I have always had an interest in electronics from a young age, first simply charging capacitors from scrap valve-based TVs and watching the discharge curves and finding something interesting in the mathematics, the same sort of math that can be applied to the rate your bath cools down or radio-active decay etc. My father, a work collegue of John Lindsley Hood of audio fame, used to dabble in electronics too and Electronics Today international was a regular subscription at WHSmiths. I remember how he created an electronic ignition system for the car to eliminate the need for those crusty graphite contacts in a distributor cap, reliability was an issue with both old and new solutions!
Today the ability for everyone to access information via the internet is phenomenal with world-class free online courses, the first one I tried out being https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/ ended up being heavy into calculus and a good excuse to dust off those mathematics skills and use Wolfram Alpha! For much more accessible content there are a host of enthusiasts on YouTube that are spreading their knowledge and a few of those used to be contributors to ETI, Practical Electronics et al. in the old days, one of these being Julien Illet.
Julien is just embarking on a tutorial series using a completely obsolete PIC microcontroller the PIC12F675. By most definition this series is totally pointless as there are much more capable micro-controllers available and even the popular Arduino family of devices have far more grunt that this crusty device. However, a couple of decades ago (!) I developed some software for the PIC16F series that provided a radio-control for orienteering races to provide race time telemetry using AX.25 AFSK radio so it was with a bit of nostalgia I’ve decided to play along with some of this one (My real development is currently targeting PIC24F).
Julien’s tutorial starts here… Crusty PIC Tutorial. If you have some spare cycles then you could play along too.
The hardware cost won’t break the bank… EBAY sourced dev board and you’ll need a PicKit programmer, also available cheaply. (If you want to follow in principle but use something created this side of the millenium then have a look at the PIC24FJ128GA204 curiosity board or even a PIC32. http://www.microchip.com/promo/curiosity.)
For those of you mad enough to join in some vintage fun I have drawn up the board schematic to help understand the pins etc. (and link to PDF version of the same).