Aivazovsky 'Ninth Wave'


'If you are drowing you are on your own. It’s sink or swim.'

Ilf and Petrov 'The 12 chairs'

Currently, many people in the world are experiencing desperate hardships and difficulties. With this article I begin a series of publications about the full cycle of simple electronic device production, intended for those who decided to learn programming and circuitry. Electronics now in favor, and if to someone these short notes will add confidence in their abilities, and possibly make a successful turn in life, I'll be glad that did not bother to wonder.

It is beautiful words of Martin Luther King Jr. about initiation of way to the faith:

You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

But regarding the "cold" subject of this article series, I think that an understanding of how “simple” is a process, will probably cool less desperate heads, and they will not lose precious time, learning in depth of unnecessary knowledge. I will try to speak easy language, understandable even for unprepared people. The material will still be a lot, but don't worry and skip the unclear points. At the initial stage it is important just to estimate approximately the amount of necessary knowledge and therefore time and resources needed to achieve them. Hopefully after reading all the parts you will be able to more specifically imagine being a party to any of the above processes and to choose a suitable area for yourself activities. If you decide that it is too difficult for you, look at the man who more than 50 years alone builds the church and compare it with this task. Discover astonishing biography of self-taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

One of the main features inherent in these and similar people - humility. Sometimes happens - a person just got idea of how to design a simple GUI on Twitter's Bootstrap and arrogant brilliance appears in the eyes. As shows the ancient and modern history of technology, this knowledge is transient, and for example, recently the craftsmen who on the knee edited punched tape by a nail were in great authority. For inspiration I recommend to watch a short interview with Linus Torvalds, who in spite of enormous achievements, remains a modest man. We constantly use the products of work of these enthusiasts of progress, so I'll start with a sincere expression of deep gratitude for their selfless labour!

Once, I was present at a conversation where a businessman for an hour explained what kind of product he needs to be developed, and at the end suddenly said - “Well, now left just to sell it”. Let us dwell for a moment on this important point. The following figure shows a draft scheme of the electronic taximeter, which I have developed almost 25 years ago.

TaxiCounter
In those days in my country were in use quite expensive bulky mechanical taximeters:

MechTaxiCounter
They could count the amount of payment by a single tariff for passengers on drive and stand, the total number of drives and total sum, according to it. And yet they had so nice lulling-ticking, that time and money flowed unnoticed...

But the single-chip microcomputer (MCU) taximeters much cheaper and functional. One, which circuit shown in the first figure, possessed all the above properties of mechanical, but had the ability to configure separate the day and night tariffs of drive and stand. Because in those days adding passengers on the way was common, the trip payment amount calculated by this taximeter for each passenger separately, and distributed according to their number from the time of get in and out. It seemed, that such a cheap device was bound to have a successful implementation. But after its demonstration to directors of several taxi companies I realized that was too much optimistic, and did not take into account that in those 'hot' days of 'Perestroika', the taximeter was often a sham element, and the passengers simply negotiated with the driver about the price of the trip. Someone will say - 'of course, in the beginning you must study the market, and not necessary to spend time on the development and manufacturing'. I agree, but there is a nuance... Firstly, explanation of electronics product or complex software functionality 'on the fingers' is tedious business, and first of all to whom it is intended. Second, telling in detail all the features of the proposed device to a sensible man, you on the risk to make a wonderful gift to competitors, since starting conditions becomes equal. But I still believe that the demonstration of a working prototype of the product is more productive than the demonstration of intentions to make it. 

Given this cautionary tale, we'll not start with the development of the product, but with the online store, which in this case is interesting from the point of view of business organization. The store will give us the opportunity to look at the product by the buyer's eyes. So, at the very beginning we'll pay the maximum attention to flexibility and ease select of necessary device features by customer. And this, in turn, will help us to determine, for example, the rules of automation of the software code compilation to make it cheaper. We will develop a simple electronic door bell, which we usually ignore. Because of limited financial capabilities I will use free tools on the local computer, the list of which is given at the end of each article.

So, let's take a look how simple is this product in terms of the development, production and sales.