I have a birthday coming up and would like to try and "get into" electronics. Now seems like the ideal time to finally get enough components to get started. However I need advise choosing what to get. I would also like to keep the cost to around £50 ($80) if at all possible.

I have coded in C before and would like to learn assembly. I have several smaller projects in mind so the microcontrollers I use would need to be £2 or less really. (I do not want to have to take the microcontroller out of the last project to make the next.) This rules out the Arduino etc. (Also that would likely be too powerful anyway.)

I have completed a GCSE in electronics. However I am still very poor at electronics and understand very little about them.

I am considering the Attiny45 for my projects as it costs only £0.50 per chip and takes a wide range of voltages; I am hoping I can simply run it off of 3 AA batteries without need for a voltage regulator. Also the Attiny range is well documented and I could easily move up to a better chip if need be. Finally it should be able to run http://www.obdev.at/products/vusb/index.html (?). Which would allow me to emulate USB 1.1 in software. I think this would be really cool.

Does the Attiny45 seem like a good choice here and are my reasons for choosing it valid?

The projects that I would like to try to make are as follows:

  • I would like to modify a cheap quartz clock so that it ticks in an irregular fashion. :P (While ideally still keeping time in the long run.)

  • I would like to control one or more RGB LEDs from a script on my computer via usb.

  • I would like to make my own simple intra-red remote set up with an infa-red receiver attached to the computer via usb.

  • I would like to see if I can modify my rice cooker to turn itself off at a slightly lower temperature so it no longer perfectly cooks the rice, and then stays on 30 seconds too long and burns it.

  • I would like to blink an LED to say something in morse code and repeat it over and over.

  • Something with SD-cards would be cool too but I think that sounds really tricky and I haven't checked if the microcontroller would be fast enough.

  • Interfacing with an etch-a-sketch with two motors would be very cool. Or doing a one-line plotter with two motors.

  • Make my own accurate clock with a quartz oscillator.

Any/all of the above sound like fun and I would really like to try and do at least 1 or 2 of them. I have absolutely no electronic related stuff at home. What should I get and what will I need? So far this is what I have thought of:

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Part numbers can be looked up on the Digikey website but I can't post any more links.

I am hoping to be able to program my microcontrollers with my Raspberry Pi. I am still missing jumper wire as I couldn't find any on Digikey. I think I will also need some transistors but I'm not sure which ones to get. Would I be able to run the DC motors with some transistors from the microcontroller?

I don't have a good soldering iron (I have one somewhere but I honestly don't think it can even melt the solder) and I do not have a multimeter. However together getting those will likely already come to £50. Do you think that they are essential to get started?

Thank you for reading. I really would be interested to know what you think is most important to get first when starting out and what other items I have missed from my list that I will need.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 For question that is off topic for this site. Questions should relate specifically to design problems you encounter doing your electronics project(s). Your effort at "getting into electronics" is going to have to entail a batch of decisions that you have to make considering all the limitations and road blocks you have set before you. My best advice for you is to stop trying to meet every goal within £50 and simply get started on one thing at a time. When you actually get hung up on a design problem come back here and read existing questions and ask new ones if necessary. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2013 at 10:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can add links as comments to your own question. Someone with editing rights would then incorporate them into the question body. Also, this question or variations thereof have been asked before, it would behoove you to search this site for relevant questions and answers, such as this, this, this, this and this. Voting to close. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2013 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of "Starter Kit for electronics" - What to buy? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2013 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I use Digikey from Australia to purchase specialist parts (their service is A1) but I assume you're in England? I can't help but think you'd be better to find a small local shop you can purchase from as required and they'd probably be happy to advise you at the same time. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Jun 30, 2013 at 10:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should also consider looking at eBay. You can get many parts from there for very low prices, often with free shipping. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2013 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


Firstly I would like to say that I'm quite happy to see someone so enthusiastic about electronics.

  1. Your choice of microcontroller. Although ATTINY45 seems good, reading the ideas of your pet projects I would recommend either ATmega168 or even better ATmega16L. These two microcontrollers are 4 times in cost as compared to ATTINY45 so it might cost 2 to 3 bucks in your currency.

  2. What type of IDE are you going to use and what type of programming interface such as JTAG, ISP or Parallel Programming are you going to use?

  3. With ATTINY45, you do not have enough pins to run LEDs although you might be able to debug with 3 atmost because it doesn't have enough pins

  4. Although using 3 AA batteries would be a good idea for portability, they might run out fairly quickly and might cause unwanted problems when the batteries start to die out.

As for transistors, you can get plenty of general purpose transistors like the BC546 (my personal favourite) and YES you can run DC motors with transistors but small motors which you find in battery operated pencil sharpers, hand-held fans, etc as running motors will draw quite a bit of current which will make your transistor hot or even damage it.

If for instance you setup everything and things do not seem to work, you would need a multimeter. Its quite an essential tool when setting up the hardware. You do not need solder if you are using a breadboard. Breadboards can be quite expensive and you might want to go in for veroboard (or pre printed circuit board) for which you will require a soldering iron. I do not know what the prices are for tools like these in your country but if you do get a hot iron, do not save money as buying a good iron will save you money in the long run (speaking from past experience).

Let me know if I missed something


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