Pocket Integrator

A clever, open hardware add-on board that lets you play your Pocket Operator drum machine like a maraca!

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Oct 28, 2022

Project update 1 of 5

Hello friends!

Hello everybody! It’s October, and many of you have been patiently wondering when you can finally get your hands on a Pocket Integrator. Thank you so much for all of your patience! When I updated you last Spring, I thought that by October the crowdfunding campaign would be complete and the finished boards would be on their way to you through the miracle of UPS Ground. As it turns out, 2022 has been the Year of the Chip Shortage, and most every electronic startup project I know of became behind schedule. Which isn’t a great feeling, but at least I’m in good company.

Basically, various chips used on last year’s Pocket Integrator prototype have disappeared from shelves throughout this year, including both the first and second microcontrollers I designed around, a couple of power-regulating chips, and the crucial accelerometers that detect tapping and shaking. Fortunately, the microchip market is vast, and alternative parts do exist. The result is, I and lots of other electronics designers have spent a heck of a lot of time this year revising our existing designs around new and available chips.

Every circuit board revision is a complex process; it used to take me about a month to finish a major revision, but I’ve gotten quicker with all this practice! As frustrating as this year’s chip-related delays have been, I’m actually glad that I’ve gotten to do these extra design iterations. It’s been an opportunity to refine a lot of details around how the PI board fits to the PO and how they feel together in the hand. Power consumption is lower now, the output signals are much cleaner, and a bunch of other tiny tweaks that maybe only the designer would notice add up to a product that I couldn’t be more proud of.

The latest iteration of the Pocket Integrator really is the best ever. It’s based on the new Raspberry Pi RP2040 chip, which is one of the most widely-available microcontrollers in the world at the moment. I really like it! The documentation is excellent, and the features are a good fit for the PI’s requirements. Mostly, I’m happy to say that both Mouser and the various contract PCB assembly houses seem to still have tons of RP2040 chips available. Meanwhile, the accelerometer chip I’m working with at the moment is a little bit tricky to get in bulk, but still easier to get than all of the other accelerometer chips. Mouser predicts that a larger supply of them will arrive next month, and they’re not predicting that for many other chips, so I’m proceeding optimistically.

Of course it’s not just engineering that takes so much time. I’ve also been busy with the business & bureaucratic side of this project. That’s been involving and educational, but maybe not as interesting to describe … suffice it to say, I know some people really love the nitty-gritty of business work, but I do it just so I can get back to the fun part: inventing stuff, making it work, playing music, connecting with other people. Elliott Smith once said "I have to do the touring and the interviews so that I get to do the writing and the recording." I feel the same way, except replace "touring and interviews" with "EMI regulatory compliance documents and financial projection spreadsheets."

But those are DONE, and the redesigns are DONE, and we are READY TO LAUNCH THE CAMPAIGN very soon now! Be on the lookout for our launch announcement!

Thanks again for your patience! -mykle-

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