What's up with the name?

You are probably wondering how on earth a piece of plastic that fits in your hand relates to the large slab of wood used to bake or cut bread.

A good question! It turns out that many many years ago, for engineers working on electronics before 1970 they did not the thing we call a solderless breadboard. Instead, they would build electronics by literally hammering nails into a wooden board - sometimes it was also literally a bread board but usually just a plank purchased from a hardware store.

Once it was cut to the right size, the electronic parts would be nailed or glued to the board and electrical connections made by soldering or wrapping wire around the nails

Since, back then, the components were large and the circuits were simple, it worked out OK. The large wooden board gave mechanical strength and support to project

You can even watch Collin try out this old-school technique in this video:

While these contraptions looked very cool - they were somewhat permanent and were not good for complex circuits. Also, parts got smaller and smaller so that you couldn't easily nail them down to a chunk of wood.

~~ Interlude ~~ (Wire Wrapping)

For a while in the 1960s to part of the 1980s, engineers and makers used some other techniques like wire-wrapping which solved the 'complex circuits' issue but was still semi-permanent. It also required a fairly pricey wire-wrap board or the use of wire-wrap pins and sockets.

With practice, wire-wrap prototyping could be fast but took a while to get used to:

  • parts were wrapped on the opposite side of the board so you would constantly flip back and forth
  • undoing or fixing a wire wrap could be annoying if there were other wires wrapped onto the same pin
  • reusing a wire-wrap board was a real pain since all the wires would have to be carefully unwrapped or cut.

Here's an example of a wire wrap prototype with a bunch of LEDs from fastlizard4

There's a little tool that helps you wrap each wire, but once solderless breadboards showed up, (and then quick-turn prototyping PCBs!) wire wrapping fell out of favor very fast.

1971 - The Breadboard Is Invented!

And then in the early 1970's an awesome thing occured. Ronald J Portugal came up with this brilliant invention. The BREADBOARD FOR ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS OR THE LIKE. It was patented 2 years later and the patent expired in 1987

It was quickly called the "Solder-less" Breadboard because no soldering is required to use it, and then shortened to plain Breadboard since nobody uses a "solder-full" breadboard.

And that's how the breadboard got its name!

This guide was first published on Sep 06, 2016. It was last updated on Sep 06, 2016. This page (What's up with the name?) was last updated on Sep 19, 2019.