# Basic getting started kit?

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

1. ### Mike ChristieGuest

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.

Mike

2. ### John PopelishGuest

There are lots of teaching resources on basic electricity and
electronics on the web. E.G.
http://www.reprise.com/host/electricity/default.asp

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:
http://www.fsea.org/pdf/BB1 Basic Buzzer.pdf
http://www.fsea.org/pdf/BB1 Basic Buzzer.pdf

3. ### BaphometGuest

Go to: http://www.lindsaybks.com/ 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. ### fpdGuest

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:

http://www.usb-instruments.com/hardware-ds2200.html

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. ### John PopelishGuest

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 BallengerGuest

Ramsey electronics makes some learning kits like below.

http://tinyurl.com/2w4ao

8. ### fpdGuest

HOW? I've surfed ebay, only finding 100MHz scopes for \$300 and up. What is

9. ### John PopelishGuest

I think patience and knowing what you want are all it takes.
Here are the two I got:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2585247650&category=45008
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2585254824&category=45008

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
reassuring.

I browsed for [oscilloscope 465*] tonight and found:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2586645578&category=1504
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2587502658&category=45005
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2587675857&category=45005
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2587676034&category=45005
etc.

10. ### fpdGuest

Thank you for your help, Mr. Popelish.

11. ### bjGuest

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
oscilloscope
and if not why not, given the speed and processing power of modern
computers
2) The book I'm reading at the moment was written by a guy called MARTIN
HARTLEY JONES
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

12. ### Bob MastaGuest

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
www.daqarta.com

13. ### John PopelishGuest

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.