Secret Life of Bread Board

As you start your electronic journey, there are some essential tools that will facilitate your learning process and project building due to their versatility and reliability. Breadboard forms the fundamental part of the tools used by all beginners who would like to tinker with various electronics circuits. Furthermore, numerous tutorials use the Breadboard to build temporary circuits. Therefore, as you follow the tutorials, you will be expected to use the breadboard. Breadboards are also available in almost every electronic beginner kit. Therefore, Breadboards are like a cutting board to a cook. It is with this premise that we have to understand the history and working mechanisms of Breadboard.

The first element that boggles every beginner and seasoned electronic enthusiast is the origin of the name. You are probably wondering how this piece of plastic with perforated surfaces related to a large slab of wood used to bake or cut bread.  However, looking at the history of the current Breadboard, we find that before 1970, engineers did not have access to solderless breadboards. Therefore, to connect components, they used a piece of wood and nails to make the circuit layout. The components were then tied to the nails and interconnected with wires. However, it was also possible to use this method since most of the components were large, hence could be tied to the nails. In addition, the large wooden slab provided strength and support to the project.

Early Circuit Connections

Early Circuit Connections

However, the connections were permanent and hard to alter, more so when it comes to complex circuits. After the 1980s, some engineers began using wire wrapping technique to connect different circuits. The wire-wrapped circuits were easier to alter or change as the wire could be unwrapped. However, it was still hard to make numerous alterations since the wires could break if not unwrapped properly. Furthermore, the metal bars were hammered into the board, and the wires wrapped on the opposite side of the plank. One had to flip the wood back and forth to make the connections, making the technique hard to master.

Wire Wrapped Circuit

Wire Wrapped Circuit

In Comes the Bread Board

In the early 1970s, Ronald J Portugal invented the Breadboard that would revolutionize the electronic circuitry process. According to the United States Patent Office documents, the Breadboard was patented in 1973 and the patent expired in 1987. The Breadboard was quickly called solderless Breadboard since it did not require soldering. However, over the years, the name was just shortened to Breadboard.

The breadboards were very useful when building a temporary circuit since the wires form a strong connection that can be removed and used for other connections within minutes. Their versatility makes them attractive in training and for beginners who can gain a lot by rapidly tinkering with their circuits. The Breadboard also has internal wirings to improve the versatility and ease of connections. The Breadboard has not changed much since its invention. They are still comprised of plastic with a bunch of internally connected holes. There is a yellow waxy paper at the back of the Breadboard that can be peeled off to reveal the metal connections. The paper acts as an insulator that protects the metallic parts of the Breadboard from a short circuit. Pulling the metals out, you will find a metal with teeth facing the front side of the Breadboard. The tiny teeth are used for gripping onto electronic components, providing good contact. Every other electronic component connected to teeth in a single metallic bar is electrically connected.

Breadboard Patent

Breadboard Patent Document

Most of the Breadboards are comprised of three major sections. On either side are long power rails and in the middle are shorter bars running appendicular to the power rails. The breadboard connections may become flunky after several connections. However, it takes a long time for a proper breadboard to lose its firm grip. Furthermore, the breadboards are significantly cheap to replace, making them a go-to tool for electronic connection.

Types of Breadboards

Breadboard sizes may not be fixed, but there are some standard sizes found in the market

Breadboard Sizes

Breadboard Sizes

Full-Size Breadboard

A full-size breadboard is suitable for large projects since it had many connection holes. Most of the full-size Breadboards have 830 holes. The Breadboard can also be expanded by connecting other breadboards in the side sockets. Similarly, it is possible to reduce the size of the Breadboard by dislodging the power rails from the sockets, remaining with the middle section of the board.

In some cases, the breadboards are combined to form large breadboards that can be used to connect large projects or educational institutions where the spacing of the circuit elements is an essential consideration.

Combined Breadboards

Combined Breadboards

Half Size Breadboard

The half-size Breadboard is suitable for medium projects since it has 400 connection points, roughly half of the full-size Breadboard. However, the Breadboard is also suitable for a small project. For instance, you can fit a small Arduino board to the board and connect some components.

Half Size Breadboard

Half Size Breadboard

Tiny Breadboard

Some projects may only have a handful of connections. Therefore, a half breadboard or a full-size breadboard is considered overkill. In such a case, a smaller breadboard may be used. Such breadboards are generally referred to as tiny breadboards due to their small sizes. However, it is essential to note that such breadboards do not have a dedicated power rail like the others discussed above. Nevertheless, their compactness and size make them reliable for small circuits.

Breadboard Application

Breadboards are typically used to make temporary circuits that are too large to be connected using alligator clips. For instance, when you want to light up an LED using a 9v battery, you will have to have a resister between the battery and the LED. Using an alligator clip, we will have to connect at least three clips. However, since the wires are hanging, there is a high probability of short-circuiting, and the wires also introduce undesired resistance.  Therefore, you can use a breadboard to avoid all the potential problems since its connections are rigid and close together. In addition, when the connection is made using a breadboard, you will only need the power cables, and the internal breadboard connections can handle the other connections needed.

Neat project on a breadboard

Neat project on a breadboard

Furthermore, most of the Intergraded circuits and components have pins that can be plugged into the Breadboard to make neat connections. For example, when working with a small Arduino board and shift registers, we can make a circuit using the internal breadboard wirings to reduce the number of wires we use in the circuit. Furthermore, we can easily remove the ICs from the Breadboard when we are done using them. Without the Breadboard, we have to solder the pins, making them permanent.

Simple Breadboard Connection

Simple Breadboard Connection

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