Breadboards are one of the most fundamental pieces when learning how to build circuits. You will learn a little bit about what breadboards are, why they are called breadboards, and how to use one. Breadboarding is a fundamental technique in electronics prototyping that allows engineers, hobbyists, and students to design and test electronic circuits without the need for soldering. It is a critical step in the development process, enabling quick and efficient experimentation with various components and configurations before moving to a more permanent circuit implementation.

History of the Breadboard

If you wanted to build a circuit prior to the 1960s, chances are you would have used a technique called wire-wrap. Wire wrap is a process that involves wrapping wires around conductive posts attached to a perf board (a.k.a. a protoboard). As you can see, the process can get rather complex very quickly. Although this method is still used today, there is something that makes prototyping much easier, breadboards!

The concept of breadboarding dates back to the early 20th century. In the early days of electronics, engineers would use wooden breadboards, hence the name, to arrange and connect electrical components manually. These early breadboards featured nails or screws to hold components in place and wires to establish connections. As electronics evolved, breadboards became more sophisticated, transitioning to the now-familiar plastic boards with metal contact points.

The turning point for modern breadboards came in the 1970s with the development of the solderless breadboard. Created by the Eagan Enterprises, Inc., this revolutionary breadboard utilized a matrix of interconnected metal clips beneath the surface, allowing components to be easily inserted and removed. Solderless breadboards became widely adopted and continue to be an essential tool in electronics prototyping to this day.

Why Breadboards?

An electronics breadboard is actually referring to a solderless breadboard. These are great units for making temporary circuits and prototyping, and they require absolutely no soldering.

Prototyping is the process of testing out an idea by creating a preliminary model from which other forms are developed or copied, and it is one of the most common uses for breadboards. 

The real beauty of breadboards–they can house both the simplest circuit as well as very complex circuits.

Anatomy of a Breadboard?

Power Rails:

These power rails are metal strips that are identical to the ones that run horizontally, except they are, typically*, all connected. When building a circuit, you tend to need power in lots of different places.

The power rails give you lots of easy access to power wherever you need it in your circuit. Usually, they will be labeled with a ‘+’ and a ‘-’ and have a red and blue or black stripe, to indicate the positive and negative side.

Terminal Strips

Here we have a breadboard where the adhesive backing has been removed. You can see lots of horizontal rows of metal strips on the bottom of the breadboard.

The tops of the metal rows have little clips that hide under the plastic holes. These clips allow you to stick a wire or the leg of a component into the exposed holes on a breadboard, which then hold it in place.


You’ll also notice that each horizontal row is separated by a ravine, or crevasse, in the middle of the breadboard. This ravine isolates both sides of a given row from one another, and they are not electrically connected.

Many integrated circuits, often referred to as ICs or, simply, chips, are manufactured specifically to fit onto breadboards. In order to minimize the amount of space they take up on the breadboard, they come in what is known as a Dual in-line Package, or DIP.