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Evolution Side Notes

I figure now would be a good time to cover a few items related to the Evolution Project that don't really fit anywhere else. First up, I should give credit where credit is due and that begins with the schematics I draw up.

The program I have been using for schematic design is ExpressSCH, which is part of the ExpressPCB software package by expresspcb. It is a free download and, should you so choose, gives you direct price quotes from expresspcb for the PCB drawings you create. While it doesn't contain as many different components as other packages I have used, it has one of the easiest methods for creating your own custom components.

Another nice feature is that you can link a schematic created in ExpressSCH to a PCB board created in ExpressPCB, which can save you a few headaches in checking the connectivity between components. It also allows you to export your schematic to a bitmap file, which I then crop, resize and covert to jpg for upload to the great and powerful blog.

On the subject of schematics, I should mention that I haven't designed any of these circuits from the ground up. I have instead followed in the footsteps of the best and brightest and stolen from everyone else. That is part of the whole Intelligent Design aspect of the Evolution Project. This should be no big surprise, as I didn't invent the Miller Solar Engine, Andrew Miller did. In turn, he stole parts of it from other circuit designs.

Most of what I come up with is from memory. Once upon a time I was trained as a Nuclear Electronics Technician, which meant I knew transistor theory better than most EE professors from MIT. Being trained as a Nuke ET didn't mean you had that level of knowledge, but in my case I really did. While everyone else was memorizing the latest material, I was drawing out amplifiers and latches, but that is another story. Years of disuse later and I have a very hard time pulling that information out from the recesses of my brain, but it is still there someplace and allows me to figure out what components to put where and what I should change.

For all the other stuff that doesn't come directly from my mind, I have many Internet sources for inspiration. A snippet of a circuit from here, a modification on my own, and a snippet of a circuit from over there. That is where the previous and future circuits come from. For those curious few people, here's my top list of go to websites for those snippets (in no particular order):

1. Solarbotics.net.
2. BEAM Wiki. I've mentioned these first two a few dozen times already, and will continue to do so throughout this project.
3. Society of Robots. I use this site so much for refresher material that it has a permanent link on the sidebar over there.
4. David Cook's Robot Room. I own both his books from when I reemerged into robotics. The books combined with the website have tons of good information and circuit designs.
5. Manufacturer datasheets.
OK, got all the credits out of the way. The last side note on this project is in what you see versus what you don't see. The schematics, bread boarded circuits and completed ALs that get posted are the things that work or the necessary step to get from something that worked to another something that worked; such as Species A Gen 2. In coming up with what works, there are a lot of schematics and bread boarded circuits that do not. Some things look good on paper, but behave badly in reality.

Until all the electronics theory resurfaces in my brain (or I take a refresher course) there will be quite a many of these designs that get built out, but never discussed. Even once I have all that knowledge back, there will still be plenty of these designs. That is what makes it evolution, those species that can not survive die off and those that can live on; even if it just on paper (or in this case the web). It's my process, and I hope it explains some of what we will be seeing here as the project continues.

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