What kind of gadget can a newbie build using the vast inventory of Akihabara?
September 28, 2010 7:50 AM   Subscribe

I need an easy, yet cool-looking electronics project. In around one month, I'll be visiting Tokyo, including a day-long trip to Akihabara. Inspired by this post I think it would be really, really cool if I spent part of that day buying parts in order to create something electronic. Difficulty: I have close to zero experience with electronics.

I figure I have one month to prepare. I'm willing to read up on subjects but they would have to be beginner level. My entirety of electronics experience is an hour or so of welding a few resistors onto a pre-made circuit board.

Ideally, the gadget would be self-contained and I could put it inside of some kind of enclosure. I do have an Arduino that I keep meaning to make use of, so something that incorporated that would be a bonus.

I guess in terms of priority, the gadget must be simple to make, ideally requiring only a soldering iron and a set of standard tools (mini screwdrivers, etc) to assemble. However, after that, form absolutely trumps function: I don't really have any need for gadgets in my life, so whatever I might build should be as electronics-bling-y as possible. I want dials, switches, and, of course, lots of blinkenlights.

I'd like to keep my budget for the entire project (not including tools) to under $100-120 (8000-10000 yen).

Online references are preferred since I'm not certain I'll have time to get my hands on the necessary books.

For anyone here familiar with Akihabara I'd also love recommendations on shops I should seek out/avoid.
posted by Deathalicious to Technology (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are a lot of projects on Sparkfun and Adafruit and Lady Ada. Make Magazine's archives would be a neat source, too.

Of course, most of those links will also sell you the parts required without making you go to Tokyo.
posted by richyoung at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to Akihabara, and I would not suggest doing what you're trying to do. Akihabara seems like more of the electronic gadgets section, not the electronic hobbyist section. Akihabara is overwhelming, especially if it is your first time in Tokyo. I would suggest just getting ideas for your project while you are there and then purchasing the parts when you get back. If you don't speak Japanese, it might be very hard to find what you want.

All of the resources that richyoung lists are good.
posted by 200burritos at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: I can't speak to the ease of construction, but for blinkenlights, it's going to be hard to beat something with Nixie tubes on it.

Or you could look to something using high output LEDs. Some of these get into the absurdly-bright category of stuff to build.
posted by quin at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2010

Response by poster: Akihabara seems like more of the electronic gadgets section, not the electronic hobbyist section.

Hmmm... I don't know enough about the topic to know the distinction. Could you explain the difference between "electronic gadgets" and "electronic hobbyist"?

I would suggest just getting ideas for your project while you are there and then purchasing the parts when you get back.

This would work too, but at this point my knowledge is so limited that I wouldn't understand most of what I saw at Akihabara. So maybe some kind of primer so that when I get to Akihabara I might understand what I'm seeing.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: I may have misunderstood your question, but Akihabara is not going to be like a giant RadioShack. It will be cellphones and every imaginable gaming system and robotics shops and pc parts and and arcades and maid cafes and all things geeky. Most things that would be useful to you at this point will be easily purchased online and with clear English instructions. Electronics are confusing, especially so if your experience is limited and you're trying to figure out what you need in a different language. I would really just try and soak up that part of the city, because it is incredible. Oh: while you are in Tokyo, please visit Don Quijote.

On the topic of electronics, there are lots of options for Arduinos that you should definitely explore. If your grasp of C/C++ is strong, you will be able to create lots of things. If you tell us your Arduino skill level, there are a million cool things MetaFilter could recommend. A kid in my class made a Zelda chest that opened when you gave it the correct code and played the opening notes. Check out SparkFun for ideas.
posted by 200burritos at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: Pick up some Gakken kits would be my suggestion.
posted by Iteki at 10:15 PM on September 28, 2010

Response by poster: If anyone wonders, we were so rushed in Akihabara that I had only a a half hour or so to look at any of the gadgets and what-not.

The other day I ran across my old Arduino and Dangerboard, I think I might try to figure out something to do with that.

If anyone still sees this question, recommendations on introductory books would be welcome before this thing closes.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2011

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