Run Forrest’s Circuits

New life for Forrest Mims’ classic “Engineer’s Notebook”

The signature work of Forrest Mims, one of the most recognizable names in recent science, is now being brought to life in model form.

Star Simpson, an MIT alum who was inspired into science by Mims’ work at a young 14, has used startup funding and social media word of mouth to fully recreate the original circuit designs, made famous in the Mini-Notebooks and 1971’s Getting Started in Electronics, into handy, educational kit form. These are designed to serve as do-it-yourself learning kits, but double as a standalone form of art. The release includes three of Mims’ cornerstone works: the Dual-LED Flasher, the Stepped Tone Generator, and the Bargraph Voltage Indicator.

Simpson's DIY kits include this one, for the stepped tone generator, which gained public notoriety for its use in Atari video games during the 1980s.

Simpson’s DIY kits include this one, for the stepped tone generator, which gained public notoriety for its use in Atari video games during the 1980s.

Mims is, by most numbers, the most widely read electronics author in the world—his sixty books selling over 7.5 million copies. These works include his “Engineer’s Notebook” series, celebrated for its memorable hand-lettered and illustrated format that was produced directly from his original laboratory books. He is also responsible for the manual for the world’s first PC. The Altair 8800 Operator’s Manual was released in 1975 while he was working with what was then the origins of the MITS and Microsoft teams.

Each of Simpson’s kits includes a printed circuit board (containing the circuit itself, the circuit’s schematic, and a description of the circuit, all in Forrest’s iconic hand-drawn style, traced directly from his books), through-hole components (all those required to build a working circuit, easily placed due to clear footprints and large, friendly solder pads), and a display stand crafted to let you proudly display your work, as Stephen Cass of IEEE Spectrum reported.

Mims has also been a magazine columnist, editing The Citizen Scientist—the journal of the Society for Amateur Scientists—from 2003 to 2010, and was an officer in the United States Air Force during Vietnam.

Forrest Mims

Forrest Mims

Specifications on the DIY kits include alligator-clip friendly drills which form clip points for the power and ground in the corners of every board, and to allow for testing on the bargraph voltage indicator; copper tracks beneath the schematic that replicate the notebook lines from the book; and every board features Mims’ signature. The backside of each board includes explanations of how it works, while book and page number citations make it easy to look up the original. Other specifics include:


Simmons has raised over $38,000, far exceeding her initial $9,750 goal.

Simpson has raised over $38,000, far exceeding her initial $9,750 goal.

  • Board materials: FR4, blue soldermask, ENIG (gold) finish
  • Board Dimensions: 5” x 3.5” x 0.062”
  • Power: alligator clips included; powered by, for example, a CR2032 coin cell (not included)
  • Test Points: grabbers, and scope probes
  • Stand Dimensions: 5” x 2.75” x 1”

Support for the product can be as little as a $5 donation—not that these are desperately needed at this point. As of Thursday, Simpson’s Crowd Supply (similar to Kickstarter or other startup funding programs) project had raised $38,688, far exceeding her initial goal of $9,750. The items are now available for pre-order, to be released on October 30 this fall. A copy of Getting Started In Electronics is available for $19. Individual kits are $39 apiece, while a full set of all three is priced at $99. Classroom kits are also available.


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