For software people absolutely new to hardware

Hi Everyone,

I program night and day - have been for 30+ years - but I have literally never handled a breadboard before. I’m working my way through the tutorials, but they seem to assume a certain level of pre-existing competence with hardware.

For instance, in the temperature-sensing beginners project, there is a component set into pin J19 running off the top of the board. What is it? It’s blue in the picture. I got the starter kit from Make magazine and have spent hours reading about what the pieces are, but none of them are blue, and there’s no description of the component in the tutorial.

I know how naive this is, but I’m betting other programmers are also picking up the electronics they’ve programmed for years but never before handled.

Programming in whatever language doesn’t bother me a bit - figuring out which-wire-gets-shoved-where is giving me fits!

Please post here any suggested sites on beginner electronics, and what is that BLUE THING?!

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Theo, the blue “thing” is the capacitor referred to in the text as a .1uf or microfarad capacitor. It is commonly used to help filter out high frequency noise which can cause analog signals to read oddly. If a capacitor is included in the starter kit, it may be a small brown disk with two wires, with the number 104 printed on it, indicating it is a 0.1uf capacitor. It is not crucial to the example so don’t worry if you don’t have it.

As for learning electronics, you can start with a great tutorial at instructables to get you started. Perhaps other forum members can point you to other sites. :smiley:


@theo, I love when people ask questions like this!

:spark: should be easy for beginners and we are here to help when you dont know something.

Keep asking and we shall help along.

Maybe I could write some simple tutorial to get more beginners swimming!

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Totally understandable confusion, especially if the picture doesn’t match the kit!

Adafruit, Sparkfun, and Make Magazine all have awesome tutorials.

I’m sure there are other guides as well, but I found this pictorial reference to types of electronic components that might be helpful:
and another here:

I also added a bug for our documentation so we go back and either add a list of materials to the examples, or label the components. :slight_smile:


How many of us started out in electronics! $1 - $2 small notebooks from Radio Shack on electronics by Forrest M. Mims III This book as many of those small notebooks rolled into one.

Great free online electronics book:

The reference manual for electronics… 3rd edition may come out sometime… but don’t hold your breath.

Highly recommend subscribing to Make Magazine:

Learn through doing! Challenge yourself to build something, then learn about each component until you understand how they work… once you do the pieces will come together and you will have built it.


Great stuff everyone! Thanks so much.

I have a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old so we’ll be doing a lot of these projects together. I’ve always been afraid of hardware (I hate that smell of ozone and burnt plastic… no rebooting a burned-out component :-{( ) but although I’m starting late, I’m starting!

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@Theo I was coming from your exact same path, I found this website very interesting, especially once you have got the basics

The guy behind the side seems to be a very nice guy also and he promptly replied to my email when I contacted him.