Electrical idiot

How would someone with no electrical engineering background learn a little about the field of work? Are there tutotials on the internet that one can
read and learn a few things? I have a personal project that I would like to complete but I know that an engineer would cost me a lot more than the whole project is worth. The project that I want to complete is to create an interface to steal the data out of an old Arachnid dart machine and export it to my computer. Once I have the data on my computer I can write different programs to play different games. Any help for me would be greatly appreciated.
Jason
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learn a little

internet that one can

I would like to

more than the whole

create an

machine and export

can write

would be

Thats not electrical engineering..its software.. and what you want do may be way more trouble than its worth... not worth your learning curve by afew light years.
Search google for ...'Anrachnid dart', programmers .....call em on the phone.
It may be 10 to 100 hours or more of work..at $100/hr. You evaluate from there.
Phil Scott

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Ok the software part is a total breeze for me that is what I do. The electrical engineering is what I need to get the data from the board to a serial/ps2/usb/whatever port. The board has a 16 pin ribbon cable going from the interface board to the main board which is where the processing is done. My thought is to engineer a board that will intercept the ribbon cable and get that data out to an RS232 port. Get my drift. I have done a lot of reading on the arachnid dart machines and even contacted Arachnid and they say that the machine was not designed for that and they won't help me.
Jason
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Assuming you had enough specific info on the ribbon cable signals (which I seriously doubt you'll ever find), you could design a fairly cheap interface using a mid-range PIC Microcontroller and a few external components. The PIC could be programmed to capture, buffer, and convert the ribbon cable's "data" into whatever format you desire (RS232, USB, etc) for input to a PC. Even if you manage to capture the desired data, reverse engineering that pure binary data would be practically impossible unless you can obtain a helluva lot of specifics about its format.
How long it would take to learn the ee stuff depends on how familiar you already are with assembly language programming and microcontroller hardware interfacing. There are a lot of tutorials and free ebooks and manuals (PDFs) on all of that so you could pick up the necessary brainware.
Google search: pic microcontroller rs232
Download the complete midrange microcontroller manual at http://ww1.microchip.com/downloads/en/DeviceDoc/33023a.pdf and learn it. Search around the web for tuts and guides for PIC peripheral interfacing for data acquisition and communications - there's no lack of info on this stuff. I'd guess in about 6 to 12 weeks and somewhere around $400 - $800 for some necessary hardware to play with the (programmer, breadboarding-prototyping kit, etc) you could be getting the hang of it. The programming software is free (in assembly language - C compilers cost $125 - $500).
Again, this all assumes that you can obtain a pretty good knowledge of the ribbon cable pinout, voltage levels, signal timings, etc, of the data you want to capture. You could get some of that electrical info by purchasing a rather inexpensive ($500 after all is said and done) Bitscope 300 series - see http://www.bitscope.com/product/ - to see the signals and timing relationships. The software is free and can be downloaded and installed to see the interface functionality. If ya need a couple Ebooks on programming and interfacing let me know (only if you have a high speed connection). Ask questions at http://forum.microchip.com/default.asp
Good luck, Perion
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background
that
is to

I
for me

what
You
do. The

the board to a

cable going

the processing is

the ribbon

I get yer drift... you need an electronics guy... not an electrical engineer typically although many electrical engineers specialized in electronics.
you will do better ask for an 'electronics engineer'.

contacted Arachnid and

won't help me.
You are probably diving them nuts with a mild case of cluelessness on the electrical issues, combined w a degree of competence on the software end that has led you to make faintly arrogant remarks.
Most of which characteristics will result in no help from the troups.
Phil Scott

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Jason wrote:

Hmmm...taking stuff like that off the Internet can be risky.
"Connecting your house to the mains supply, continued... Now that you've reached the top of the pylon, unroll a reasonable length of 13 amp cable. Strip about a foot off the live and neutral condutors, and wind each one around one of the metal wires attached to the pylon. Don't be put off by the three foot long glass insulators; although the cable is live, you're safe provided you followed the earlier instruction to wear rubber boots."
Sylvia.
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