This doesn’t have much to do with the original topic, but what a great picture. Yeah, I know I’m thinking out loud about a market I know nothing about in front of people who do.
“There is little more dangerous than a programmer with a soldering iron or a hardware engineer with a C++ compiler.”
The Arduino ecosystem seems to be drawing in masses of people who wouldn’t have thought themselves able to make software interact with the real world, or that it was beyond their available level of effort. Back on USENET, veterans used to dread September because the start of university would bring a fresh crop of clueless new people each year who took ages to housebreak. When AOL added USENET access, it brought in a huge, constant flood of clueless people. The term that stuck was “Eternal September”. (Later we called this “the democratization of the Web”, but I’m getting off on another tangent.) (Edit: apparently so long ago I forgot whether it was perpetual or eternal September.)
Looking around the Arduino message boards, I see a lot of people lacking skills, theory, or other background knowledge that could previously be assumed if people were interfacing ICs to microprocessors. I’m one of them; I have a folk theory of voltage in my head, and sometimes I think about watts, but current is not something I have an intuition for (which means BJTs are magic.) It’s surprising how much you can do and get away with in Arduino-land with just a voltage mental model plus “put a current-limiting resistor here” which is stressed in detail as part of the ubiquitous initial LED control project. Probably “can’t hurt to add decoupling caps” is in the heuristics too.
You can also do a lot in Arduino-land without soldering, or just with the minimal ability to solder two leads twisted together. When I see a PCB lying on header pins on a solderless breadboard (great catch), I think “this person has probably never done PCB soldering.” Or maybe they have and it was a disaster and are trying to avoid it. Or they don’t know everything doesn’t connect as easily as a solderless breadboard/female header. (But Fritzing, bless its heart, makes it look that way.) They’ll get practice soldering on perfboard eventually. Using a purchased breakout board seems to be the only part of their getting off the ground that (should have) required PCB soldering.
Everybody and their brother seem to have their own “just plug and play” 5v/signal/ground module interfacing system for microcontrollers, but solderless breadboard is the only real common interface. A quick scan of the tutorials by the usual suspects shows plenty of “how to assemble a kit which incidentally includes headers” but all of the “how to use a PCB-based module on a breadboard” have a step ~7 consisting solely of “solder headers on”. This is the only time you’d need to solder in basic Arduino-land (and not totally trivial, given the pictures in sparkfun.com/tutorials/114 ). Maybe I’m overthinking and this is just solvable with a simple end-to-end project doc that says in large friendly letters “DON’T PANIC”.
In any case the market for prototyping parts now includes people who lack confidence in PCB soldering. They never did the LED christmas tree. It’s not clear this is a great submarket to sell into, but it’s out there. Some vendor of building-block breakout boards might try selling a few with optional soldered-on headers. (Maybe it already was tried and failed.) There are some people (maaaaybe me) who would be willing to pay for the increased fabrication cost plus the increase in shipping for packing a non-flat component, if the components came solderless breadboard ready. It’s like the next step above kit to assembled. What the cost would be (and the SKU overhead) versus demand price is beyond me. Probably most hobbyists will pick up through-hole PCB soldering pretty quickly, but it’s a leap especially with $10 irons. (Never mind that you could pay for a real soldering station with the savings from doing such easy assembly locally. But you could learn crimping too.)
Off in the PC modding world, people seem to be happy to pay for somebody else to do heatshrink on cables even though header-flavored Molex pin extraction is hardly rocket surgery. frozencpu.com/products/7639/ … able_.html is some kind of extreme. Not sure that level of…whatever it is…exists anywhere else.