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Two Small Objects of Desire: Pokit Pro. And a torch

Pokit Pro

Pokit Pro monitoring one of the programmable PWM ports on a Clicker 2 board running FORTHdsPIC. The display confirms the program settings of 1kHz with 75% duty-cycle.

To an engineer, a Small Object of Desire (SOOD) is a gadget whose purchase proves improves impossible to resist. Just one look is all it takes: love at first sight if you will. Cost is irrelevant, justification follows only when the object is safely home. Now this sort of action is frequently derided as ’impulse buying’ and when applied to the purchase of a pair of trainers in a shop window, that term is of course perfectly valid. On the other hand, an engineer can spot a winning gadget instantly and their training demands that the device be taken home, sorry, back to the lab for full evaluation. Here are a couple of examples I came across recently.

Pokit Pro Measurement tool

The Pokit Pro is a multimeter/oscilloscope/spectrum analyser/datalogger instrument that uses a Bluetooth-linked smartphone for its display. I first identified this as a SOOD several years ago on the pitch for its Kickstarter campaign. It was backed immediately of course, but years of setbacks, Covid-19 and chip shortages meant that I only took delivery a few days ago. It’s not an original concept; ‘probe’ type instruments have been around for years. I remember a Practical Electronics hobby project for something similar that used an 8 x 8 matrix of T1 LEDs for an oscilloscope display! What’s so special about the Pokit Pro? In order to qualify as an engineer’s SOOD, an object must not only be small and superficially attractive, it must also possess obvious functionality plus hidden features that only become apparent when you switch it on. So….

Mechanical design and ergonomics

  • The Pokit is well-made, feels comfortable in the hand, and features a neat storage system for the ground wire and its probe.
  • The only mechanical controls are a 3-way slide switch for selecting voltage, high-current (10A) or other measurements, and a pushbutton for ‘waking’ the device up. A nice thoughtful feature: holding the button down for a few seconds turns on a forward-facing torch LED to illuminate the target.
  • A whole variety of probe adapters are included: spring-hooks (like ‘scope probes), 4mm ‘banana’ sockets, insulated crocodile clips, and even a BNC plug.

Measurement specifications

  • Voltage up to 600VAC True-RMS and 600VDC, CAT III
  • Current up to 10A True-RMS and DC
  • Resistance up to 3MΩ
  • Capacitance up to 1000μF
  • Temperature 0 to +60°C
  • Sampling rate: 1Msample/sec, 12-bit resolution

User interface

A smartphone communicates with the Pokit via a BLE wireless link to provide a high-resolution touchscreen display. A list of compatible phones, which includes an iPad Mini 4, can be found on their website. Soon to be added is the app for that other great SOOD: the Apple watch. How cool is that: probing a PCB with the Pokit in one hand while getting the readout on your wristwatch!

Those hidden desirable features

  • Up to four Pokit Pros can be connected to a single phone yielding a four-channel oscilloscope. The display traces are colour-coded for identification; the corresponding probe illuminating its RGB LED with the matching colour.
  • Oscilloscope displays may be saved in the phone’s memory and ‘shared’ on the Internet.

Pokit and supplied accessories

One thing about small objects of desire: they don’t necessarily come cheap, especially if they deliver great functionality as well as being attractive to look at. My second example though, is a gadget I found in a camping/trekking shop – and it wasn’t expensive.

Mountain Warehouse headtorch

Mountain Warehouse headtorch

Seems a bit unlikely doesn’t it – a headtorch as a SOOD? There are literally hundreds of the things on the market in all shapes and sizes. Most are fairly basic, but this one is a nice piece of design with many features packed into a tiny case:

  • Very bright white LED for primary illumination.
  • Rechargeable battery charged via a microUSB connector
  • Hinged backplate allowing positioning for close work
  • Waterproof

These are the basic features found on most headtorches. Now for some less-common ones that make this gadget a SOOD:

  • A pair of red LEDs as an alternative to the white. Red light will not affect dark-adapted vision. This enables an astronomer to read star charts or make notes while observing the sky at night; or a night car-rally navigator to read their pace notes without upsetting the driver.
  • An extra switch activates a proximity sensor which toggles the white LED on and off just by moving your hand in front of it. Gimmick? I found it very useful while dismantling a particularly dirty car component on the bench in my garage….

Mountain Warehouse headtorch with Red and White LEDs

In Summary

The features that make an otherwise boring gadget a Small Object of Desire are of course entirely personal. For me, it’s the functionality that’s important, although looks do matter. How about you? What gadgets do you find impossible to resist?

If you're stuck for something to do, follow my posts on Twitter. I link to interesting articles on new electronics and related technologies, retweeting posts I spot about robots, space exploration and other issues. To see my back catalogue of recent DesignSpark blog posts type “billsblog” into the Search box above.

Engineer, PhD, lecturer, freelance technical writer, blogger & tweeter interested in robots, AI, planetary explorers and all things electronic. STEM ambassador. Designed, built and programmed my first microcomputer in 1976. Still learning, still building, still coding today.
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