Recreating Classic Electronics Kits

Contributors: Nick Poole
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Space-Age Science Fun!

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Do you remember these? Once upon a time, these electronic kits promised '1000s of experiments in one!' and rarely failed to deliver. And, once upon a time, they taught me the basics of how to build a circuit.

The distinguishing feature of the cardboard "all-in-one" electronics kit is the spring connector. Circuits were routed by bending the springs, inserting a jumper wire between the coils and letting go. The pressure of the spring would make an electrical connection with the jumper and you could put more than one wire on any one spring. Each component on the board was broken out to a set of spring connectors, allowing the young inventor to design and build circuits without soldering or wire-wrapping.

We recently got nostalgic here at SparkFun HQ and started selling those spring connectors. Well, it happened to catch me in the middle of a serious cardboard modeling addiction, so it wasn't long before I was building a SparkFun-ized retro electronics kit. After it was finished, I realized that these are still a great way to play with circuits because they're laid out in such a way as to really invite experimentation. "I wonder what happens if I just connect these things in series" Try it! It only takes a few seconds anyway!

So in the interest of preserving history and sharing the magic, here's how you can build your very own all-in-one springboard kit. We'll be putting together a simplified kit with fewer parts than the one you see above, but it should give you all the knowledge you need to design your own. Build it for yourself or for the young inventor in your life!

Suggested Reading

Before diving in to this project, make sure you have a good understanding of the concepts mentioned below.

  • What is a Circuit? - To build your own circuits, you'll need to know what one is first.
  • VIR and Ohm's Law - Use Ohm's Law to help you calculate resistor vaules for LEDs and much more.
  • How to Use a Multimeter - The continuity setting on a multimeter is a great way to ensure the springs are making a good connection.
  • Polarity - Makes sure those polarized parts go in the correct way.
  • Working with Wire - You'll need to use wire to make your connections between springs.
  • Connector Basics - Learn which connectors you can add to your kit.
  • How to Solder - Soldering isn't necessary to build this project. However, soldering your connections will increase the durability and lifespan of your kit.