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Why are solderless protoboards called "breadboards"? I've used the term for decades but couldn't answer a student's question about the name.

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Because "salad board" wouldn't make much sense. –  Olin Lathrop Nov 8 '12 at 22:08
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An EE teacher of mine in high school always said it was because they cost a lot of "dough". (cough) –  HikeOnPast Nov 8 '12 at 22:16
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Breadboards aren't limited to electronics prototyping. There are mechanical/optical breadboards too. It's usually an aluminium plate with a grid of threaded holes. –  Nick Alexeev Nov 8 '12 at 23:19
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+1 for a brilliant question that never once occurred to me to ask! –  Adam Lawrence Nov 9 '12 at 20:12
    
Thank you, although my student deserves the credit, not me. She will get a prize for stumping the teaching (and earning me reputation). –  espertus Nov 9 '12 at 21:32

3 Answers 3

up vote 36 down vote accepted

This terminology goes waaaaay back to the days of vacuum tubes.
Generally, you would mount a number of tube-sockets on standoffs to a piece of wood (the actual "breadboard"), and do all the wiring with point-point wire and the components just hanging between the various devices.
If you needed additional connection points, you would use a solder-lug terminal strip.

enter image description here Image credit: Random googling.

The story goes that an engineer had an idea for a vacuum tube device late one night. Looking around the house, the only base for his prototype that he found was indeed his wife's breadboard, from the breadbox.

Now, I'm not endorsing actually using a real breadboard. It's your marital strife if you do.


I've actually constructed a tube project using the breadboard technique. It works very well.

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+1 for a dual gang pot held down with drywall screws! –  HikeOnPast Nov 9 '12 at 4:53
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Also +1 for the marital strife disclaimer. –  c.cam108 Nov 9 '12 at 13:42

Back in the day, circuits were often constructed by wire-wrapping components onto nails driven into flat pieces of wood that resembled (or were?) breadboards.

There's a nice video demo by the Make Magazine people here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HrG98HJ3Z6w

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In the early days of electonics, engineers would drive nails into breadboards (literally the boards that bread is cut on) and then solder on the components.

See wikipedia's page

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