into my ability to focus my attention on other details of my life, not only the banal elements, like my employment, but also some of my other interests, like cinema, literature and even computer gaming. My Christmas, given that my exams are approaching, hasn’t really given me much of a respite from that, and my Christmas presents largely reflect that.

Several new items have been appended to my book collection, some relating to my non-computing interests, like motor vehicles and aircraft, but most relating to programming. The official Oracle reference for the Java language, Java: The Complete Reference, now sits on my shelves, along with seven new volumes of the O’Reilly Pocket Reference series. Given that I will probably have quite a bit more to do with Java before my education is finished, and possibly afterwards, it seems like a good time to redouble my efforts with the language. With that aim in mind, the Oracle reference makes a welcome addition to my definitive programming references, along with Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie’s seminal treatise on the C programming language and a printed copy of the R5RS Scheme reference manual.

All of those books are for (at least ostensibly) serious work, though. My other computer-related present had a rather more substantial bent towards entertainment. Since I got my Raspberry Pi earlier during the year, I have been curious as to both the software elements, which I have explored quite deeply, as well as the hardware opportunities presented by the GPIO pins. Until now, I have been unable to afford the parts to really explore the electronic aspect of the Raspberry Pi, which made me happy when I got to open one of my packages on Christmas Day.

What I received was the Starter Kit C from SK Pang Electronics in the UK, a kit including a laser-cut acrylic base for the Raspberry Pi, a large 840-contact breadboard, various resistors, LEDs and tactile switches, jumper wires for connecting the GPIO ports to the contact points on the breadboard, as well as a series of other components such as an analogue-digital converter, an 8-bit I2C extender, a Trimpot 10K potentiometer and an analogue temperature sensor. The package arrived with all of the components professionally arranged, with the base requiring only a few minutes for assembly. As soon as the base was ready and the breadboard was placed, I could begin with the GPIO work, taking some tips from the tutorials on the SK Pang website, along with others in the MagPi magazine.

So far, I haven’t done much independent electronic experimentation; my time with the Raspberry Pi has largely consisted of testing whether the various electronic components worked as expected, taking other people’s source code and running it with the component layout I retrieved from other sources. My own tests have been limited to programming LEDs to flash in sequence, but I believe that I can come up with some personal projects without too much delay. I’d like to see whether I can conjoin the GPIO programming with my own game programming development, which could lead to some hardware interfaces tying into my game designs!

While the resistors, LEDs and switches found in the SK Pang starter kit can easily be found in other electronic experimenting kits of comparable quality, what interests me about the kit that I have is the range of additional components to experiment with. These components can also be bought separately from many electronic suppliers, which means that there are good ideas floating out there, and having them all to experiment with early on allows me to plan ahead more quickly for other ideas. I’m sure that when I have the time, I can have some real fun with my new parts.

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