The concept of a "geek box" is something that came to my attention while I was
in school studying electrical engineering. It was often necessary to purchase
lab kits from the school in order to perform assigned laboratory experiments.
The lab kits came packaged in a Ziploc baggie, and generally included several
feet of multicolored hook-up wire, various integrated circuit components,
several resistors and capacitors, and perhaps a transistor or two.
Most students simply carried the Ziploc baggies around in their backpacks,
where the components were subject to being crushed between textbooks and other
forms of abuse. I quickly realized that the lab kit's original packaging was
a less than ideal means of transport for my equipment. Plus, in order to complete
the lab experiment successfully, a student also needed a breadboard on which to
build the circuit.
After a long summer spent at my parents' house right before my senior year,
my boyfriend Matt came to pick me up and drive us both back down to school. He presented
me with a "back to school" gift that would come to be one of my most prized possessions:
a medium-sized fishing tackle box. Matt had included with the box a few tools that
he thought I might appreciate: wire strippers, long-nose pliers, and a pair of flush
I began taking my newly acquired geek box to school and found that it made my
lab experience much more organized. Now, I could consolidate all my lab kits and
have room left over for my tools and breadboard. Depending on a person's needs
the contents of their geek box might vary somewhat, but I thought I might offer
something of a baseline for people just starting out in electronics, or anyone
else who might want to put together their own geek box.
- Wire strippers (I prefer the kind with separate holes for a reasonable range of wire gauges.)
- Diagonal cutting tool (Much better than your teeth for cutting hook-up wire!)
- Flush cutters (Like diagonal cutters, but with thinner, sharper blades and an angle ideal for cutting against flat surfaces. Ideal for trimming leads after soldering.)
- Long-nose pliers (Useful for straightening bent leads or jamming components into unwilling breadboard holes.)
- Resistors (Trust me, you will need far more resistors than those included in your lab kit. Get a wide range of values, and plenty of them. Assortments are available at Radio Shack and other electronics stores.)
- Capacitors (Same advice as that for resistors applies. Get lots of these.)
- Transistors (You will get some of these with your lab kits but they are relatively easy to destroy, so it is worthwhile to get some standard NPN and PNP BJTs and keep them with you.)
- Integrated circuits (These will certainly be included in your lab kit, but again you should probably become familiar with their part number, etc., and purchase a few more in case of emergencies.)
- Digital multimeter. (It is wonderful to have a small portable multimeter in your geek box. Preferably one that can measure capacitance and test diodes, as well as measure current, voltage, and resistance.)
- Anti-static foam (You can customize your geek box by lining some of the compartments with this stuff, and placing your ICs in it. Some ICs are very prone to ESD damage and this foam will protect them far better than anything else.)
- Pre-cut jumper wires (Take some of the hook-up wire that came with your lab kits, or purchase several spools of wire. Cut lengths of wire varying from 1 cm to 5 cm, and strip the ends. This is an amazing timesaver.)
The guidelines above will set you on your way to constructing your very own geek box.
I have found mine very useful even since graduating; it is nice to have a portable, basic
set of tools and components, especially if you like to build stuff with your friends,
or if you have an electronics-related job.