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Hello All,  I've retired from a long career in software and networking, but I have no experience at all with things like soldering and not much interest in it.  I do have a strong interest in the software aspect.  Are solderless components available?  Or, should I just push on to another hobby?  Thanks. 
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sure, you have a couple options

if you just want to play about you can get a solderless breadboard, these things are invaluable when prototyping and they simply have interconnected spring loaded holes.

for more permanent projects there is wire-wrap, you use a tool to wrap thin wire onto special posts and sockets, the tool can range from 5 bucks at radio shack to hundreds for electric guns. you also usually have to get the posts and sockets which have sharp square or blade like pins. When you wrap the wire it forms a "cold weld" that is very strong.

You typically cant wrap directly to component leads as the wire will slide right off so they make sockets with little blades in them, so you put your resistors and whatnot into them and then wrap the sockets.
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if you just want to play about you can get a solderless breadboard, these things are invaluable when prototyping and they simply have interconnected spring loaded holes.

for more permanent projects there is wire-wrap, you use a tool to wrap thin wire onto special posts and sockets, the tool can range from 5 bucks at radio shack to hundreds for electric guns. you also usually have to get the posts and sockets which have sharp square or blade like pins. When you wrap the wire it forms a "cold weld" that is very strong.

Something that should be noted:

1. Breadboards have current limits - typically about an 1 amp maximum - so keep that in mind depending on your project
2. Wire wrapping generally produces (when done by skilled and practiced hands) a stronger mechanical join than a soldered joint
3. The main disadvantage of wire wrapping is that if you have to change the layout for any reason, it can get hairy taking off the layers, depending on how they are layered/wrapped

On current carrying capacity of a wire-wrapped board, that would depend on the wire used; most general wire-wrap wire is fairly small gauge, and maybe has a current carrying capacity of around 1-2 amps; I'm sure it is possible to use thicker wire and such for higher currents (I've certainly seen old wire-wrapped systems that had thick wires), but where you'd get the tools and such today (or how much they would cost) would be a good question (I'm sure they still exist, though).

Wire wrap sockets also aren't as inexpensive as solderable sockets (in fact, they can be pretty pricey); you'll also be limited to thru-hole stuff as well (then again, I haven't followed wire-wrap things in a while - maybe they make wire-wrap sockets or something for some of the non-thru-hole parts?). When I did do wire-wrap, I found it was easier to put the sockets in a pad-per-hole solderable perfboard, then solder four corner pins to hold the socket in place; the other option is to use non-solderable perfboard, and glue the sockets down with hot glue or silicone (or epoxy).
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Some info:
Wirewrap sockets can be had for not much here:
http://www.phoenixent.com/

WSU-30 wirewrap tool with stripper works great for 30 guage wirewrap wire
http://www.jonard.com/jonard-ecommerce/control/product/~category_id=HAND_WRAP_TOOLS_1/~product_id=10021
24 guage is also available if more current is needed. Or just use a couple strands of 30.

I prefer to build up on Velleman ECS1/2 boards
http://www.omnikits.com/phpstore/index.php?action=item&id=783&prevaction=search&previd=&prevstart=0

Other Boards are also available
http://www.futurlec.com/ProtoBoards.shtml#PRBRDLG

An adapter can be found for every surface mount part so it can be socketed.

Thru hole still has a lot of life left.



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Quote
3. The main disadvantage of wire wrapping is that if you have to change the layout for any reason, it can get hairy taking off the layers, depending on how they are layered/wrapped

Take it from one that had to support wirewrapped systems in the field. We almost never removed existing wraps when making changes, just cut them close, as there was almost always room for one or two additional wraps on those long WW pins.

Lefty
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Are you sure you want to let soldering stop you from a fascinating hobby? It does cost a few bucks (less than $100) for a good soldering iron. And you need to practice a little. But it's not hard to get reasonably good at it. Get started, and before you know it, you're designing and ordering printed circuit boards yourself.

I too started from a software background. But my latest project has me using a BeagleBoard microprocessor to send data to four separate RBBB Arduino microncontroller to drive four relays that turn off and on the lights, horn and windshield wipers and washer for a car. There was some soldering to do, but not much. And it interests more than any other hobby I have considered taking up.

