Introduction: How to Make the Internet (from the IT Crowd).


This is my first instructable since I was born, so without further ado, let us begin!
In this instructable, I will show you how to make THE INTERNET.

The Internet was first shown in public in The IT Crowd, Series 3, Episode 4.

Consisting of a mysterious black box with a flashing red indicator LED, the power of the world is contained within.

Fun facts about the internet!

1. The internet is surprisingly small!
2. The internet is wireless!
3. The internet is very light! (of course the internet doesn't weigh anything!)
4 The internet lives at the top of Big Ben! (where it gets the best reception)
5. Before being borrowed, it MUST be demagnetised! Preferably by a Grand Master of The Internet such as Stephen Hawking.

Every part of this project was purchased from Maplin. I will list the components and order codes for your ease of use in the next step.

Having recently got back into electronics after a hiatus, I decided to set myself an easily accomplishable task.
For those getting into electronics and want something fun, geeky and slightly obscure, then this instructable is for you!

Step 1: Parts, Pieces and Prices

All the parts of this project were purchased from Maplin Electronics, here follows a list of the parts with order codes in brackets and prices.
I hope I don't have to tell you that these prices can and will change in time so don't be surprised if it costs a couple of quid more in a few months...

Black ABS Box (BZ75) x 1 @  £3.99
Strip board (JP46) x 1 @ £1.46
Solid core wire (BL94) x 1 @ £1.99
High efficiency red 5mm LED (uk48) x 1 @ £0.49
Chrome LED bezel (N88AX) x 1 @ £1.19
NE555 timer (QH66) x 1 @ £0.59
330 ohm 0.6W resistor (M330R) x 1 @ £0.17
1M ohm 0.6W resistor (M1M) x 2 @ £0.17
1uF 100V electrolytic capacitor(VH16) x 1 @ £0.13
CR2032 holder (L01AC) x 2 @ £0.59
CR2032 (ZB74) x 2 @ £2.99

I believe that's everything...
The total is £17.51, if I've added correctly. The most expensive parts are the box and the batteries. I could have bought them from somewhere other than maplin, and most likely somewhere cheaper (ebay for example), but I'm lazy and wanted to get everything I needed from the one place!
(side note: being that this project marks my return to electronics, I also had to buy a soldering iron, stand and solder... this fast became an expensive flashing box!)

Step 2: The Box

Firstly, we must prepare the box.
All you will see on the outside is three things, the box, the LED and the chrome bezel.
To fit the chrome bezel we need to drill a hole.

In a very handy turn of events, the box I bought had a moulding feature right slap-bang in the centre of the top of the box, showing me exactly where I needed to drill. If you don't have this feature, just use a pencil to draw diagonal lines between the corners and they will cross at the centre.

I used a drill bit 9/32 of an inch. Don't know why I have an imperial sized drill bit, it just appeared...
This bit was actually a little small, by about half a millimetre. I unfortunately didn't have a larger bit so just wiggled the bit to widen the hole.
If you use an 8mm bit then you should be fine.

Step 3: The LED & Its Bezel

The Bezel has 4 parts to it: the bezel itself, a spring washer, a nut and a plastic insert.

I discovered a problem. *dramatic orchestral stab*

The insert is a cylindrical piece of plastic with three holes (only two are relevant to us), which holds the LED (mostly with friction) inside the bezel.
The problem is that with the LED in the insert, and the insert pushed (a.k.a. inserted) into the bezel, the LED sat short of the bezel opening. It was only by a couple of millimetres, but I didn't exactly want the LED rattling about, falling through the bezel. I needed to stand the LED away from the insert by a small amount.

I solved this by trimming a couple of tiny shards of plastic off a plastic bottle cap. You would probably be able to find something more suitable, but I'm lazy, therefore I use the closest thing to hand, in this case a sports bottle cap cover and a pair of scissors.I put the two tiny bits of plastic between the insert and the LED, in between the LED legs. This sat the LED up by the perfect amount so that It protruded fully from the bezel with the plastic insert fully inserted.

With that sorted, remove the nut and washer from the bezel, insert it through the outside of the box, and screw the washer and nut on the inside.
Then insert your LED and insert (complete with plastic bits) into the bezel. It should be held in place with friction.

I bent the LED legs apart, as I'm not going to bother attempting any other insulation. Make note of the negative leg and put a small bend right at the end of the leg, or some other feature to identify it. With the LED in the bezel there isn't any indication of polarity.

With that, you should have a box that, from the outside, looks like THE INTERNET!
This is all well and good, but it doesn't DO anything... ONWARDS!

