Last Wednesday I ended up making a trip up to Baynesville Electronics in Towson (northern edge of Baltimore). It was awesome ^_^ I'm not sure quite yet whether I'll be going back there for parts often, but it seems fairly likely. On the one hand it seems like online sites are quite a bit cheaper, but on the other hand I have not actually verified that and I really like the idea of supporting these guys, as there are, in my opinion, not nearly enough stores like that around. A (more-or-less) local alternative to Radio Shack? Sign me up! Plus the ability to just run out and get a part in under and hour vs. placing the order online and waiting for it to be delivered... sure there's the extra element of anticipation in the latter case, but even I can only take so much suspense ~grin~. And projects are more likely to end up shelved because I lost momentum while waiting for the part to arrive than if I make a run to a store (an hour of downtime could still be too much of a drag on my mental flywheel, but it's still significantly less than that of ordering a part and waiting for it to come in). That having been said, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for my Boarduino
kit from Adafruit
to arrive. Mmmmm, antici... pation!
So, enough philosophical rambling, back to the foray! While I didn't interact much with the staff, they seemed both knowledgeable and friendly in a way that gave me a sense that they were there because they liked being there. I spent most of the time I was there (probably about an hour-ish, maybe a little longer) just wandering up and down the rows of shelves looking at all of the different things they have stocked. While I saw a lot of neat stuff that I'd love to play with at some point, a lot of it also left me with a vague feeling of, "Huh, that thing has an interesting shape, I wonder what it does but I'm not going to make too much effort to find out right now. Maybe someday I'll know, but if not that's probably okay too." Normally I'm used to going into a place like that and needing a lot of willpower to counteract the "Oh my god it's so shiny I want it all right now!" but I think that's been happening less lately; "It looks nifty but I don't have time for it," apparently quashes that gleeful urge to buy a whole bunch of stuff really effectively.
I'm not certain I like that. In fact I'm kind of thinking I don't. "OOOO I'm going to buy all of this right now!" is not good for the wallet, but "I won't ever have time for any of this..." is, I suspect, not good for the soul. More to poke at later...
And I did buy some things, for projects that I am currently working on. If anything, I'm seeing a positive swing back in the direction of getting excited about and engaged in projects like this; I am actually actively working on a couple of things. (The Boarduino being rather important for one of them as the PIC I currently have apparently doesn't have enough memory, and the Motorola HC11 is still too obtuse for me to understand it, which is slightly ironic because my favorite class in college was programming one of those, but that was over six years ago and we had the setup done for us and basically just had to write the code. I've what little assembly I had known back then is rusty enough that I am not patient enough to re-learn it just to try to implement my current project.)
The big score for the evening was a probe connector for the oscilloscope that I got from my (recently deceased) grandfather over the holidays. I didn't find a probe for the scope, and it had a very strange-looking connector where the probe was supposed to attach. It was a thick (comparatively) connector with a jagged edge and a hole in the center; I don't remember ever seeing anything like it before. But while I was at the store I did see connectors like that. It turns out that it's a UHF connector, and I was able to get the corresponding (male) plug for it that would convert it from RCA, and an RCA connector that I could then solder leads to. It was a bit of a shot in the dark, but when I got home and checked it the connection fit like a glove. I now have a semi-functional oscilloscope! (I still haven't soldered the leads to the RCA plug, but I shall soon).
Other scores for the evening are a little box to hold SD and other memory cards (I have a handful and this will help keep the ones that I am not actively using from wandering off) and a two-PS/2-to-one-USB adapter. This will theoretically be useful with keyboards and mice and laptops... and possibly with other things ^_^
So yeah, Baynesville Electronics Trip 1: Win! ^_^