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Starting to work with electronics -- suggestions?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Alex, Mar 14, 2005.

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  1. Alex

    Alex Guest

    Hi all,

    Okay, I'm 29, and all my life I've wanted to learn how to work with
    electronics, whether just making little gadgets around the house,
    fixing components that break, or what have you - but not knowing anyone
    who was also into electronics to learn from it's been hard getting off
    the ground. I've bought several of the little electronics labs things
    from Radio Shack over the years plus some books, but none ever seem to
    really get me going.

    What do you guys suggest? Is there a defacto standard 'how to' book to
    use, a good electronics kit to work with, or another method you would
    suggest?

    I work with computer software all the time, but I think it would
    definately be fun learning how to work with electrical hardware more.

    Thanks for any suggestions or ideas on a nice beginning point. Take
    care,

    Sam Alex
     
  2. Electronics is something like learning a new language (a very literal
    one with lots of logic and math). I would start by learning a basic
    list of what are effectively the nouns and verbs. The nouns being the
    discrete components and the verbs being how they act. Along this
    quest you will run into lots of simple (and some not so simple) math
    that describes these actions better than words do.

    A starting place is probably Google with key words like [basic
    electronics tutorial].

    Horowitz and Hill's Art of Electronics may not be the first thing you
    should study, but it is the second or third book you should have when
    you get beyond nouns and verbs into phrases and paragraphs.

    You can also play with circuits without letting any smoke out by
    downloading the free circuit simulator from Linear technology
    LTSpice/SwitcherCAD III:

    http://www.linear.com/company/software.jsp
     
  3. From what I have seen of most kits, there is little to learn
    from them apart from assembly skills, a little of that.
    It would help if you were to say whether you are interested in
    learning how circuits work or just like to build things and see
    them work. Are you mathematically inclined? Do you like
    to solve puzzles requiring formal logic?

    The ARRL (which was once the Amateur Radio Relay League)
    has long catered to people with both of those interests. They
    offer a number of publications intended to educate and provide
    ready-designed projects. I can vouch for the value of their
    early editions of the ARRL Handbook, but have not studied
    what they publish now, listed at:
    http://www.arrl.org/catalog/index.php3?category=Circuit+Design

    If your interest is in electronics engineering, I would suggest
    you visit a nearby college bookstore and peruse the texts
    that are provided for the EE courses. (That would be the
    nearest college with an EE curriculum.) You may well
    find something suited to your interests and background,
    or you may discover that theory is not that interesting.
    I've known several people who got into electronics only
    as a hobby and have gotten plenty of enjoyment from it.

    You might have fun with a small microprocessor board
    and hooking small circuits of your own devising to it,
    once you get enough of the basics to get started.
    Have fun!
     
  4. Art

    Art Guest

    Check the available facilities in your area, the Community Colleges,
    Professional Development Facilities, Etc. Also there is a plethora of very
    good contact leads via web searches. Personally it may be better for you to
    consider Electronic Engineering or advancing yourself into the field of
    software/hardware applications.<
     
  5. Hi,

    Equip yourself with the basic tools of the trade such as some
    hand tools, a soldering iron, a $5 to $10 DVM, a proto-board, a
    power supply and lots of small components (you can get bags of
    these for a song). There is no need to shell out much for any of
    this if you are prepared to shop around or scrounge.

    Subscribe to a magazine such as "Nuts and Volts" that has
    plenty of small projects to get your teeth into as well as
    articles of general electronic interest.

    Analyse every circuit you build so that you understand why the
    author did it that way. If you can't, go find a book that will
    explain it to you. Build up your library with theory and data
    books (eBay is a good source) or visit your local library and
    browse. Always go the el-cheapo second-hand route as new books
    are expensive.

    Use "ugly" or "dead bug" construction on scraps of PCB for you
    projects until you get them working and then tidy 'em up. But, as
    the cover of Jim William's book, "The Art and Science of Analog
    Circuit Design" shows, this can be an art form.

    And finally (excuse the homily), there is no "Royal Road" but
    enthusiasm will take you a long way down the one there is.


    Cheers - Joe

    A has-been communications engineer
    Although still in possession of the tee shirt :)
     
  6. Brian

    Brian Guest

    You might try taking a correspondence course in electronics (even if it is
    just the basics). Once you understand the basics, most everything else will
    come pretty easily.
    Brian
     
  7. There is a free course in electronics here:

    http://www.phy.davidson.edu/instrumentation/NEETS.htm

    It is the US Navy training manual in electronics, and it takes you
    through all the basics to advanced knowledge.
     
  8. Brian

    Brian Guest

    Everything has pros and cons.

    Pros:
    You can't beat the price and I'm sure there is some very good material
    there.

    Cons:
    Theory alone can get very boring. If you don't have kits with an
    electronics learning program (hands on experience), you lose a lot.

    Brian
     
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