Step 4: Circuit

Predictably, I used a classical 555 astable circuit.
I studied a few circuits. I hoped to run my circuit on just one button battery, either a 1.5 or 3v. This led me towards transistor flip-flop circuits. I tried a few different circuits to no avail before my impatience pushed me to the 555.
I was hoping to make a circuit that would flash the LED for 50-100ms out of every second, so that the internet would run for weeks on one battery.
In choosing the 555, there were two compromises. Firstly I required two batteries instead of one (the 555 requires a minimum of 5v). Secondly I wouldn't be able to make a short flash for extended battery life as the 555 doesn't allow an off/low output longer than the on/high output.

The following is optional:
I prototyped the circuit on a breadboard.

I played about with resistors I had to hand. Using two 1 mega ohm resistors gave me a time of approximately 0.7 seconds low and 1.4 seconds high.
Watching the clip from The IT Crowd, the time period seems to be long, so this circuit is probably more accurate to the TV show than my short-flash idea.
If you've not done much electronics then prototyping can be a VERY good idea, allowing you to switch components and play around as you wish. Imagine soldering your circuit together and, after finding it not working, discovering it could have been solved in the prototype stage when you could easily change things.

I then soldered the circuit on the veroboard. One tool not mentioned thus far is a veroboard track cutter. This is a cross between a screwdriver and a drillbit, used to cut the copper tracks on veroboards (necessary when using DIL chips). These are, in my opinion, overpriced, so I just used a drillbit with my fingers.

I had already used a section of the stripboard for another project in progress, so I snapped off as much as possible, which probably wasn't enough. As you can see from my pictures, it is all a bit tight.
I am quite impressed at how compact I kepts the main parts of the circuit. The main problem was, as you can probably see, the CR2032 holders, which are bloody chunky and didn't fit so happily (there was enough space for one but the second wasn't so happy. Got it in eventually though).

As you can see from my photos, I haven't shown you the bottom (copper track) part of the circuit. That is because it is a monstrosity which should not be privy to prying eyes.

Also, the wires, you see, are curly. These are for connection to the LED are soldered between pin 3 on the 555 (the output pin) and the resistor (which goes to the negative rail, used to protect the LED).
I have curled them by wrapping them around a pencil. I did this so that they are more flexible, and just easier to deal with.

Step 5: Containment & Completion

Now, with the circuit complete (ish), there it one last thing to do. We need to attach those output wires to the LED (which we put in place in step 3).
I just soldered the ends of the wires straight onto the legs of the LED. Not the most resilient connection, but with everything in the box, they shouldn't be under much strain anyways.
I used only white wire for two reasons. Firstly, to make it harder for you guys. Secondly, because I'm cheap, and only wanted to buy one colour wire.

The wire coming from leg 3 of the 555 IC goes to the positive leg of the LED, and the other wire goes from the resistor to the negative leg of the LED (aren't we glad we identified the negative leg now?).
I used a small piece of tape to secure the circuit to the board. It's a small, light circuit, and the box should be undergoing massive g-forces so this should be fine.

And now, your circuitry should be complete. If you insert the batteries now your LED should be flashing. If not, you're a naughty person and you've done something wrong. Now go and think about what you've done.
Or you can try turning it on and off again.

Now, close up the box! If you feel the need to, you can use the screws provided (in a small bag inside the box), but I haven't bothered thus far as friction seems to be enough and I'd like easy access if the battery dies. At this stage you can also appreciate why curling the wires for the LED helps. Otherwise you'd either have too little slack presenting a risk to the LED connections when opening/closing the lid, or too much slack getting in the way when closing the lid.

Step 6: Summary

You are now the proud owner of your very own internet!
Use it for whatever you like!

I have a couple of do-nots for you though.

1) DO NOT take to an airport, unless you like some extra ventilation in your head.
2) DO NOT leave in a car, or attached to the bottom of a car, unless you like prison food.

Any questions?

You may be wondering why I chose the methods I used, such as a relatively complicated 555 circuit when I could just buy a flashing LED.
The answer isn't really simple. I wanted something slightly more complex so I could have greater satisfaction upon completion.
By all means, if you want to make something more basic, buy a flashing LED. You can even buy one from Maplin with a plastic surround and wires already attached, you just need to drill a hole in your box, put it in and attach a power source (albeit 12v, as it's designed as a dummy car alarm).

I am quite happy with my project, having set out to do something simple, yet looks good and is accurate to the original IT Crowd version.

The internet is an amazing wonderous thing that has revolutionised the way we live forever. Just don't drop it!