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Archive for April, 2008

The fruits of downtown Toronto

Posted by aonomus on April 23, 2008

Well, today I decided to roam around downtown Toronto and do a little shopping… not just any shopping though. I went to Active Surplus Electronics (on Queen Street east of Spadina) followed by Supremetronics (aka Honson, just west of College and Spadina).

Active Surplus is mostly get-lucky style shopping, you’ll never know what exactly you’ll need and probably buy some extra random things and go out with some needed items, some random items, and short a few critical items.


  • Good random surplus, I found some very good quality linear 50k pots, a 4×4 keypad, and a d10
  • Really cheap utility parts, resistors, LED’s, caps (all types, large range)
  • Electromechanical parts such as stepper motors, motors, solenoids, fans are available from small model scale to commercial/light industrial scale motors.
  • Mechanical parts: screws by the pound, hinges, rods, gears (alot of gears of different size and type), wheels
  • Utility labware: small plasticware or glassware on the cheap, and even further real glassware (I found a few Liebig condensers, and even a Soxhlet extractor)
  • Random bits and bobs


  • Overpriced on certain items such as project boxes, connectors, perf boards (aka protoboard, vector board, strip board, etc),
  • Premium items are, well, premium and behind the counter in a wall of shelves, things like LED’s other than your standard R,Y,G (eg: blue, orange, luxeon LED’s) and more importantly undocumented that they are in stock.
  • In general alot of prices are undocumented, mostly due to there being too many items to tag since they aren’t tracked via inventory, simply by bulk, making it hard to budget out a shopping trip.
  • Not all items are available for common components either due to high popularity (eg: 1kohm 1/4W resistor) or due to obscurity.

After Active Surplus I had most of the parts to start up my stock for prototyping but I was missing a fair few components, which lead me to Supremetronic (aka Honson). Honson are a dedicated electronics components store, featuring a much wider assortment of IC’s and semiconductors, as well as better tolerance components (due to the components being non-surplus).


  • Very good assortment of IC’s such as 7400 series (LS, HC, HTC flavours), various transistors/SCR/diodes/TRIAC’s, etc, regulators, optoisolators, and pretty much anything else necessary for building a circuit.
  • Premium components and wider assortment: better quality parts, more available values.
  • Prototyping aimed part selection


  • Greater expense on many parts, some neccessary, some not.
  • Lack of electromechanical parts

Also note both Active and Honson give 10% student discounts upon showing a student ID card, always a bonus. I spent a fair bit of money at it too, and I’m still sorting out all the little bits and pieces, rather, resorting all the resistors after realizing that my multimeter’s batteries had leaked and made the ohmmeter inaccurate.

As for ‘how not to do it’, behold, anxiousness with a blue LED:

Disclaimer: releasing the magic blue smoke may void your warranty and cause any device to cease functioning.

Once I had mis-read a 3ohm resistor for a 300 ohm resistor (oops) I managed to drive the blue LED with enough power to make it glow white before the silicon started to decompose, generating gas and escaping out one of the areas by the leads. I got bored and sawed it open to survey the damage, nifty actually seeing inside one of them… too bad its broken.

Soon enough I shall order an Arduino and start prototyping, I have a nifty 4×4 keypad with big buttons and no labels which is perfect for a mini-midi drum pad or sampler (without velocity sensitivity mind you). Stay tuned for more stuff soon… and yes I did find a d10 at Active Surplus.

Posted in Electronics, How Not to Do It | Tagged: | 2 Comments »