What are modular electronics


 

What are modular electronics?

Modular electronics are like Legos™, Lincoln Logs™, Connectix™, popsicle sticks, and even bricks. Electronic circuits are packaged into little modules that can be snapped together easily to build more advanced, more complex devices and circuits. Most importantly, circuits may be connected without solder or advanced connectors that typically require a high degree of skill to use.

 

Most electronics are “integrally” designed. That is, all the components are placed onto a single circuit board (PCB, or printed circuit board) that sits inside an electronic device. The discrete components are soldered onto the circuit board, and the wire connections between discrete components is drawn and then baked into the layers of the circuit board. Soldering is difficult, and requires time, patience, and a steady hand – like surgery. Most device users and hobbyists aren’t steady-handed surgeons, and so it is next to impossible for most people to tinker, extend, or alter an existing circuit. An example of altering a circuit could include trying to link a portable music player (like an iPod) to a portable gaming machine (like a Sony PSP), in order to share music files between the two devices. Another example could include trying to add a digital projector to a cell phone in order to project video clips onto the wall for others to enjoy.

 

Electronics modules typically embody one or a few related actions. For instance, a display module might be a screen that would serve as an output device, while an input module might contain buttons, touch-sensitive surfaces, or analog joysticks. Other modules might include music players, wireless communications devices, motors, or storage devices like USB drives. Often times, there is a central processing module that contains the primary program, and interacts with the other modules. The central module usually contains the CPU (central processing unit) or microprocessor, and runs the software that takes input from the input modules, and provides instructions to the output modules.