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Improvement in PCB skills

About a year and a half has gone by since I wrote about my experience making a cheap PCB, and I’m happy to report that I’ve progressed considerably in the art since then. In fact, when I go back now and look at that design and read that post, I can’t help but cringe a little bit. A part of me finds it difficult to believe that I was so naive so recently. However, I’m glad I wrote that post, and I plan to leave it up, because seeing it serves as a reminder that I am still learning, and moreover, it acts as a check on my ego: I don’t know everything.

As with most things in life, the hardest part was doing it the first time. The half-dozen or so PCBs I’ve designed since then have become increasingly¬†capable¬†and yet more straightforward. They have gained a certain elegance (to my eye) that was completely lacking from my first attempt. I’m beginning to understand what makes a PCB beautiful, and I’m starting to get a handle on creating beautiful designs myself.

The design I am most pleased with at the moment is a board for my project making the old NES game Duck Hunt work on modern LCD TVs. The board matches the form of the board originally found in the Nintendo Zapper (the “light gun”), except with more computing power than the NES itself possesses. The old PCB is removed from the Zapper, and this one is installed in its place.

Replacement board for the NES Zapper to make Duck Hunt work on an LCD TV

Replacement board I designed for the NES Zapper to make Duck Hunt work on an LCD TV

The board features mostly surface-mount construction, some fancy analog circuitry to condition the signal from the photodiode, and a microcontroller to do all of the heavy lifting. The output is a signal that appears to the NES like the one that came from an unmodified Zapper.

As I’ve said before, I like to look back at myself on a rolling six-month basis and see improvement. If I don’t think that my old self from six months prior was at least a little naive and stupid, relative to my present-day self, then I haven’t been learning enough. I’m happy to say that I’ve met that standard in my circuit design and PCB skills.

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