DIY expansion board from Mike Cook

If you’re of a similar vintage to me, you might remember Micro User, a magazine from the 1980s which was all about the BBC Micro: reviews, programming tips, listings, Q&A pages and all that good stuff. (I’ve been trying to find a complete set of the magazines for years; please leave a comment if you have one to sell! There are scanned PDFs available online if you fancy a bit of computing nostalgia.)

Micro User. And a boastful statistic: lifetime sales of the BBC Master (admittedly, not the core of the BBC's lineup and, at the time, an expensive option) from 1986-1994 were around 200,000. The Raspberry Pi has been on sale for just over 4 months, and we've already had orders for over 500,000 units.

Mike Cook, who you may remember from the glockenspiel project I posted a couple of weeks ago, had a page in the magazine which I used to read longingly every month. (Shamefully, when posting about the robot glockenspiel, I failed miserably to put two and two together; Mike was a bit of a childhood hero of mine, but it simply didn’t occur to me that this Mike Cook, thirty years on, might be the same guy who wrote for the magazine. Turns out he is. Colour me ashamed.)

Body Building with Mike Cook was a series of little hardware projects which used the BBC Micro’s GPIO ports. There was a new one to make every month; you could buy the sets in kit form through the magazine, or get your own parts from your local electronics shop. I couldn’t afford them on 20p a week’s pocket money, but it was lovely to imagine soldering up my own infra-red remote, hacking together a home-made Geiger counter, and making light wands.

A few hundred miles away in darkest Yorkshire, Eben was busy reading the same articles. He’s spent much of the period since the glockenspiel post shaking his head, beaming, and saying: “Mike Cook. Can’t believe it. Mike Cook.”

Click to visit Mike's site for instructions

To my and Eben’s enormous joy, Mike’s taken the Raspberry Pi and has run with it; we’re hoping to see more projects from him soon. Right now, he’s got instructions on his website which will show you how to make your own breakout board (a simple version and a couple of versions which protect the Pi’s GPIO lines) to give you easy access to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins and allow you to get to work on hardware projects. Although soldering is easy, Mike’s aware that it can be intimidating for beginners, so this project uses no solder, just those pokey through-hole connectors. Here’s some video of Mike putting the board together. Let us know how you get on if you make one at home!