Star Simpson’s circuit boards honor engineering legend Forrest M. Mims @starsandrobots


IEEE Spectrum did a nice write up of Star Simpson’s circuit boards honoring Forrest Mims. Star has been a friend of Adafruit for some time now and made some videos with Forrest that you can see here.

There are few authors whose handwriting is as well known as that of Forrest M. Mims. Many American engineers have vivid memories of his Mini-Notebooks and his larger work, Getting Started in Electronics. Initially sold in the 1970s only through RadioShack stores (where several titles can still be bought today), these books featured hand-drawn circuit diagrams of educational or interesting projects alongside hand-lettered explanations.

Mims’s folksy format did much to make electronics feel unintimidating. At the same time, his books gently cemented into readers’ minds what a properly drawn circuit should look like when the time came for them to take up the pencil.

Now MIT alum Star Simpson [above] is giving Mims’s work a fresh lease on life with printed circuit boards based directly on his notebooks. The diagram and explanation of each circuit and sometimes additional supporting text and charts—all still in Mims’s handwriting—are presented beside a printed set of traces and through holes that can be populated with supplied components to bring the classic circuit to life. After gaining the approval of Mims (“He’s been extremely supportive the entire way,” says Simpson), she went to the crowdsource site Crowd Supply to raise money to put the boards into production. She quickly raised US $37,698, far beyond her original goal of $9,750. “I’m delighted and amazed by the response,” Simpson says. “I think it’s a good sign that people are eager to learn about electronics today.”

Read more.

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1 Comment

  1. fernando garcia

    I have a personal story which reflects on Mr. Mims knowledge and generosity which helped launched many careers.

    In the early 1980s I was a struggling engineer working in Mexico. At the time, Mexico was going thru a terrible recession, I was recently married and father of a small baby. I could never make ends meet only with the salary of my daytime job.

    I have always liked to tinker with electronics. I developed a bi-amplified speaker, which I started selling some kits to obtain extra money.
    One customer told me: your design is REALLY GOOD, why don’t you publish it on Popular Electronics?
    I loved the idea…but how do you start to write in what once was the "National Geographic" of electronic magazines? How does one approach the editor? What format to use? How much do they pay?

    In desperation I wrote a letter to Forrest Mims, c/o Popular Electronics.

    About a month later, I received a letter, handwritten by Mr. Mims himself. He started it with: "My Mexican amigo, I can certainly help you out…" and proceeded to provide a wealth of tips how to properly write a technical article (remember this was previous to inexpensive word processors or drafting software) and most important, lots of encouraging. He advised me that even the best of writers will have their work rejected sometimes, the best of them learn from the failure and don’t give up.
    All in all, a wonderful letter from someone who was already a legend.

    In the following years, I have written over 50 articles in US, British and Australian electronics magazines.
    The individuals that I have met, the job opporunities that opened up, and the good supplemental money I made througout the years, have been in large part because of THAT encouraging letter, written by a famous individual to a nobody from down south.

    Mr. Mims: I hope you read this message. I doubt that you still remember me. Thoroughout the years I’ve sincerely wanted to thank you. Your technical knowledge is only surpassed by your kindness.

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