Handy NTE Cross Reference Chart for Hobby Electronics

My NTE Cross Reference Chart
NTE makes replacement semiconductor components; for anything that Texas Instruments or National Semiconductor or anyone else has produced, NTE has a workalike. But, these workalikes’ names are usually *totally unrelated* to the canonical name for that IC. For example, the 555 timer IC popularized by Signetics in the 1970s–which pretty much everyone else calls a SOMETHING-SOMETHING-555 (for example, Fairchild Semiconductor calls these “NE555″s, and Exar calls them, you guess it, “XR-555″s)–NTE calls these “NTE955M”s. Similarly, the ubiquitous “LM386” op-amp used in my (and everyone else’s) Dirty-Cheap Amps ? NTE calls that a “NTE823” (obviously).
If you buy NTE components–which work great–make a point of noting the “normal” name for whatever you bought and keeping that with the IC. If you go around buying garage sale or eBay lots of electronic components (which is a *great* way to cheaply juice up your project supplies, with the added benefit of often including surprisingly cool, handy, or valuable parts), you’re going to end up with a bunch of cryptic NTE stuff sooner or later. A chart like this will help you sort those out–and likely uncover some great lil gems.
My NTE Cross Reference Chart

Kite Season is Here!

Fall is prime kite season in much (if not all) of the US: It’s frequently windy and those winds tend to be steady both in force and orientation (in contrast to the gusty spring breezes that shift all over the compass, knocking your kite down just as it begins to stabilize). Last spring a pal hit me up for some kite advice via Facebook, and agreed to let me clean up our conversation and post it here. (FYI: I sent her a copy of the Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred ebook after she asked about kites; it isn’t like I sent her trotting to B&N. I’m not that┬ábad a guy.)

Anne Marie Ellison Miller: Hey, Dave–any thoughts on the merit and/or difficulty of home-making a kite? And remember, we Millers are kind of craftarded, so use small words and don’t assume ownership of a bone folder. (OK, I just wanted to say “bone folder”. Bone folder.) Ahem. Seriously, I’d value your ideas.

David Erik Nelson: You can make a kick-ass diamond kite using bamboo garden stakes (or any strong, thin dowel; bamboo stakes are cheap as hell and plenty strong), packing tape, FedEx mailers (there’s probably a mountain of them in your office mail room’s recycling), kite string, and some POLICE LINE tape (or cut up garbage bags, or whatever).

Flick to the “FedEx Kites” chapter (pg. 273), and the first design is the diamond kite in question. Pro Tips: Focus on being symmetrical and getting the sail taught (as long as it’s anchored around the edges, as described, it’ll be taught enough). Use a long tail for stability (a long kite tail will make up for a multitude of sins, in terms of asymmetry or sloppy sails). This is a design that drug-addled kids had no problem making work; it’s within your grasp.

FYI: Spring is crummy kite weather in most of the US, since winds are gusty and fitful (certainly in MI). Go to the beach for better, steadier wind. That said, I’ve had plenty of good times flying FedEx Diamonds in the spring in crappy breezes; it’s a very, very forgiving design.

Oh, and the barrel of a sharpie marker makes a fine bone folder for all occasions.

AMEM: I should’ve known that you’ve been all over this for ages! Thanks SO much!

DEN: I like to keep it real, time permitting.

AMEM: OK, professor, here’s a question for you: using wrapping paper as material instead of FedEx mailers: Yea or nay?

DEN: 1) That’s “Dr. Professor” 2) or preferably “The Fabulous Night Panther,” as per my earlier tweet, 3) like gift wrapping paper? The plain papery kind, or plasticy Mylar stuff? SHORT ANSWER: Go nuts; use whatever you’ve got, even newspaper or butcher paper. LONG ANSWER: Paper ends up being kind of a pain because a) it tears easily–the wind can give a kite some pretty good snaps, and there are a lot of rough landings on your first kite–and b) it gets weak when it’s wet, even from just light mist or dewy grass or hands damp from a cold beer bottle. The Chinese used silk, because it’s light, rip-stop, and can take some water. For these same reasons I favor the Tyvek mailing envelope. But, really, anything tight-woven and light that won’t tear easily is ok. So I’d take Mylar wrapping paper over paper wrapping paper. Beware of thicker papers (grocery sacks or butcher paper), which get heavy quickly. I’ve heard of folks having good experiences with garbage bags, but never tried it myself. I believe this is a context in which a dry cleaning bag might be considered a toy.

AMEM: Thank you, sir.

DEN: That’s “Dr. Sir,” please.

DEN: Or “Dr. Fabulous Night Panther.” That’s probably the best, in terms of covering your honorific bases.

DEN: . . . you still out there, Anne Marie?

DEN: Anne Marie?

DEN: <sigh>

Reader Tips: Vibrating Motors from Electric Toothbrushes

By way of an Amazon review by RobinTaylor9640:

Loved the book, especially the Jitterbug Project, but the author did miss an alternate source for the vibrating motor in the bug though, battery operated electric toothbrushes have one and are cheaper than Radio Shack if you shop around, assuming you don’t have one already lying around the house, of course.

Excellent tip! These are 3volt motors (just like the cellphone vibrator), but beefier–which can mean more rattle for your buck (depending on how toothpaste-caked the motor is). Definitely worth saving that broken toothbrush for parts.
*thanks, RT9640!*

Soldering Tip: Buy a Tin of Tip Tinner/Cleaner

Tip Tinner/Cleaner Compound (0.5 Oz.) – RadioShack.com

If you do more than a little soldering, then a pot of tip tinner/cleaner (I’ve been using RadioShack’s brand, stock #64-020) is a worthwhile investment. The heating and cooling of the soldering tip over the course of many sessions tends to corrode it–I’m a little unclear why, as I’ve gotten a lot of mixed explanations. Some chalk it up to impurities in the solder, and others to the fact that, if you tinned your tip with regular strands of solder, you’ve likely done so unevenly, resulting in a blob on one side, and an almost naked face on the other. Whatever the cause, the degradation of a soldering iron tip is *much* more pronounced when you use a cheap tip (which, by definition, is lower-quality metal) or a cheap iron (which is less temperature stable, meaning that even as you work, there are big swings in the temperature of the iron).
In any case, I’ve found that tip cleaner extends the life of a soldering iron tip by years. Here’s the skinny:

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