Introduction: The Zen of Hardware

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Sometimes you notice recurring patterns in your way to explore and make things.
You succeed, you fail, you are happy and you get angry.
You learn a lot of technical stuff and by miracle, but  ....    even in this very technical world, you learn something about yourself and the world...

This instructable is more about a lesson I learnt then really making something (although something is made).
My teacher for this very important lesson was hardware.

Since his lesson can be applied everywhere (that is, you can practice not getting angry everywhere),
I called "him" the "The Zen of Hardware".

Step 1: The First Lesson: Hardware Is Always Right!

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There is a good (and hard) lesson to be learnt from Zen master Hardware.

Do you recognize this experience, for instance, you have already made hundreds of drawdio's and so you decide you need one more for a textile version, you want to make it in 5 minutes and suddenly it does not do its thing?

Now suddenly your project deadline is threatened because it takes an hour, or even more - somehow you lack some components, the combination of available parts didn't produce the sound, the soldering is chaotic?

You are getting angry, blame everything but yourself?

Hardware lesson number 1:
Hardware is always right, and you are not.

The mistake can be a speck of soldering making a shortcut, a broken connection, a battery a bit out of steam…

In contrast to hardware, for instance software or humans have a lot of ways to do what you want. In normal "soft" life when solution A doesn't function, B will, or C, so with a bit of trial and error everything can be made functioning (well functioning a little bit).
Hardware - 99.99 percent of the time - has only one way of functioning.
And if it doesn't function: YOU are to blame, nothing and nobody else.

Step 2: Lesson 2: If So, There Is Something to Learn!

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Hardware lesson 2:
If hardware is right (it does not function) then there is something to learn. Learning takes time, so take your time - and it takes energy, be relaxed and in the mood for spending energy on learning.

When something works right away, nothing has been learnt.
There will be an example in this instructible, where the drawdio circuit didn't work, and indeed there was something to be learnt!
If you solder circuitry (found in a book or on internet) and it works right away, you actually did not learn anything! It went too fast. Only when you make mistakes, you get "in touch" with hardware, you learn why components are used, you start reading about the chips, and hopefully you get experimenting. This is the point where you learn to create yourself, building on the experience of others.

So the Geigercounter of Mighty Ohm worked right away, I was happy about that, but I learnt nothing about the workings (i can study the doc's, and I did, but to really inderstand it, I have to get involved...)

The liquid display with the Attiny 2313 didn't cause me too much trouble, although this is very possible when you don't use nice prefab circuits...

Step 3: A Good Example Where I Got Stuck

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Components needed:
555 chip
capacitor: 22 pF, 150 pF, 150 nF, 10 muF
resistor bridge, 50K, 250K
a small speaker (piezo)
a battery, 9V
some wires

handy would be an experimenting board (bread board)

So this is the situation: there is a simple drawdio, using a 555 chip, made hundreds of times, you can find it everywhere. I have made this one in a glove:

I needed a quick version of a drawdio with an embroidery made with glow in the dark thread.

Here is the simple circuit, I made the drawdio for touching through your skin (hands, fingers) and another one for touching conductive materials, like water, steel bars, and a third one for graphite.
Because the sound produced is dependend on the capacitor between PIN 1 and 2, in relation with the resistor bridge between PIN 6-7-8 you need three versions for these three domains, because the bridge between PIN 7 and 6 is ... your body, graphite, or water.

(You can find the description of the glove of the image here:
http://myfablab.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/super-simple-drawdio/ )

Step 4: The Zen Master Hit Me!

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As already told, I planned 15 minutes for making my drawdio in the textile version. Well it didn't took me 15 minutes, but hours. Al the versions of the drawdio's I made before worked, but not the one I was making at that moment.

So, since I know this old and hard Zenmaster, just before getting angry, I switched my gloomy mood to: ok, maybe "there is something to learn".

I started to collect the right components and some components with value around the one's indicated.
Again I looked at the specifications and the domains of resistance. Then I made a few versions on an experimenting board.
Then I started adding capacitors to PINS I had always ignored.
Also I inserted a LED where it shouldn't be inserted, between PIN 8 and the resistor bridge. (A LED being a diode!)
The LED started blinking! It depends on the LED, because apparently not all LED's are in the right voltage range.
The extra capacitors and some wires which can be touched by your finger ((you can try to do this on nearly all PINs of the 555)  made more sound differences appear, I could make a "kiss" sound and other weird soundscapes.

So ... I had to admit ... I learnt something new.

I made two try-out's and even these started getting together, interfering with each other in the experimenting board.

Step 5: Lesson 3: You Are Never Right (if You Don't Want to Learn!)

Picture of Lesson 3: You Are Never Right (if You Don't Want to Learn!)

So I got knew versions of modified drawdio's and more sounds.

I already knew that when I would solder this, because of the dependence on small capacitors, the effect will change - in the textile version.

In the end I had a the LED inside the textile version and it ws possible with three fingers to make changes to the sound.

And by the way, there is a third hard lesson from the Zenmaster:
I told you hardware is different from software and humans.
There only seems to be a difference...

Don't get angry!
Other human beings and software are also always right, like hardware, and you are wrong (if they don't function like you think they should). Indeed you are always wrong, in the sense that there is always a lesson to learn!

Happy learning!

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