First off I would like to apologise for my lack of electronics knowledge so I might have trouble even phrasing my question correctly.
In a nutshell, I have an old arcade cabinet that I am refurbishing for my son (and who am I to lie, it's for me too). I am using the whole project to learn about electronics and android programming. My goal is to have an app on my smartphone that can control the arcade cabinet. Yeah, I know, it's a bit dumb but I just want to see if it's possible. It'd also be handy to be able to reset the cabinet from afar when when my son refuses to go to bed.
Anyway, the buttons appear to operate on a constant 5v circuit. When the button is pressed the circuit is broken and the cabinet performs the requested action. Current flows again when the button is released. What I would like to achieve is to somehow enable the Raspberry Pi to perform the same action by breaking the button[s] circuit.
I have so far tried using a solenoid that would break the circuit but for some reason the GPIO pins cannot send enough current to activate the solenoid (which is odd becuase the solenoid works if I connect it to the 3.3v and ground pins on the Pi - and SNAPS shut when I attach to the 5v pin). I basically followed this page: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blog/1261/entry-11000-2-driving-an-led/
I verified the voltage using a multimeter and the Pi is doing what it should - sending 3.3v when my code tells it to.. If I attach an LED the LED responds appropriately.
So now I've given up with the solenoid idea because I'd need about ten solenoids and they're a pain in the backside to use, so I would like to try other ways of cutting a seperate circuit using the Pi. I have been reading up about transistors but have so far been unable to get anything to work because as I've said, my electronic knowledge is rubbish.
Can anyone help me with this? I feel like it should be very simple to achieve but either a) It's actually difficult or b) I'm just being dumb
More likely b)!
Thanks in advance!
(for the record I've read the "similar questions" - e.g. Closing a circuit with GPIO but have just ended up confusing myself.. The software side of things I'm pretty good at, being a PHP programmer.. Am just feeling really dense because I can't seem to get my head around to the hardware, even simplistic stuff like this)