I’d always kicked around the idea of doing some electronics so I had a hunt around for some little starter projects to upskill in the practical basics. Mostly I just wanted to familiarise myself with soldering and various electronic parts.
I came across two jobs which I thought sounded perfect:
- Hacking a set of AirPods into custom (artisanal) headphones for use with my Oculus Quest.
- Constructing a multimeter kit (basically a paint by number style kit)
Both projects ticked all the right boxes for me. They’d let me create something useful, while also learning new skills. All of this I could just chip away at over the month when I had 15 mins free.
Both projects worked a treat. I think the biggest thing I took away from them is that soldering requires practice to get right. Looking at my initial solders vs the last ones I made, it was a clear progression in skill.
One thing that surprised me a bit was how quickly I felt the soldering iron I was using (a cheap $25 iron) was becoming the limiting factor in my progress. Normally when I start a new skill I tend to just work with very cheap gear and it takes some time for my skills to eclipse the constraints of them.
The next project I’m starting on (making my version of this cyberdeck) I’ll be replacing my iron with something with more control. Either this really cool little USB powered one or a more full-on soldering station.
Something I’m conscious of with taking on new skills is the perishability of my other skills, particularly software development. As much as these more hands-on projects are super fun, my intention is to keep them as hobbies rather than something that occupies a lot of my attention.
Now that it’s February I’m starting to get going on more development training. I found the web development book camp a therapeutic return to creating things in software, and it’s something I’m wanting to expand on more in 2020.
I haven’t completely settled on exactly what shape that will take this year, but I’m leaning towards learning React on the front end and using WordPress as a backend. I really like the philosophy behind WordPress and the company behind WordPress.com, Automattic. I think they are really delivering something profoundly important to the web, and that tickles me.