Friday, October 2, 2009

Worth an Award

It happened during an exhibition in Germany; the Indian man looked at the Elektor stand and stood in the aisle as if struck — he walked onto the stand and hugged the Elektor Editor in Chief!

Now, it is not customary (or indeed our expectation) that visitors to Elektor booths at exhibitions hug the staff members, but this man had a reason. He told a story that anyone from India could have told you; growing up there is not easy, the options for study and education are limited. But he started to read Elektor – became fascinated with electronics, studied electronics, started his own business and was now a successful business man. And all that because of Elektor! That was worth a big hug; thank you, thank you!

That particular visitor is by no means the only person expressing his feelings in relation to Elektor. We receive letters, visits and emails from people from all over the world who feel a close connection with the magazine. Sometimes with ideas, projects and suggestions; sometimes with criticisms – these are all indications of connectivity.

It sometimes takes my words away. We make, to the best of our ability, a magazine about electronics and surreptitiously the magazine does more than you suspect. People become fascinated with electronics and get busy, begin to study, make discoveries, have their work published, start their own manufacturing company or become an instructor. What interests has this magazine created and what things have come about in the nearly 35 years of its existence?

To give some substance to this curiosity we decided to launch an International Award. This Award is for Elektor readers who have in one way or another accomplished something special; an extraordinary discovery, a piece of fundamental research, a component or new circuit, a new design or application....

Send us with your stories. Who deserves and Award and why? Come with the anecdotes, bring the fascination to life! The Award will be presented on 21 November 2009 during Elektor Live! Elektor Live is an electronics hands-on event and will be held in the old Philips exhibition building in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The building is quite famous and called Evoluon.

The Award is an initiative of the Elektor Foundation ( On this page you can find more information about the categories of the Award and the objectives of the Elektor Foundation.

At we look forward to receiving your suggestions for candidates, or a good story or an exciting bit of history.

Wisse Hettinga


It seems like everything that's wireless these days is called wi-something, including witricity. If I understand right, this stands for “wireless electricity”, which means wireless power transfer. Designers everywhere, from MIT to Intel, are busily devising methods to eliminate separate power cables for individual devices.

This makes me wonder: why wi?

In the first place, each of these cables is usually connected to a transformer in an AC adapter. Transformers are not exactly leading-edge technology. The earliest descriptions date back to Faraday in the early decades of the 19th century. If we look more closely at how a transformer works, we usually see a primary winding and a secondary winding fitted on a magnetic core. That’s wireless power transfer.

Now let's look at all the modern approaches to obtaining wireless power transfer. Basically, they all amount to reworking the transformer principle, with a primary coil and secondary coil coupled by magnetic induction. The only difference is that people are experimenting with different frequencies and using resonant coils. The last part also sounds a bit familiar – isn’t that how radio broadcasting works, with electromagnetic waves? And let's not forget Tesla, whose enormous Wardenclyffe project was intended to provide wireless power transmission.

So we already have wireless power, but it’s not enough to meet our needs, and furthermore it’s not very efficient. This brings me to my question for you this week: do you see a future for wireless power, or should we start thinking about new forms of power distribution, and what would they be?


your view/repsons:

....I think the future will bring systems that will draw energy from solar, vibrations and energy from air - the last with a chemical reaction. Think of a accumulator where free air can flow feeding into a chemical reaction.

Ron Wesselman

Monday, September 28, 2009

ON and OFF

Do you think Edison used a switch in his experiments? And if so, what did it look like? My guess is that he used a toggle switch – the old-fashioned kind with a big handle, mounted on a sturdy wooden board to keep all the components in place. For some time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series of articles or a small book on switches and clever ways to turn devices on and off. Everything from simple switches to light switches, low-voltage and high-voltage switches, transistors as switches, switching equipment partially off in the standby state, mercury switches (now forbidden) for detecting motion, and how you can use physical phenomena such as speech, pressure, motion, height differences, water, light, fire, and so on to activate a switch.

I’m writing this during the Elektor presence at the ESC show in Boston. There we meet a lot of good folks, and they visit our booth to show us all sorts of things. Consider the man in the photo: while watching a screen from the corner of his eye, he operates a computer with his voice. He’s called “Golden I.” Naturally, when you’re having a conversation you have to be careful to avoid the voice commands you use to control the computer. Terms such as open, close, file, mail, and so on can confuse the computer and disturb the conversation, or cause the wearer to glance nervously into the little screen. Actually, this is also a sort of switch – I wonder what would happen if you suddenly called out ‘ON’ or ‘OFF’ while standing next to this man? Would his eyes go into standby, or does he also have a screensaver? For his sake, I hope not.

If you know an interesting way to turn something on or off (people, animals, cars, radios, TVs, etc.), you’re more than welcome to send your ideas to

Wisse Hettinga

Readers respons:


This researcher works on ways to control systems with facial expressions. He and his colleagues have developed a way to control an MP3 player with chewing movements and a second system that uses the temple muscles. This last one attracted quite some interest in 2008 on the internet under the name Kome-Kami switch.

A news item in French can be found here:

Clemens - Elektor France



I reflashed a router to a linux server. He is doing my webserver, mails, back-up server tetc.

He knows

- the time (from the internet)

- day and night to switch on the lights

See the developments

P.v.Geens (Holland)


I would think that if Edison used a switch in his experiments and/or apparatus, it would have been a knife switch. In the early part of the century when Edison done most of his work, the knife switch was the most popular type available to both the experimenter and to industry. Therefore, it stands to reason that Edison too would have used this type of switch.
This is my opinion based on my knowledge of Edison's work, and the state of the art of electrical apparatus of the day. If you find that this isn't the case, I will apologize and stand corrected.


Dear Wisse,
Many people overlook diodes as switches. They can be very useful when you want to switch many analog signals at once, as in changing bands in a shortwave radio or changing modes in a transceiver. I've attached an article I found describing diodes as switches.

Best Regards,
Dave Bailey
Technical Support Engineer
IAR Systems Inc.
2 Mount Royal
Marlborough, MA 01752

(article can be dispatched on demand - thanks, WH)