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Electronics 101

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by foxtrot, Feb 7, 2017.

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  1. foxtrot


    Feb 7, 2017
    I'm 24 and a very hands-on, DIY, self-learner. Lately, I've been feeling like I don't know enough about electronics. Electronics and computers dominate our lives and I hate that I don't have the knowledge to build anything more complicated than a lamp.

    I would love to know how to design basic circuitry with the goal of being able to do anything from design and build a linear amplifier for ham radio (or a sweet-sounding 2.1 stereo tube amp, which I believe are the same principle) to LED/low-voltage light circuits to zwave compatible IOT devices to Arduino and raspberry doodads to a weather station; essentially, making DIY electronics that are attractive and can compete with something I'd buy off the shelf. I look at a lot of things and think "If I knew a lot more, I could build this myself, but better" or "That tube amp would probably make my speakers even smoother, but I don't have $1,000 nor can I justify spending that much money on century-old, analog technology that probably <10% of the sticker price goes towards components."

    I've spent a few hours of my day plowing sidewalks on my street, and the rest of it trying to find some decent resources for learning electronics design. I checked out Coursera, which has a handful of electronics design courses, but they all have prerequisites that I don't have. This free text book of a pdf is probably the best thing I've found, but even it has prerequisites. The first chapter, Review of Linear Circuit Techniques, is unfamiliar to me. I switched my focus to finding basics on linear circuits, but found even less.

    Does anyone know of any good free/inexpensive/worth-the-small-investment resources for learning electronics and how to design them?

    My knowledge of electrical theory is essentially limited at line-voltage applications (replacing a meter socket and load center, light fixtures, outlets, romex) and I understand the relationship between Amps, Volts and Watts (I made a fancy spreadsheet that made me realize short of luddism, there's no way to make any cost-effective energy-saving changes around the house). When the heating element of my dryer burned out, I had no trouble ripping the machine apart and diagnosing the problem with a multimeter and no instructions. I also have no problem building a computer or setting up a massive home network.

    And yet... I don't have the confidence to build a basic LED device without the risk of blowing things up, which is a way to learn but not when you're on a budget. I could buy a kit or follow instructions to make an LED cube my fish can interact with or a kit to build a linear radio amp, but I wouldn't walk away with the depth of understanding I need (yes, knowledge is a need) because the design would be provided.

    Any and all responses and resources will be highly appreciated! I'm thirsting for knowledge and I can't find it.
  2. Arouse1973

    Arouse1973 Adam

    Dec 18, 2013
    Hello Foxtrot. It is quite daunting initially stepping that foot into the art of electronics. There are lots of books available, some better than others.....but as I found out years a go, no one was there to help me understand something when I didn't. That was my biggest hurdle.

    I then started buying an electronics magazine regularly and that really helped. I think you need to go right back to basics and forget you know anything about electronics and start with trying to understand how some of the basic components work. You then stand a better chance at understanding a circuit when you see it.

    See if you can understand how these components work to a basic level, when you don't understand something, that will be the start of your second thread here. :)

    BJT Transistor

    That will keep you going for a while.

  3. ag273n


    Nov 24, 2016
    i'm a beginner too, and right now i can fairly put together simple 555 circuits, simple op amps, voltage regulators and even made my self a variable power supply. Electronics was difficult for me to understand as I never had any background about it. I started watching a lot of youtube videos - but the knowledge was a little volatile.. so i found a book free ebook online- Electronics for Dummies (2 versions available online). The book will explain slowly what you need to know down to the very basic how the common components work, and its even got sample projects. I printed a copy for myself and binded it so i have a reference i can look up.

    the book you posted was nice and thorough, but looking at the table of contents alone, the terminologies seemed a little out of this world for a beginner who knew little.
  4. AnalogKid


    Jun 10, 2015
    You've set some pretty ambitious goals for yourself. Not to be discouraging, but some of your examples will take years to master. Fortunately, there are tens of thousands of electronics tutorial pages and websites; you just fish around until you find one at your level, then fish again for the next level, etc. This site, All About Circuits, Electro-Tech Online, and EDA Board have large tutorial sections. Enjoy!

    bushtech likes this.
  5. foxtrot


    Feb 7, 2017
    Thanks for all the feedback!

    Even being a self-learner, that's the hardest part for me when I don't understand something. Thanks for learning from it and helping! I've posted on forums before for a couple of networking or ham issues and no one ever really helps much.

    I thought I knew some of these, but I decided to go from scratch. Wikipedia has been pretty helpful, especially because they have all the equations handy.

    I also found this youtube user who has some good videos on the aforementioned components and a lot more that pan out like wikipedia (one video will conclude with links to various other videos that expand/further that topic).

    Check out the youtube user above. I can't say that it's not volatile (if by that you mean not a reliable source of information), but the editing quality and everything are great to me and it seems like he covers a very broad range of topics in a cohesive manner. I'm going to focus more on reading texts and then come back to his channel.

    I acquired a copy of For Dummies. It's definitely a slower pace as you mention, or as the introduction says it's more of a reference and not meant for cover-to-cover reading like a cheap novel on the beach. I love reference books though and that's what's going to happen.

    Even later last night after my original post, I found a pretty good source. It's a xerograph of a hand-written and -illustrated on lined notebook paper book that's over 125 pages long from 1983. I'm going to finish reading it then come back to For Dummies. This pdf is like an abridged version of For Dummies, and despite how I prefaced it, it's an incredibly easy read with really good visual diagrams alongside the schematics of the electronics they represent. I mentioned earlier that I basically understand the relation of Amps, Volts and Watts, but it wasn't until this pdf that it really made sense. (6.25x10^18 electrons per amp--easy peasy.)

    It'd only be discouraging if you said decades, with the right resources, I tend to learn about ten times quicker than the person next to me. The biggest challenge is that some of my examples require coding as well. Fortunately, there are an insane amount of resources these days for coding (Free Code Camp has been my favorite of the dozen or so I tried). Thanks for mentioning those sites, I spent some time browsing them (especially All About Circuits, can't believe I've never seen that site before). All the access to extra knowledge will definitely make this seem a bit less ambitious!

    Thanks again for the great sources and info. If I find other sources or useful things, I'll try to add them here for anyone else looking for an Electronics 101 "syllabus".
  6. Arouse1973

    Arouse1973 Adam

    Dec 18, 2013
    I think that's why most people are on help and also learn from others. I get a kick out of helping others and also learning new things, that's why this is the best forum on the net and why unfortunately for some I keep coming back. :) So come on give us some questions you must have hundreds whizzing around in that head :)

    Ian likes this.
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