I am a computer engineer. At least that's what my degree certificate says. But I was interested in hardware ever since I attended a robotics workshop in my very first year of engineering. That's where this love story begins.
It was a PIC. I don't remember a lot about her. She was green and in a DIP package. I don't think I have a photo of her, but man was she good.
We met at a robotics workshop. It was a pretty boring workshop looking back, but then it felt so good. We built a line scanning, obstacle avoiding robot together. There were some IR led pairs involved. Some geared DC motors. It was great.
Next up, after finding out that she was extremely famous on the interwebs, I got myself a nice blue Arduino Uno. I remade the bot using that. I got more motors, more switches and had quite a few awesome dates with her. A binary clock we did together, with the most inefficient code ever, is something I am extremely proud of.
Next up, was an internship. And it was at this amazing research lab in Pune called Oneirix Labs. I had a lot of creative freedom in building the hardware. There was woodworking involved, there was some bright white lamps and a lot of python code for numerical methods. And then there was this new girl on the block. Quite famous for not being pricey. The apple of the maker community's eye, ladies and gentlemen, the Raspberry Pi.
It was great. I remember I used Gordon's awesome library to do all the gpio stuff. It was fun going out on dates with only 256mb of memory to spare (yes kids, there was a Pi with only 256mb RAM).
There was this competition in Pune, where a lot of student programmers were attending. And thanks to that fact of being part of a great team, we won that. And with my cut of the prize money, I bought a shiny red Beagleboard xM. It was amazing. An OMAP processors, like the ones on a lot of smartphones back then. A little known OS called Angstrom. And so many many many more things to talk about than the Raspberry Pi.
It turned out to be a very short term affair as few friends of mine, who were not aware about the rules of 3.3v logic, tried to introduce her to some 5v friends of theirs. Needless to say, things didn't end well.
After that I met the BeagleBone Black. If I have to pick the one that changed my life it would be her. Did she have it all or what ?
HDMI, PRUs, enough GPIOs to make anyone jealous, blue LEDs that blinked so bright I couldn't see anything else when she was turned on (a later revision fixed that in the hardware, so many others might not have experienced this).
We did a lot of things together. One summer of code, spent at the sunny and fun Beagleboard.org. My thesis project. Even my IRC chat bot. We did book reviews together, even mentored some other people like us in summers.
And then there was Tah.
Crowdfunded it with some fellow geeks in town, saw a bit of the world with her, made a lot of mistakes in manufacturing to learn things the hard way. She was shapely, a beautiful combination of white and gold. A lot of different colored leds.
There was a lot of heartbreak at the end, but in the wise words of Ice Cube : it was a good day.
But I always knew there was something missing in these relationships that I had. Yes they all looked different (blue, black, red, green, white). Yes they all had a bunch of different traits which made them unique and incomparable. Some were pricey, some were famous, some had a lot of muscle and some were more open than others. I loved them all. I still do.
On lonely days, I'll bring one out and simply make them blink that LED. Just to see that they will still talk to me.
Some do. Others don't.
Times have changed now. Long gone is the age of innocence where it was all about the cuteness of the embedded nonsense hack. It was time to don that suit, pick up that briefcase and live life in the real world.
The things that matter now are along the lines of what would I pay if I had a 1000 of these. Does it require any other little things around it or is it independent enough to have it's own VID/PID with some HID drivers. Does she come in a package thats going to be easy to maintain or is she going to be that high maintenance BGA-types.
Times change. What you look for in someone changes. There are websites and apps (Make, Hackaday, Hackster) to help you meet and greet new boards that you wouldn't have met before. But that first blinking led, that first bricked board and that first relay internet connected relay-click are all pretty special.
Here's to promising times ahead :D !
PS: There are a few boards I would have loved to include: Photon, ESP, Imuduino, Lightblue Bean and some others. But for the sake of keeping the post small, and also for not revealing my fickle casanova-ish nature, I decided to skip them from this post.