Skills you will need

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  • First of all, understand that while other DIYers are always glad to help you acquire these basic skills, don't expect them to do it for you and teach you every little thing. Remember, this hobby is a "DO IT YOURSELF" experience where you take ownership of every facet of it, including the study and learning of tasks that may be completely new to you.
  • You'll need to know your way around your computer, how to install software on it, how to copy/delete files, how to use the Internet to download and install software, etc. The hobby relies heavily on the user's ability to operate his/her computer in a much more involved way than simply browsing the web or answering email. You will have to know how to configure communications ports, install drivers for external USB devices, and possibly more.
  • If you plan to use Ethernet-based controllers, you will need to know how to configure computer networking, IP addresses and use common network software tools such as ping and telnet as well as opening ports and configuring network routers.
  • You will need to learn how to solder electronic circuit boards. This isn't as daunting as you may assume and in fact, usually quickly becomes a favorite part of the hobby -- the building of electronic gizmos! It's an absolute hoot when you assemble one and fire it up for the first time and discover that it works, and the first time you do this, you'll understand the incredible allure this hobby has on participants and you'll really be hooked!
  • You'll need to learn about electrical safety and basic homeowner wiring techniques. This hobby uses high-powered electricity and for your safety as well as the lives of others who live in your house or who visit your display, you'll need to follow local electrical guidelines. Pick up a basic wiring guide at your local hardware/home improvement center and study it thoroughly to learn how to be safe. Don't overlook this issue. It may save someone's life.
  • If you intend to build display structures that people can enter or walk under, you'll need to build them structurally sound to prevent possible injury. Again, your hardware/home improvement center has plenty of books on construction techniques.