Continuing education

PIC projects

Shortwave radio

Broadcast radio

High voltage



ODS or one man's junk is another man's treasure

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk" - Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

In order to build something, and have fun doing it, one needs components. Often times not just components used in this one particular project but components in general. It's good to have a nice selection of semiconductors and passives at hand because, when at least I sit down at the bench, more often than not I don't know what will grow out of it. So it's good to be well stocked.

So where DO you get parts? There are traditional sources like below, just to mention a few, and they each have just about everything under the sun but they tend to expensive. Add shipping and handling and it can get quite pricey.

Allied Electronics
Circuit Specialists

Free is a very popular word. Pretty much every commercial web site and store use it, in one form or another. However, most products that are free are usually not really free. Most places will require you to give something – your email address or name to complete an offer – to get the freebie. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a distributor for a frugal soul like me that really gave you everything for free without any catches? Well, there is one and they are called ODS. They have incredible varieties of stuff, limited only by their founder's imagination. What's the address, telephone number and email address? Well, ODS happens to be special. They don't need any of. And better yet, nobody can beat their prices.

So what is this incredible ODS? It stems from an acronym Outside Distribution Source. -:) I don't know if anyone else has coined this and if not whether I'm the first one. Maybe I CAN take a little credit here. Some say modesty gets you nowhere. If I used the term Dumpster Diving, that would be way too degrading. After all, I want to build all of my circuits as elegantly and professionally as possible. Dumpster Diving just doesn't fit into that equation.

Obtaining stuff from ODS is dead simple. You eyeball the donor - an old piece of equipment that someone has put out to the side of the street - and grade it in your mind by what could be useful inside. As a rule, discarded older computers, apart from their power supplies, are the least desirable because almost everything is purpose-built and SMT. Power supplies on the other hand yield plenty of useful discretes. Especially prized are older analog radios that might even come with a high-quality ball bearing variable capacitor inside. These are good for HAM radio experiments. Until recently Ocean State Electronics had them but they seem to have gone out of business.

The next step is what I call "cleaning the subject". This includes but is not limited to opening the case, taking out the boards and soldering out everything deemed valuable. I sometimes even save the screws if they are good quality. And lastly, many a case for my projects has began life as something else. Even though this part is not as much fun as others in the general scheme of things due to subjects being a bit dusty, do not despair. Borrowing from Forrest Gump " is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get". You never know what might be inside of that old radio!


Good luck hunting and many useful finds, de Brian!