Review: TINKERKIT DMX receiver MOS


The TinkerKit project had the purpose of creating educational products designed to be used with Arduino boards, allowing for an easy development of projects. No soldering was required, and also little or no skills in electrical engineering were needed. Under the name of TinkerKit we used to find an Arduino shield, a bunch of sensors and actuators as well as the required cables. Furthermore, the TinkerKit range included some DMX products: a master and two slave devices, one with four relays and the other with MOS outputs.

This blog post is more than two years old.

Unfortunately, somewhere in 2014, the website went down, and now the owners of TinkerKit products are left without the main source of technical support. All that remains is the GitHub repository, where we can still find some documentation and code examples.

No need to say, there are still some TinkerKit products still kept in stock by various shops. With the main source of support gone, there’s little interest in those products. As such, some of the sellers are now offering the last TinkerKit boards at heavily discounted prices, and sometimes it’s worth risking a few bucks to buy one of those boards.

One of the boards that I consider interesting enough to spend some money on is the TinkerKit DMX receiver MOS, a slave DMX device based on Atmel ATMEGA32U4 (same as the Arduino Leonardo), with RS-485 interface plus four MOS outputs. Finding one of those boards, at a very good price, is something I can’t resist to buy. And now I’m the happy owner of a DMX receiver with no documentation.

The particular version of the DMX receiver I’ve got for less than 20$ (oh, yeah) is the retail version which comes in a box and with a small leaflet. That leaflet offers the first important bit of information: “Manufactured by SMART PROJECTS S.r.l., Via Romano, 12, Scarmagno, Italy”.

For those who are unaware of the serious rift in the core Arduino team, SMART PROJECTS S.r.l is the former name of Arduino S.r.l,  the major official producer of the hardware for most boards until 2014. The last snapshot of the website made by the Wayback machine being dated 27 July 2014. As such, it looks that TinkerKit is a collateral victim of the war between the two Arduino factions. Nowadays the only TinkerKit product still on sale is the Braccio, a product developed recently by Arduino S.r.l. The older products are left without any support.

Anyway, the lack of support doesn’t mean that old boards will end up in the garbage bin. With enough patience, one can resurrect them by examining the bits of code still available on the GitHub and giving a close examination of the board. And that’s what I’m gonna do with my DMX receiver MOS. I will extract the board schematics based on a thorough inspection under the microscope and by using the code as a reference to see how the pins are connected. Of course, some resistor and capacitor values will remain unknown as finding their value will require some extra desoldering and soldering.

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