While taking some time off at the holidays this year, I was cleaning up the Garage and I opened up a box with an old wire wrap system I put together back in the mid 80's. I could never allow myself to throw this board out even though it is so out dated and unusable, because I put so much work into it. It took me around six months of wiring testing, then adding some more circuitry and testing again to bring this board to the point that it performed something useful. When ever I would stumble upon the board where ever I stuffed it last, I would pull the board out, turn it over and marvel at all those wires and that I actually designed it, wired it and debugged it, then I would toss it back in the box, because I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it.
It dawned on me exactly how hard and expensive it was to build prototype projects back then and how much easier and affordable it is to build them now with so much more capabilities. I figured it would be an interesting article to contrast the 80's with today, and that it is so far outdated now I am finally ready to part with my first major electronics project. So before I tossed it, I thought I should share with my readers a picture contrasting it with the latest rendition of an ESP8266 based version of an Avatar sensor module.
For all the components and wires, the wire wrap board basically kept track of the time, and decided based on stored configuration whether a device should turn on or off and then sent the X10 command out a serial port to a Heath Kit X10 modem to control the X10 modules I had around my parents house. The wire wrap board has 2 serial ports, one for a user interface and one for sending X10 commands to the X10 modem. It has 8K of RAM and 32K of EPROM for code. It has 2, 1 channel ADC chips that I was using to experiment with sensing Light and Temperature. Embedded C was just starting to come to fruition then, and all this code was written in 6502 assembly language. Its amazing that the micro-controller on the ESP8266 Avatar sensor module has all of that and a lot more its much more powerful than the wire wrap board and it can be coded in C language. Whats also amazing is how much quicker and economical I could build it now, not to mention how much smaller it is. This time the wire wrap board will not be going back into a box in the garage, but finally to the scrap heap.
I hope you enjoyed this look back, I'll be back with another article covering the accomplishments on the Avatar Frame work in 2015 and whats planned for 2016. Until then, have a happy and safe new year.