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thinking of exploring digital electronics

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by [email protected], Nov 27, 2005.

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  1. Guest

    hi all

    i recently had the chance to program a microcontroller, and i was
    really fascinated by the idea that there's a whole computer inside that
    tiny chip. now i'm thinking i might start fiddling with digital
    electronics and see if i want to take that up as a hobby. for the
    moment i have a couple of questions about it:

    1) is one kind of current (ac or dc) more prevalent in digital
    electronics? and more importantly
    2) what's the best way to get started? which books should i read?
    should i get one of those kits where the component pins are attached to
    clamps and you make temporary circuits by attaching wires to the
    clamps? are instructional breadboarding kits available? what about
    those build-your-own-whatever kits - are they useful?

    any help will be much appreciated

  2. John Fields

    John Fields Guest

    Start at the beginning.

    Try to learn the physics, and if you get confused and have
    questions, ask us for help. There are world-class intellects here
    who will bend over backwards to help you.
    I like McGraw-Hill's "Outline Series". YMMV.

    They're concise to a fault, so some of the intermediate material you
    need might be missing, but for the bucks they can't be beat.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot...

    You might want to check out "The Art of Electronics"

    and, if you're really serious, the ATT Handbook.

    I think it's called something like: "Reference data for Engineers,
    blah, blah, blah"

    Google for it with "ATT handbook"

  3. A more complex question than it appears!
    An easy explaination is to think of digital as "switched DC", i.e. it
    switches between say 5VDC and 0VDC.
    Yes, those Tandy/RadioShack 300-in-1 kits are an excellent
    introduction. Many top electronics designers started on those kits.
    The best way to learn electronics is to build stuff and experiment,
    learn the simple building block circuits first. *Don't* start with
    transistor or semiconductor theory, it will just confuse things and
    you'll think it's all too hard.
    Even if you don't quite understand how the basic building blocks work,
    that's ok for now. Learn all about ohms law, basic AC and DC theory,
    and then all the digital gates (AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR) and digital
    building blocks like Flip-Flops, counters, decoders etc.

    Books are great, but can get too too technical (and boring), be

    For starters you could do a lot worse than Colin Mitchell's Digital
    Electronics book:

    I'm sure there are plenty of online digital courses too.

    Dave :)
  4. Rich Webb

    Rich Webb Guest

    DC. Was 5 VDC, moved to 3.3, now going below that.
    You can still get "grab bags" of assorted TTL chips from places like
    Jameco (watch for line wrap)
    Might be worthwhile getting one, a breadboard, and a small bench power
    supply to fiddle with. is a possible power supply.
    It's handy to have one with user-settable current limiting to avoid
    letting the magic smoke out of too many chips. You could certainly do a
    "roll your own" supply with a 9 volt battery, a 7805 regulator, and a
    few caps, though.

    A breadboard like one of these will let you
    experiment with various hookups.

    If you don't have ready access to an o'scope and/or a logic analyzer you
    can do a lot with an inexpensive logic probe:

    The "TTL Cookbook" mentioned at is still a
    classic in the field.

    Eventually you'll probably want to move to hardware description
    languages like VHDL, Verilog, others, instead of relying on discrete
    gates. You might consider downloading the free HDL tools from Xilinx or
    Altera that let you "hook up" virtual circuits and trace the results in
    their simulator. Nothing like starting out learning to straighten pins,
    though ...
  5. Here are some sample pages from the book:

    If you like it you can order the book here:

    Dave :)
  6. Vey

    Vey Guest

    Learn analog first.
    Digital will come in time.
    If you don't follow the logical path, things will get very confusing and
    you will have huge, gaping holes in your knowledge.
  7. Guest

    i couldn't google up any "att handbook" but i put a hold on the public
    library's copy of "art of electronics". thanks all around for the

  8. Ben Jackson

    Ben Jackson Guest

    If you're mainly interested in microcontrollers, pick a development
    board (off the top of my head one with great bang for the buck is
    the Atmel AVR Butterfly -- only $20). Get something with integrated
    buttons and LEDs so you can stick to the programming part you're
    comfortable with. When you want to branch out, most of those boards
    have spare IOs you can hook to your own creations. Check out (though I would have to recommend newcomers strongly
    consider AVR instead, since it's easier to get a free C development
    environment going for AVR).
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