Electronics

Cat Paw Print SMIn the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, we specialised in the repair of, at first, domestic TV’s, videos and Hi-Fi equipment, but Nick Wardvery quickly moved into Bang & Olufsen, and for a time, became Sheffield’s ‘official’ B&O repair centre.

We also serviced and repaired recording studio equipment for the likes of FON Studios, The Human League, AXIS Studios, and Blank Tape Studios, amongst many others.

We also helped design and build electronic music instruments, notably for the ambient band, ‘The Orb’.

These days, our main passion is for microcontrollers, specifically the PIC range of micros from Arizona Microchip.

With these controllers and their increasing complexity, we have moved from programming them in PIC assembler into ‘C’ programming.

It is in ‘C’ that we are most proficient, and we’ve written programs to interface a PIC18F4550 via I2C to an RTCC (Real Time clock Counter), as well as Input/Out chips such as the MCP23008 IO chip.

Other programs and circuits incorporate I2C non-volatile memory, and using the SPI bus, we’ve successfully demonstrated using the Dallas Semiconductors MAX7219 LED driving chip to power multiple 7-segment LED displays.

Nick WardWe’ve also successfully interfaced the Dallas Semiconductors DS18B20 1-wire temperature sensing unit, and can now read temperature, onto a 7-segment display, accurate to 0.0124 degrees Centigrade.

Work in progress is using the PIC18F4550’s USB capabilities to interface to an Android tablet.

But we’re not just a ‘Digital Guys’. We’re also pretty skilled in analogue electronics, particularly audio electronics.

Current Projects

We’re currently working part-time on a circuit to charge marine or leisure batteries using a DC motor running off the back of a standard road cycle. Whilst there are other people running electronics from DC bicycle generators, for them, when the cyclist stops, the lights go out. We’re working on a system that will actually charge a battery whilst cycling.

This is actually more difficult than it sounds, and we don’t think this has been done before.Nick Ward

There’ll be a website up soon which will give details of the circuit along with listings for the programs running on the PIC processors we’ll be using. We’re also planning on selling both complete units, but also various kits of parts, so interested parties can build their own. We’re also writing a book to go with the project which will be for sale on Amazon.

We think there is most definitely a place for this in secondary schools, as it fits in rather nicely with large parts of the science curriculum for 12 to 16-year olds.

Watch this space for details!

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