Hand tools and fabrication machines
Things just get smaller and smaller in the electronics field. While this brings the end-user electronic enthusiast less expensive components, it also complicates the old-style prototyping methods. Prototyping is both a test methodology as well as a learning experience: things do not always work the way the textbooks state when assembled with other electronic parts. Having access to a working prototype that can be easily accessed with small test equipment probes is also very useful.
Everyone probably has a story on how they go about solving these issues. One acquaintance of mine builds a prototype circuit boards as soon as he gets the schematic complete. "Yea," he says about the added cost of going for the first circuit board as he is awaiting parts delivery, but he adds, "... in the long run, I still would have ordered 2 revisions of boards and sometime 3, so it all works out."
I am a hobbyist on a budget and I rarely go down the path of a custom circuit boards unless I am selling the product. So, my needs are more simple, but I still must deal with the ever shrinking part size. The pictures that follow are just a few parts that I pulled out of my storage bins and are common parts that are either SMT and cannot be used directly on a solderless breadboard or they are parts that have leads too small to make a good connection - or just too awkward to fit such as the push-button switch. This is a photo-review, so do not expect a lot of dialog - reads the picture legends.
Suggestion: once the LEDs are mounted and tested, the connector on the bottom can be glued with epoxy to give the board extra durability - shown below as a fillet running the full length of the connector. Keep the pins free of rosin flux or epoxy: acetone can be used to clean any mess, but beware acetone dissolves many plastics.
I certainly hope that I stirred your imagination. Getting a handle on small SMT parts and other miniature electronic components will make your electronics prototyping a much better overall experience. Hint: for items such as piezo elements, electret microphones, and such - consider taking a pin-pin male jumper lead and cutting it in half and then soldering those leads to the component. The small sacrifice of the pin jumper will provide a permanent breadboard-able part that can be reused many times. You may wish to consider using 2-part high quality epoxy to secure the solder joints to the part or I have found that this product is absolutely indispensable in my little lab.