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software to hardware - help

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Neo, Oct 31, 2005.

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  1. Neo

    Neo Guest

    Folks, How difficult it is for a software guy to learn working with
    hardware. I've been working on embedded systems for about 4 years. Worked on
    various platforms like TI DSP, Morotola, Intel x86 etc. Having sound
    knowledge of C, Assembly, DD, RTOS and other system level stuff. I want to
    learn some basic skill on hardware side (like soldering etc.) to prototype
    some very simple circuits. My main focus is on Firmware designing and RTOS.
    Do I need to take up some course in basic electronics?

    What are the essential tools that I need to buy in order to get started
    playing with hardware?

    Books for a beginner like me (who dont have any background in electronics)?

    Some of you guy might have faced the same thing. It would be really helpful
    for me to get advice and tips, and quickly get started.

    Thanks and Regards,
  2. Guest

    Subscribe to Nuts&Volts and CircuitCellar magazine and walk through
    some of their tutorial projects and visits sites like:
    for inexpensive kits to play with

    Personally I wouldn't bother with taking a class. Your time is better
    forcused when you guide the subject matter yourself, (except for the
    rare case with exceptional instructors).
  3. Noway2

    Noway2 Guest

    The answer depends on wether you take the blue pill or the red pill.
    Sorry, but I couldn't resist with you using the name Neo.
    work, as you mention soldering and basic prototying. You may be able
    to find some classes at a community or technical college that would
    help you gain some hands on experience with the correct methods to use.
    Also look for certification trainging that may be offered in your
    area. Personally, I took a class in SMT rework and have been very
    comfortable with soldering and desoldering ever since. While I am
    certain that some may disagree with my suggestion I find that there
    really is no substitute for learning from someone who knows how to
    teach a subject properly.

    If you are interested in learning electronics theory, which will go a
    long ways towards your goal, I would recommend the book, The Art of
    Electronics and the corresponding lab work book by Horowitz and Hill.
    The book covers many of the fundemental aspects of analog and digital
    electronics from a "this is how you use and apply it" perspective. The
    book covers how to analyze circuits and components from a practical -
    real work perspective. Armed with this book, I would suggest getting
    some basic equipment, such as a bread board, digital multi meter and
    power supply. You may wish to purchase some basic parts to perform the
    experiements in the book, but these should be available from any online
    electronics supplier, such as Digikey.

    Good Luck and enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole!
  4. Mel Wilson

    Mel Wilson Guest

    - a multimeter
    - a logic probe
    - as big a Wish Board (or equivalent brand) as you can stand
    getting. This is one of those large socket/terminal
    blocks that can accept DIP chips and component leads and
    so on, for prototyping circuits.
    - fine solid wire left by phone installers

    A good, cheap electronic parts store in the neighbourhood
    is an immense help.
    Yes, mandatory. Other people than I will know what's
    current. I used _Electronic Design with Off-the-shelf
    Integrated Circuits_, but I got it remaindered. I bet it's
    unfindable now. Obsolete, too.

    Manufacturers sites on the world-wide web have the data
    sheets you need, and there are lots of sample applications
    in these.

    I subscribed to Elektor and Electronic Musician for a few
    years. I don't know if Electronic Musician pushes
    do-it-yourself as much as they used to.
    I moved from big-iron software support to embedded
    programming. The biggest change is that I can now afford to
    own the computers I work on. Everything else is about the
    same. An engineer who'd worked for Marconi was talking
    lately about an early monster with about 128 words of data
    memory. It sounded pretty much like an ATtiny28.

  5. I think you should think in terms of "component level
    hardware/electronics". Please note I intentionally made no mention of
    software ;}

    My gut reaction would be "look for local Amateur Radio club". AKA
    "hams". These days they cover a broad range of interests.

    I may be out of date.
    I remember type 80's, 6J6's, and CK722's.
    I've seen a *LEGAL* spark gap transmitter operate ;}

    Am I dated?
  6. Tauno Voipio

    Tauno Voipio Guest

    In the same line of thought, the ARRL Handbook may be
    It depends on yourself - if you've running with the development,
    no problem.

    I've also used 807's, 813's and 866A's.
  7. John Fields

    John Fields Guest


    If you've got a good line, maybe...

    Otherwise, the young studs will be attracting the uncommitted pussy.
  8. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    I would say it is incredibly hard to make the transition in this direction.
    Software is at least an order of magnitude less complex than hardware so it
    is difficult to become a good hardware engineer. Many people make the
    transition in the other direction from mechanical engineering and
    mathematics to software.


  9. Jasen Betts

    Jasen Betts Guest

    ["Followup-To:" header set to sci.electronics.basics.]

    some good solder.

