DIY kits review

By Marc de Vinck. Posted

Kits! Anyone who knows me, knows I love kits. It’s how almost everyone gets into soldering and electronics. I manufactured electronic kits for many years and, at times, I really miss it. I loved the process of prototyping and figuring out what people would like to build. And even though I don’t create and sell kits any more, I do still love to pick some up and spend some time building other people’s creations. In this Best of Breed, I will be looking at two kits that are not only fun, but useful too. That second part, usefulness, is often overlooked. I really enjoy building something and then being able to use it for a long period of time afterwards. Not just blinky little LED things, although those are fun too! But I’m far more inclined to pick up a kit that, after I’ve enjoyed building it, I can plug it in, turn it on, and get some longevity out of the labour of love.

So, let’s jump right in and take a look at two kits that I’ve built before, and a few kits that I have on my list to build in the future.

Freaq FM Digital Synthesizer (DIY Kit) vs PDP-11 replica kit: the PiDP-11

Freaq FM Digital Synthesizer (DIY Kit)

Tindie $135

The Freaq FM is a desktop 8-bit digital synthesizer designed by Wirehead Instruments in Australia. It features dual two-op FM voice architecture and multiple waveforms, and an LFO and modulation envelope. So, what does that mean? It means that you can make some really cool-sounding distortions and electronic music. And you can even sync it with external instruments.

You can buy this as an assembled synthesizer or do what I would do, which is buy the kit. Building a synth is a very popular DIY project, and one that I highly recommend everyone do. Be sure to head over to the product page, which includes more information and a great demo of what this unit can do. After watching the video and listening to the sounds, I’m sold! It’s awesome!

PDP-11 replica kit: the PiDP-11

Tindie $297

The PDP-11 replica kit from Obsolescence Guaranteed, located in Switzerland, is an amazing piece of hardware history that would be incredibly fun to solder together.

The original PDP-11 computers were sold by Digital Equipment Corporation from the start of the 1970s all the way through to the late 1990s. Yes, the 1990s!

In fact, from my limited research, it seems like some of these are still in use, which is kind of amazing considering how powerful a Raspberry Pi is, never mind how inexpensive.

Behind the scenes of this replica version is a Raspberry Pi that runs the system, but you wouldn’t know, considering all the amazing retro-looking controls in the front.

The PiDP-11 runs all the original operating systems, including UNIX systems 5/6/7, 2.11BSD, RSX-11, RSTS-E, and RT-11. And it can simulate many different types of peripherals.

If you like retro computing, go ahead and check out this kit!

From HackSpace magazine store


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