Electronics? It's all modular now

February 3, 2017 | 07:00
As Editor-in-Chief of Elektor Magazine's German edition I am naturally concerned whenever I hear that we have lost one of our (loyal) subscribers because of content-related issues. The corresponding email (fortunately we don’t get many) was forwarded to me from our memberships department. It was a bit disappointing for me because I recognized the reader’s name and recalled a previous insightful and interesting communication we’d shared. The reader’s email lamented on the paucity of self-build projects featuring "real components" compared to the new breed based on Arduino, Raspi and Co.

In connection with this theme I first need to take you behind the scenes here at Elektor. For a few years now we have been hosting an online project platform at www.elektormagazine.com/labs, to recruit new authors for magazine projects. Every month or so we meet to evaluate all the new projects posted. I can remember some time ago my colleagues saying they did not look favorably on proposed projects when the photos accompanying the ‘original’ design showed a couple of Adafruit or Sparkfun expansion boards hooked up to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi system. As time went on the volume of similar-looking projects increased and one afternoon we thought it was high time for a reappraisal of the situation. It’s clear in project design these days there is less evidence of clever or innovative use of individual components, and less requirement to calculate component values or select the best IC for a particular application. With this new breed of mudule-based projects the cleverness of the design is in fact not immediately obvious; it’s hidden away… in the software.

This trend has filtered through to the commercial sector also. Talking with manufacturers and distributors at some recent trade fairs, customers are increasingly looking for out-of-the-box solutions requiring minimum setup or configuration from a reference manual. The product must be ready to go once it’s unpacked and of course with the same sort of price tag you would expect for, say, a typical Arduino system.

For me, it doesn’t make electronics any less interesting, but what about you? As always, I am really interested to learn what you think.
 
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