I have been doing a fair amount of homebrew electronics projects as of late and I am coming to a point where I need to address documentation. With my woodworking projects I really don’t worry too much about documentation. Some projects don’t even have plans beyond a couple of dimensions on a post-it note. Electronics projects are a bit different.
So far my projects have been taken from articles online, from magazines, and from books. I have kept hard copy of the designs for the most part, and any changes or additions I may have made have been noted on the hard-copy or attached as separate sheets.
Now that I am delving into the world of bigger projects and doing tests of the circuits beyond continuity at various stages in the build I should be keeping more in depth notes with test results and the like. The question is in what form should these note be. There are so many options that I’m just not sure which route to go.
The obvious choice is an electronic notebook. I use OneNote currently and have used Evernote in the past. A part of me is a bit paranoid about data loss, so exclusively electronic notes make me uncomfortable.
I do regular backups and I keep redundant sets of data, but there is always the contingency you didn’t or couldn’t prepare for. There is also something to be said for Long Now thinking when it comes to data storage. I have come across a lot of stored data in formats and on hardware that are now very difficult to retrieve and if you manage to get the data out, the big question is will it be complete.
Any body remember 5¼” floppy discs? How about 10″ floppies and 8-track tapes?
This of course leads me to a hybrid solution. Digital notes occasionally printed out to hard copy and kept in binders. It’s not like I’m doing any cutting edge work or something involving national security, but if I have learned nothing else in life, I have learned this, you never know where things will lead or when you will need information you have gathered. Data hoarder, maybe.
One definite advantage to digital notes is the ease in which that data may be shared. Another is the ease in searching through pages upon pages of notes for a specific piece of information. How about the ease in linking to other resources rather than copying that data, though this is a double edged sword. If data is not long-tail, it may not remain at its current location for very long. How long is long anyway? There is also the typographical concideration; typed notes are much more legible, by my hand anyway, than handwriting or printing.
Time for a little more research and thinking, the clock is ticking …