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I was looking to start getting into electronics beyond just some basic soldering and closed circuits. I've never worked with IC's before.

So, a project that I wanted to try out was a LED chaser circuit with a 4017 and 555 timer IC's.

But--before actually gathering all the hardware components, I was hoping that there would be virtual breadboard simulator software available that I could use to put together this circuit virtually before (potentially) frying any actual electronics by connecting something up the wrong way.

I looked at a couple pieces of software, but it looked like they were focused on breadboarding with arduinos and didn't have the capability to actually add IC's.

Do you have any suggestions?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of What are the freeware SPICE simulators available? \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Dec 27 '13 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the question I've marked as a possible duplicate LTspice would do what you're after, but like most better SPICE packages you'll need to think at a schematic level. Proteus is another package you could take a look at, although I believe it costs a reasonable amount. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Dec 27 '13 at 0:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does LTspice offer a breadboard mode where you can plop down components on a virtual breadboard, rather than logical circuitry design? What I'm looking for is to take logical circuit diagrams and actually wire them up on a virtual breadboard. \$\endgroup\$
    – Force Flow
    Dec 27 '13 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ No it's all at a circuit level, you may be able to export the netlist into Fritzing to do that (but not sure) once you're done. But once you get in the swing of things you'll find it quite easy to go from one to the other just thinking about how it connects together. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Dec 27 '13 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ForceFlow: in my experience, based on 50 years of messing with electronics, you must start with a schematic diagram, as that shows you the actual logic function - gates, pin functions on counters and other complex components, etc. That allows you to follow the logic flow through the circuit so you can understand what is happening. The breadboard layout just shows you where to place the wires and parts, but gives no idea of what is happening in the circuit. You have to consult datasheets for each component to see why you connected pin 3 of the 74XX to pin 6 of the 74YY. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '13 at 2:01
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[This started as a comment, but I ran out of room.]

@ForceFlow It does make sense to be cautious; I'm not going to argue with that. It also sucks when you fry the last chip that you have on hand, and shipping costs 10x more than the chip itself. However, the remedy for that is physical practice, as opposed to increasingly realistic simulation.

555 timers are $0.25 on Jameco. Run-off-the-mill OpAmps can be bought for $0.25 too. Buy an ample supply like 10 or 20. Build a few dozen of 555 circuits in a short amount if time. Build them at noon and at midnight. Build the on caffeine and without caffeine. See at what rate you destroy the ICs. At $0.25 a pop, you can afford the burnage (just compare it to a price of a cup of coffee). Over time (like 3 weeks or so), you will see what you fail rates are, and what the trend is. Probably, it will be smaller than you're afraid.

That would be better than analysis-paralysis, which you are currently setting yourself up for. No offense.

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Just buy a breadboard or protoboard, the ICs, a 9v battery, a 9v battery clip, some assortments of resistors, capacitors, and LEDs, and some "hairy mess" copper wire from the nearest telephone closet. Or an electronic lab kit if they still make them.

You probably won't "fry" any of the chips, but if you do, so what? You're out $2 and you've learned a valuable lesson, the meaning of "smoke test."

(Not to scare you, actually the worst and unlikely scenario is that an IC quits working. There is zero risk of smoke, fire, or electric shock with the components you've described. CMOS ICs are supposed to be electrically fragile, but really not so much.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ CD4k tend to be more fragile. 74HC can take a (small) beating. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '13 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ When I said "fry" I basically meant damaging the IC so it's non-functional. Seeing as I'm inexperienced with putting a circuit together with IC's how would I know if it's the IC the failed and not my attempt at wiring it up? \$\endgroup\$
    – Force Flow
    Dec 27 '13 at 2:31

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