Sane perception of value of electronics

"How much does a cartoon cost?"


"Twenty bucks for something that takes you five minutes?!"

"Five minutes and twenty years."

Occasionally people comment about the perceived high cost of the stuff that we sell at the Boldport shop. The first couple of times I tried to explain why those items simply have to be sold at this price in order to be viable, and what's unique about then, but then I stopped. My response now is that the price is what it is and that all the stuff in the shop is open source, so I encourage anyone to make their own if they want to make modifications or think that it'd be cheaper that way.

As engineers we tend to mentally cost things up based on the sum of their components. (A recent email said that the price was too high for a "PCB and some components".) That's unfair. It disregards the time and cost that went into research, experimentation, thought, prototypes, packaging, presentation, and the hundred different things that are required to make something sell-able. Oh, and years of experience.

We're also in a perverse time where the goalposts are set by unrealistic low-balled Kickstarter project promises, mass-produced products (Arduinos and Raspberry Pis), heavily sponsored boards (FPGAs), and uninspiring junk sold in baggies at Maplin. Not everything can be made in large quantities in China, and not everything can be scraped down for the sake of shaving off a pound from the BOM. When I design boards, I first research the concept and then research for components that fit functionally and visually into that concept. If those end up more expensive than something that doesn't, then tough, I won't compromise on the concept. Also, I make kits in 30--300 quantities; hardly enough to contact Flextronics or travel to China for establishing a relationship with a fab. (I hope that I'll get there eventually, though ;)

I fear that the concepts that I'm trying to promote have no place -- I get plenty of good feedback, but virtually no sales. Cost, of course, is one potential issue here, but I cannot (yet) see a way to maintain the level of quality I want to offer within the guiding concept of "beautifully functional circuits" if the value doesn't shine through. I'm probably doing something wrong, and I'm trying to figure out what that is.

Finally, worse than the impact on Boldport, I also fear that the low goalposts situation may be preventing us from being more creative in our craft. That would be bad.


Saar Drimer1 Comment