Octopart - search engine for electronic parts Answered
Two weeks ago I met with Andres and Sam of Octopart. Andres had literally dropped out of graduate school the day before to join Sam full-time building their search engine for electronic parts. You enter the part number, or simply its title or use, and Octopart returns the best matched specific components, their prices and availability from several suppliers, and links to the relevant catalog pages.
I wish this had existed back in 1998. At the time, I was in charge of building the power controller for a web-controlled, wireless robot with a live video feed as part of the ultimate class in MIT's undergraduate mechanical engineering program, 2.009 Product Design. What is now a relatively easy task, was really kicking my butt then. After two painstakingly hand-built MOSFET H-bridges driven by charge pumps had exploded in my face, I was at my wits ends. I knew there had to be a better solution, but could not find it anywhere. At one stage, I even sat down with the Digikey catalog, and started reading through all of the components in the sections I thought might have something relevant.
Pop "h-bridge" into Octopart and the fourth result is my favorite chip (and what eventually saved my skin in 2.009), the LMD18200. Hey look, the cheapest price with the highest availability is at Digikey, I think I'll get it there...
Octopart is pretty cool as is, and I'm sure there will soon be lots more distributors. What's even more exciting, in my opinion, is the concept of Octopart searching through a webpage, determining what specific parts are mentioned, and generating a personalized shopping cart with the cheapest and most readily available parts. When we spoke, Andres and Sam said it might be a few months until they were ready to release at all - it would seem quiting grad school has been good to Octopart, so I'm sure cool new additions are right around the corner.