Wire-wrapping does work fairly well. Early Apple computers were mostly wire-wrapped, except that Steve Wozniak soldered the boards he made. But if you don't like to solder, you won't want to wire-wrap. It's six of one, half dozen of the other.
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Get yourself at least one regular size breadboard (around $10 some places like allelectronics, a sort of salvage house) and a couple of small ones, also a jumper wires set or two.

I have 2 kinds of jumper wires.

http://www.allelectronics.com/index.php?page=seek&id[m]=pattern&id[q]=Jumper+Wires&x=30&y=9
These are a pit of a pain using but they stay in place very well.

http://www.makershed.com/product_p/mkseeed3.htm
Easier to use, easier to pull out without intending to do so. Much better to go from BB to off BB.

You can also get a crimp too and male and female crimp ends. They come to accept different wire gauges. There are also telecom splicers that will work with really thin wire that pretty much never come off but then that's how crimp connectors work but at least they unplug.

http://www.harborfreight.com/head-strap-magnifier-with-work-light-95890.html
I have trouble seeing one little hole from another on the breadboard let alone the wire ends to make sure I get the right connection. Grumpy Mike showed me a pic of his magnifier visor so I went hunting down at Harbor Freight. They have 2 and after a look-see I chose the more expensive one with set of 4 insertable magnifiers. I use the 2nd most powerful in the far holder. You can combine 2 magnifiers I guess if you want to see germs.

You also really need a multimeter, preferably one with beep/tone on continuity check.

And then you will want components because that's how it starts. The other stuff I might buy once but I never have enough of the right bits, chips and goodies. $40 here, $50 there, buy anything and there's shipping so a few of these and 20 of those and $10-$20 of that plus what I really wanted to get to justify the $7 average ground rate shipping charge.
And then back to Harbor Freight to get storage boxes after "living out of bags" (hobby-size orders of parts from some, possibly most places come in plastic bags with labels) for months. I found that I need compartments at least 2"x2", I jam the bag in with label facing up. Found Storage House brand 24-compartment with snap lid containers for $4 each. They stack well.
 
I'm still not sure if this is a hobby or an addiction....
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All excellent helpful advice from great guys (and gals) that I have come to expect in this forum!

I wanted to chime is as a newbie (I've complete 4-5 bboarded projects - LCD, temp sensor, IR sensor, etc). I hated soldering my whole life (I'm older...), but was forced when I got into model railroading 5 years ago. Bought a Radio Shack adjustable temp solder station, and just started doing it. What REALLY got me to do better was some little electronics kits like from Ramsey Electronics (mini-kits). I had never even soldered a resistor to a PCB before. I got thru these OK and I'm not too bad now. Personally I MUST use a head-strap magifier and a strong light - really helps. I've now soldered several Arduino kits like Boarduno, a Modern Device BBB, pins on LCD's, etc. I still don't "enjoy" soldering that much, but it's really satisfying when it's all soldered up, apply power, and everything works!

All of that said, I have bread boards all over the place with jumper wires. Quick and easy. I have not tried to solder components to the open prototyping boards YET, but I'm sure I will eventually for more permanant projects.

P.S. If you DO get hooked on Arduino, you will never quit (at least I cannot).  smiley
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I think you'll find it difficult to avoid soldering altogether.  I've got a $10 Radio Shack soldering iron.  (I have a better one at work.)

If you have to solder in "mid air", heat shrink tubing can be useful.    "Spaghetti" tubing (non-shrink) is also useful.

I've built quite a few projects on plug-in prototyping boards.  They can be a bit bulky, but they are generally reliable for permanent use.   I built a car alarm on a one about 15 years ago, and it's still working.

These "Eruropean Style" terminal blocks can be useful for connecting wires, larger components, components with long leads, etc.   I've built power supplies with these and I think I'm going to use one to connect solid-state relays in my current project.

Some relays & transformers can be connected with Quick Disconnects which crimp onto wires or component leads.  Molex connectors also normally use crimp-on terminals.
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