So what this is:
In the spring of 2011, I pointed my boots south and moved to Costa Rica for a spell for a boatload of reasons. Unable to work officially and not interested in further pursuing my profession as an educator, I decided to expand my passion for analog electronics into a business in hopes of keeping the feathered bill gods at bay during my time abroad. Much to my surprise, I more or less actually managed to do this. I wouldn’t say that business is especially booming, but hey, if you can pay your bills doing what you love, how bad can things be? In the beginning, I was mostly importing most of my components – Costa Rica only allows visitors to be in the country for 90 days, so I supplanted my income with trips to the states, building in CR, snagging components in the states, and selling my wares wherever I could in between. However, as word about “that gringo who builds guitar pedals” got out, I started getting requests for custom orders, usually involving components that I didn’t have. However, in order to satiate the bill gods, and typically down for a challenge, I was apt to accept most requests, leading to my first experiences with electronicas.
About your typical Costa Rican component haberdashery:
Consistent it is not. While Cost Rica’s largest export is currently electronic components, the selection in an electronica is mostly imported; and given the strict customs regulations and fees, stocks tend to be fleeting – one week a store might have hundreds of an item and then nothing for two months or more. Generally speaking, when designing, flexibility is key. It also helps to know where at least a couple of these shops are – while most stock your typical wares, some might have something at one time, others at another and so on, creating a bit of a goose chase if you’re looking to fill a specific bill of materials – more often than not, this was always the fun part – but then again, I’m one who enjoys the thrill of the hunt – for instance, scouring record stores for a specific rare title, even though it could easily be downloaded from the interwebs – yeah, I’m one of those guys. But, provided you’re persistent, you can usually find what you’re after as long as you maintain patience and stay positive. Or at least with three exceptions – metal enclosures, industrial stomp switches and knobs. I cringe every time I place an order, knowing full well that each order entails two days in a customs office, overly inquisitive agents rifling through your package and at least 14% taxation on top of whatever else you’ve already paid for your order. Most likely this is probably why these three items don’t exist in situ in the first place.
So here we are two years later (as of April 2013). I’m a unusual, yet familiar attraction at the electronicas, and, due to various other reasons I’m returning to the states for a couple new adventures, as well as some occupational fundraising – while paying your bills with your wares is great, the notion of doing that, and having a nest left over at the end of the month is equally appealing. Again, looking the the challenge, as well as potentially jumpstart a diy maker community in Costa Rica, I decided to design a crash course in diy electronics, focusing on the creation of a modular sound synthesizer, using only components common to Costa Rica; focusing on versatile, open source designs that can not only teach basic electronic theory, but create a cool sounding, expandable electronic device. I can’t personally say that the designs are all that innovative, and I can’t claim that any of them are officially my own, but hey, you have to start somewhere – why not with something that you know, yeah?
Anyways, here’s of what we’ve accomplished, rewritten for the masses and tailored for those interested in the occasional project for a rainy day, among other reasons. I’ll be adding more documents to this collection, so feel free to check back from time to time and while each installation will be offered free of charge, consider sending a donation to help out with writing and materials, and if the spirit moves, send a picture of your builds if you’re inclined to share. Likewise, feedback is greatly appreciated – enjoy!