Electronics Hobbyists and Tinkerers

Jun 02 2015, 2:30 PM PDT · 5 comments »

At CircuitLab, one of our challenges is to simultaneously serve three distinct populations: students, hobbyists, and engineers. All three need schematic capture and circuit simulation software, but each gets different economic value from it, and have different willingness to pay for it. We've worked to make our software accessible and valuable for all three.

Students are easy to define: generally young people participating full-time in engineering and science undergraduate or graduate degree programs at colleges and universities. We have campus-wide licensing deals with a growing number schools, making CircuitLab available free-of-charge to all students (often used in coursework). In other cases, individual students get discounted student-friendly pricing on their own through our .EDU pricing program (more than 90% off the commercial pricing).

Engineers are also easy to define: we have CircuitLab customers at Fortune 500 companies, mid-size firms, and growing startups like Pantelligent, a company that's developing a smart frying pan that cooks steak and salmon perfectly, every time. The Pantelligent engineering team uses CircuitLab for analog design, power supply design, robustness analysis, production and test fixtures, thermal simulations, and more, leading to a higher quality product in less time. There's an immediate value to getting an engineering team using CircuitLab, and the ability to have a flexible monthly self-serve subscription (no enterprise sales people, no long-term contracts) makes it easy for companies to give it a try and see the benefits for themselves.

However, about half of CircuitLab users identify in a third category: hobbyists, makers, or tinkerers. Who are these users? What are they building? How can CircuitLab help?

Our friends at Jameco Electronics, a California-based distributor of electronics components, decided to find out by conducting the first-ever Great American Electronics Hobbyists Census. Some interesting highlights:

  • 34% of hobbyists have an electrical engineering degree, while 35% have no formal electronics education
  • 64% own 3 or more multimeters!
  • 81% had their first electronics experience before age 18
  • 75% report spending at least 6 hours per month on their electronics projects as a hobby

For more great data, see the census results from Jameco.

To our hobbyists from the CircuitLab community: how do you fit in with these results? Let us know in the comments.


Well, let's see.

No EE degree (Math instead)

I do own exactly 3 multimeters.

First electronics experience at age 60.

Probably more like 50 hours/month.

Pretty much I scan various sources for project ideas that amuse me. Lately I've been building increasingly complex Useless Machines.

In my case, probably a greater variety of components with which to create schematics would serve me better (although that's probably a hole with no bottom). I always have to create a symbol when I use a gearmotor, for example.

CircuitLab is the tool I chose to create schematics for all my projects along with comments to help remind me what the heck I was trying to accomplish with a particular piece of a circuit. When a project is done, I then export the circuit for archiving.

To date, I have not done simulations.

by jrobinette
June 08, 2015

While CC is great for drawing out circuits there is a sad lack of instructions as to how to use it- the usual attitude "I know how so you do too" seems to prevail, the video is so fast and lacking in detail that I feel that I must be thick as a plank not to grasp it, Notices such as "you must nominate at least one output" are of no help if you are not shown what to do to correct this!.

by Jamesy
December 15, 2015

Electronic Engineering Degree. Destroyed and attempt to rebuild my first electronic radio at 9 ... didn't work. Own two multi-meters, looking at my third now (Fluke) but don't have the funds. Spend about 5 hours or less a month, although here recently spent 15 hrs reworking old circuits. Would love to have micro circuits with TEG and Schotzzy diodes available, haven't figured this program out 100% yet.

by Samdw1
February 04, 2016

EE degree. Two multi-meters plus metering built into projects. Started at age 12 using a solid copper soldering iron heated over the gas stove until the flame turned green, with separate solder and flux. Made crystal sets, battery powered valve/tube radios, early transistor radios. Lifetime of varied design work, now retired and doing about fifty hrs/month including design, build and test of various projects. I run the sims inside my head and use CircuitLab to draw circuit schematic diagrams for my website.

by mikerogerswsm
October 25, 2016

No EE degree. Just hubby for over 40 years. At age of 11 my mom bought me kit to make 2 tubes radio. It was fantastic experience. With high votage excitement and lots of errors in documentation. :) I grew up in soviet military officer family and spent time scrapping electronic components from military garbage near by. :) I liked also chemical experiments. Very dengerous. :) Then I switched to computer modeling to stay safe. So hardware experiments is not mixed with money and remains solely a lovely hobby for my soul :)

by febb
May 23, 2019

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