Stumbling blocks to learning

I’m someone who can’t sit down for five minutes, unless I’m doing something useful and purposeful. I’ve always been this way, tinkering with electronics, radios, computers, or programming. It’s helped me greatly and I have been able to extend my skills beyond what I need for work, but it always becomes complementary and beneficial just when I need it.

I’ve always had a lot of stuff, collections of things like wires, screws, electronics components, and computers. Although I have always had an abundance of things to play with, they weren’t always the most useful. Until recently, the stuff that I wanted to learn and tinker with have been quite expensive, and in the early years I didn’t value expensive things by their usefulness. I would of course plough money into my computers but that’s another story.

When thinking about this recently, I realised that scarcity has often held me back with learning. It’s felt like a reluctance to use something in case I ruin it or make a mistake, although learning is only possible through experience, continuous practise, and perseverance. I’ve had a collection of thirty plus Raspberry Pi computers for a while now that I have made great use of and they have provided endless opportunities to improve my skills.

At the end of 2018, I discovered AliExpress and all that changed. Since then I have received at least fifty individual parcels of electronics components ready to be tinkered with. Modern development boards and sensors have definitely lowered the entry level to complex electronics. I have finally found the stuff that makes this all possible and I’m happy to wreck and destroy anything that I purchased because they only cost a few pence or a few quid at most.

I’ve never really had anyone to practice my learning with, although I don’t really mind that. It’s a personal journey that makes sense to me, usually in a non-linear fashion. I seemingly skip back and fourth with personal projects, but there is usually something I need before I can complete the next stages. This can be other prerequisite skills which I must learn, stuff that can take months to arrive in the post, or just waiting for ideas to flow.

Organisation is key to finding that exact component when you need it, and I’ve been through many iterations of storage. Moving around the country has also put a strain on how I store things, but I’m now settled and setting up ‘the learning shack’ with shelves and permanent places for everything. It’s a great feeling. I think 2019 is going to be an interesting year.

I’m really happy that I am actually building things now, as for many of the early years I designed some really cool things, but never built them. I’m not looking backwards and building from my dreams, I am building forward with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technology and services like GSM/GPRS, LoRaWan, The Things Network, LCD/OLED screens, GPS, microcontrollers, and development boards. And of course, many many Raspberry Pi computers.

I’m breaking down the barriers that have previously made me hesitant about doing things the right way or perfectly first time. I’m doing this by beginning small projects to prove that I can control or achieve this and that. They are small steps of enlightenment. I haven’t yet got an overall plan or objective in mind, but discovery seems important at the moment to see what is out there and is possible. All the while I am learning more and it’s that which matters.

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