Codename Colossus – Drawing the PCB

There has been radio silence for over a month because life got in the way of having fun. In the past month, I’ve had to do a repair on my ceiling: workmen tore up my nearly 40 year old wooden false ceiling off, replaced it with gypsum board, and painted everything. Since the work is on the ceiling, everything needed to be packed and moved out of the way. The ordeal was like moving out, but I moved straight back in, without the benefit of a new place. Having said that, the ceiling is now spanking new and white, which is great. I also had to spend two weeks in army reserves training. All of which meant that not a lot got done on Codename Colossus in the meantime.

However, the project was not at a complete standstill, though it moved at glacial pace. I had previously wanted to ask some acquaintances to help me draw my circuit design, which I had tested on a breadboard, into a CAD programme so that I can get it manufactured. Unfortunately, every one who has the know-how is too busy with more important projects of their own. I had tried to do it on my own, but being unfamiliar with what the components are called meant that I could not easily add them to the schematic. Also, EAGLE PCB Design Software is pretty exasperating to use, if you come at it from the perspective of a user of graphics software. The user interface is closer to Microsoft Paint than Photoshop CC. Of course, it is free (to a certain size and specification), so is widely used by hobbyist. It is a similar struggle as I feel when doing programming. What I sit and stare and struggle with for days, I am quite sure a person with the know-how and the experience can solve in 5 min, or 5 seconds.

In the end, realizing that I would be “out of office” for some weeks, I commissioned someone to design the board from an online freelancing website. At the same time, when I could steal some time away, I did attempt to learn and figure out what my board designer was doing, and have now slowly learnt more about the EAGLE PCB Design Software. The main problem, similar to the problem I have with Arduino programming, is that people who make online tutorials only do the beginner stuff. No one makes intermediate to advanced how-to videos. People who do make advanced videos assume their audience are experts too. I perfectly understand why, the sheer scope of possible intermediate projects is just so huge that it would be impossible to cover them all.

I gave the board designer the board design I draw up in Illustrator in a couple of hours, and he went off to make the board. The final intended board is for me to solder on the integrated chips (IC) and headers myself, so they are not using the small surface mounted device (SMD), but more traditional ones with the pins instead. I grew up seeing my Dad soldering those IC with the many legs, and had imagined them as mechanical catepillar tanks.

You can see the sketch I gave to my PCB designer, and the schematic and end result.

So, here is the first glimpse of the board design with a definite “coming soon” announcement. Would I be able to draw the next board myself on EAGLE PCB Design Software? Now I will hesitantly answer “Yes” now than a flat “No” before. Despite not having done this myself, by communicating with and seeing the result of the board designer’s work and his decisions, quite a few things now make sense to me when they did not while just watching a Youtube video based on some other project.

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