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Basic getting started kit?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Mike Christie, Jan 11, 2004.

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  1. Hi; I hope this is the right place to ask this; if not, I'd be glad of
    any pointers to a better newsgroup.

    I'm looking for recommendations for a real beginner's kit to understand
    circuits and electricity. My daughter is eight, and loves to do science
    experiments with me; I'm OK on the mechanical side of physics, for now
    at least, but I have never had any practice or understanding of the
    electrical side. I do have a year or so of college physics, and a math
    degree, so I understand the theory to some extend, but I have no idea
    where to start on showing Jesse even the simplest things such as
    building a circuit with a switch that turns a light bulb on or off. I'd
    like to learn the hands on side along with Jesse, while I try to explain
    the theory to her.

    So I'd like a book recommendation, but I also don't really know what
    kind of gear I need to get hold of. Is there a supply house where I can
    order the appropriate items? And what should I get?

    As far as learning is concerned, Jesse's not all that interested in just
    making cool things happen by flipping switches, so our bias is towards
    stuff that can be explained, rather than stuff that makes things happen.
    For example, we just did an experiment today with six foot length
    of wood set up on a knife-edge as a balance, using kitchen weights, and
    seeing where the 8 oz weight had to go to balance it if we put the 16 oz
    weight in various places. We tried it with the 4, 2 and 1 oz weights
    too, and later today we'll have a graph with a separate line on it for
    each position of the 16 oz weight. Then we can predict where we'd have
    to put 6 or 3 oz to balance the weight. Jesse likes this sort of
    approach, I think because she ends up understanding something. So a
    book biased towards that kind of approach would be the best, if such a
    thing exists.

    Thanks in advance for any help -- I really appreciate it.

  2. There are lots of teaching resources on basic electricity and
    electronics on the web. E.G.

    Search google for [basic electricity] or [basic electronics]. Another
    good key word to add is tutorial.

    I think a nice first project is to make a buzzer. It involves the
    concept of a switch, an electromagnet, and feedback, all in one simple
    device made of little more than a piece of iron (a small bolt or a fat
    nail) some insulated wire and a bit of flexible metal (shim stock, or
    something cut from a can. It moves, it makes noise, it sparks, it
    generates quite a bit of voltage (it can be used to light a neon light
    from a 6 volt lantern battery), and for the same reason can give you a
    noticeable (but generally harmless) shock that is part of the
    education. Then you make a switch and send coded messages between
    rooms with it. It also generates radio frequency interference, so you
    can use it as a simple transmitter, and a pocket transistor radio as a
    receiver. It also illustrates the basic principles of a relay.

    For example: Basic Buzzer.pdf Basic Buzzer.pdf
  3. Baphomet

    Baphomet Guest

    Go to: and order their print catalog. They have a
    superb collection of books, monographs and pamphlets, most geared toward the
    very practical and all eminently understandable without any emphasis on
    advanced math. They cover physics, mechanics and electronics, many with an
    old timey flavor.
  4. fpd

    fpd Guest

    Your daughter sounds like my mother! Cool.

    Well, if she wants quantafiable feedback, then she will need an
    oscilloscope. Most are quite expensive (for my budget), but I did find a
    handy one that is software driven. Here's the web site:

    It's a USB oscilloscope: $189 (software downloadable from web site).

    Would she be interested in Ham Radio? These are licenced amature radio and
    electronics enthusiasts. Basic requirements for a license are a bit of
    subject knowledge (all questions can be obtained from the www) and a test.
    She will then be able to communicate via voice to people all over the globe,
    and sometimes to astro/cosmonauts.

    If that doesn't interest her, she could always become the lead engineer for
    Nokia... as one of my female friends did. She has since started her own
    high tech business... sort of lost track of her.
  5. I just bought two Tektronix scopes on Ebay, a 465B (dual trace 100
    MHz) for $93 and a 2225 (dual trace 50 MHz that looks new, with manual
    and probes) for $199.
  6. Si Ballenger

    Si Ballenger Guest

    Ramsey electronics makes some learning kits like below.
  7. fpd

    fpd Guest

    HOW? I've surfed ebay, only finding 100MHz scopes for $300 and up. What is
    your secret?
  8. I think patience and knowing what you want are all it takes.
    Here are the two I got:

    I like to see the traces lit, but don't worry too much about manuals
    or probes. But seeing a nice square wave from the calibrator is

    I browsed for [oscilloscope 465*] tonight and found:
  9. fpd

    fpd Guest

    Thank you for your help, Mr. Popelish.

  10. bj

    bj Guest

    I too am trying to teach myself electronics and I have a couple
    of questions for you
    1) Does anyone supply a cheap way of turning my computer into a good
    and if not why not, given the speed and processing power of modern
    2) The book I'm reading at the moment was written by a guy called MARTIN
    takes you through simple semiconductor theory--and then goes on to
    teach about transistors ,diodes ,power controll ,IC's op amps etc. etc.
    trouble is --this book was written in 1977
    do you know of anything modern that does something similar without
    getting you tied up in mathethematical knots and having a practical basis

    cheers BJ
  11. Bob Masta

    Bob Masta Guest

    On Tue, 20 Jan 2004 12:47:23 -0000, "bj"

    The problem is not the computer itself, it's the input device. You
    can use your sound card, but you'll be limited to only looking at
    audio-range signals due to its limited sample rate. You can't even
    look at DC signals since sound cards are all AC coupled.

    These things may not be too important when you are just
    starting out, since you will probably working with relatively
    slow circuits anyway. But if something starts oscillating at
    RF frequencies, you'll miss it. And since you can't do DC
    you can't look at static logic states, for example.

    On the plus side, using your computer and sound card
    gives you all the benefits of advanced signal processing.
    In particular, you can view the spectrum or spectrogram
    of your signal, something you won't be able to do on a
    cheap "real" scope. And you can do tricks like synchronous
    waveform averaging to view tiny signals buried in noise.

    You can check out my Daqarta software to do all these
    things, but it requires real-mode DOS (Win9x or earlier)
    and only supports ISA-bus Sound Blaster cards and a
    few others. (True Windows version by mid-2004, hopefully.)
    You can also get my LPTX driver and build a super-simple
    acquisition "board" that hangs on your printer port. It
    only digitizes at 8 bits (like most digital scopes), but unlike
    sound cards it does go down to DC.

    I have a 100 MHz scope on my bench for routine work,
    but I use the Daqarta system for things that the scope
    can't handle, like adjusting a circuit for minimum distortion
    by watching the spectrum. So it really helps to have both.

    Bob Masta

    D A Q A R T A
    Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
  12. I don't have first hand knowledge of such a system. But Google might
    find something.
    None of the basics have changed since 1977. You just have more
    choices of logic families and analog types. But once you learn how to
    read a data sheet, and have the internet to get all the information
    you need, it is pretty simple to proceed on.
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