    That's it.... you can play with electronics using a wire from a coat-hanger
    heated on the kitchen hotplate as a soldering iron, and a simple continuity
    teester made with a few AA cells and a salvaged LED....

    in the almost essential list:

    a soldering iron.

    a heat-resistant, (or scrificial) work surface

    a bench vice or other extra hand...

    small pliers both long nose, and angle cutters.

    a multimmeter, I'd go with an analogue model first, they're easier to read.

    if you're into playing with digital stuff something to power them
    apropriately even if it's just a 9VDC plugpack and a 7805 regulator.

    anti-static devices equipment if you're wanting to play with CMOS.

    otherwise a 20 pack of cheap AA dry cells can handle most tasks....

    the nice to have list:

    a second multimeter - go with a digital one for precision readings, and you
    can also use both together to mesure th status in two
    parts of the circuit at the same time...

    a propane blow torch - great for salvaging components from obsolete equipment.

    a wire stripper - sure you can strip wires using two pairs of pliers but it;s
    a whole lot easier with one of these...

    a selection of parts, nuts and bolts and other random hardware

    solderless breadboard

    some prototyping board (either stripboard, unconnected perf, or some other
    connection scheme.

    As for what to study, you probably are already familiar with digital logic,
    so got the other way, refresh your knowledge of
    Ohms's law and kirchoff's current laws. get some practice reaading the
    resistor colour code.

    passive RC filter networks.

    build yourself a LED flasher.

  10. Andy Baxter

    Andy Baxter Guest

    Neo said:
    Horowitz and Hill - 'The Art of Electronics' is a good, well written,
    introduction to electronics.
  11. You have received some good advice here. I'll add that picaxe chips are a
    lot of fun and there is wide range of internet sources for software,
    schematics and so on.
  12. nobody

    nobody Guest

    Its really not as difficult as some would make out ... tho i suppose it's
    depends on your aptitude, perhaps just as important your 'determination' ...
    and also the level of complexity you wish to move it. Much like yourself,
    was a programmer, wishing to take up electronics as a hobby. Digital
    electronics is actually fairly easy ... it's such connecting a bunch of
    black-box chips together - I'd grab a quick an easy guide to analog
    electronics ... to lend the fundamentals .. and a digital electronics book
    .... then start playing about with a few kits - its the best way to learn ..

    As for how i got on ...5 years on ... well ... my last little project was a
    dual wireless phone + base station ... connects to the PC and phone line ...
    allows me to switch from voip, skype, landline and send sms's by gsm card
    :) ...
  13. Neo

    Neo Guest

    Thanks a lot.
    A grabbed a copy of "The Art of Electronics" and basic tools - Multimeter,
    Soldering Iron, cutting pliers, Breadboard, General purpose PCB, a variable
    DC output adapter, 25-pin male D connector (for parallel port interfacing),
    555 Timer IC, a bunch of LEDs, registors, capcitors and transistors etc.
    from the local store. Its really exicting to play with these things. Things
    are up and running... :)

    But I didn't found the Lab Workbook. Is it necessary to have a copy?

  14. Neo

    Neo Guest

    That sounds amazing. Digital electronics I know quite a lot. Which
    microcontroller/microprocessor will be a good start? PICAXE seems quick and
    fast. How about ARM, MIPS etc. though i am not targeting these at this
    stage, its for later what I would like to use. For now I want "Play With It
    Yourself" on a tight budget and yet the power and flexibility to build real
    world gadgets.

    "Do you Really think, What you think REAL is Really REAL?"
  15. Noway2

    Noway2 Guest

    I wouldn't say that it is necesary, however you might find it both
    helpfull and enjoyable to have it.

    The lab workbook does two things. One it provides a different
    perspective on some of the critical concepts that can be somewhat
    difficult to understand initially. Second it presents a number of
    recommended realtively simple experiments to perform on a bench, which
    in my opinion is the real value of the book.
  16. nobody

    nobody Guest

    PIXAXE?? ... took a glance at the site and yeah! seem's like a good place to
    start ... i started off on the Microchip product line too ... my first
    project, the "hello world" equivalent to embedded hobbyists - controlling a
    bunch of LED's :) ... which had me excited for all of 10 minutes ... ARM &
    MIPS? .. not much experience i'm afraid, never used MIPS. As for ARM - i've
    worked on them, but only from a 'software perspective' ... from the sounds
    of which, you've more experience than i.

    the project? (dual wireless thingies) cheers for the thumbs up :) ...
    built it, and worked ... but decided the change the plan! .. no bulk level
    purchase's meant scaling up was too damn costly ...
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