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What are the best products to start with?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by drymetal, Jul 5, 2013.

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  1. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
    Hello everyone,

    I wish to start learning about electronics....and I don't know where to begin. Perhaps though I should give you some info on myself and maybe what it is I am interested in.

    For about 18 years I've been a web designer / programmer. Well, actually I started out using a program called Hypercard for a couple years, then started using Access (got sick of it quickly) - which led to PHP and MySQL.

    I'm also a graphic designer that in addition does 3D modeling, video work, and blah, blah, blah.

    So instead of telling you why I'm sick of the internet and marketing, and everything else to do with my life - including why I regret letting that girl get away when I was younger...I'll just tell you this:

    I am very interested in robotics, physics, space and Star Trek.

    Now with that being said, I don't want to build robots that are gimmicky. I want to build things that are practical. Maybe not even robotics - maybe just things that are useful. Whether that ends up being my long-dreamed-about-back-rubber or a talking bidet for those lonely nights in the bathroom.

    Now, I gotta start somewhere. But where? Do I buy an Arduino kit? RadioShack's Electronics Learning Lab?

    What is a good starting point? What has detailed information on the why? I don't want to spend over $100 if possible. What is the best option?
     
  2. sirch

    sirch

    109
    1
    Dec 6, 2012
    Rather than buying stuff and then deciding what to do with it, I would suggest finding yourself an itch to scratch – i.e. find something that really interests you, a problem you want to solve, etc. and then design and build a solution. Along the way you will find out what tools, test equipment, etc. you need. So if a talking bidet is what floats you boat, go for it!
     
  3. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
    That's a good idea. Do you know of any books that do a good job of explaining the basics of circuits? <- That is why I figured a kit might be the way to go, because I found some that have a book that explain things as you go along. Such as these two:

    http://www.amazon.com/Arduino-Starter-Official-170-page-Projects/dp/B009UKZV0A

    http://www.amazon.com/RadioShack-28-280-Electronics-Learning-Lab/dp/B000W32P9Y

    The Arduino seems like a cool item, because it can be expanded upon. But - I don't know if I've discovered a fringe in this sort of thing or if it is truly wide-used. It also has the benefit of not just being a good introduction - but it can be used regardless of level I guess. How do people here feel about it?

    And yes - I agree with you to pick something to build - but, when I got into PHP - I really had no idea how vast the amount of projects I would end up making would be. And I'm pretty sure the same would hold true for circuits and whatnot. So, I guess that kind of leaves me with the question of what brands/items/kits have the most forward potential while being friendly towards the beginner?
     
  4. sirch

    sirch

    109
    1
    Dec 6, 2012
    Arduino is a great starter if you want to learn embedded micro controllers but I wouldn't bother with that kit, it seems very expensive, look for an Arduino kit on ebay, or just buy an arduino Uno or Arduino Mega. There is great support for Arduino on the official site - http://arduino.cc/en/Guide/HomePage.

    The thing with going down that route is that you won't necessarily learn very much about circuits. You will learn programming, serial comms and lots of useful stuff but until you get into something like robotics with sensors, motors and the like then the circuits tend to be quite simple.

    I'm not really not the guy to ask about books I generally just google stuff.

    I'm sure the kit approach is good but here again, I think ebay is your friend, for example you will find all the parts to build sometting like this
    http://www.technologystudent.com/elec1/tranbrd1.htm
    or
    http://electronicsclub.info/breadboard.htm
    for around the $10 mark. Another thought (and where I got started) is to build a crystal radio, again google it.

    Get yourself a power supply with selectable voltages in the 4.5 to 12v range and a multimeter, whatever you do you will need these eventually.
     
  5. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,497
    2,838
    Jan 21, 2010
    Arduino is a name for a series of boards, using various Atmel microcontrollers in specific configurations within a specific application development environment.

    Another similar thing is PICaxe.

    Both are very popular and provide an easy (although occasionally expensive) entry to using microcontrollers.

    The Arduino platform is good in that it provides an easy way to progress to using the microcontrollers themselves without all the Arduino fluff around them.

    PICaxe, whilst using PIC microcontrollers, has a more software constraints, running an embedded interpretive language. The advantage is that it is far simpler for a genuine newbie.

    Both devices require some level of external support, with the advantage here going to Arduino as the Arduino boards have all of this built in for you.
     
  6. NuLED

    NuLED

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    Jan 7, 2012
    You are in almost exactly the same spot I was just maybe a year ago (essentially just a few months ago since I didn't really get serious until recently).

    I bought a few things without knowing what I was doing and wasted money. I bought a Fluke 117 and it is NOT appropriate (as an example).

    I suggest starting with the book called MAKE ELECTRONICS by Charles Platt.

    After that you will have a better idea what else to read.

    PS - the new Trek movie was AWESOME. Even better than the first (reboot) one. :-D
     
  7. NuLED

    NuLED

    294
    0
    Jan 7, 2012
    Here are two decent valued DMMs:

    UNI-T UT61E

    Extech EX330

    Ask around. Maybe people will disagree but these two are the ones I have concluded after checking a ton of sites and videos (YouTube). Also go to YouTube and view tons of videos. Don't get Arduino, etc. first. I did and I regret jumping the gun so quickly.
     
  8. NuLED

    NuLED

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    Jan 7, 2012
    This is already a great site to ask questions and learn stuff.

    Folks are friendly and helpful here. (Also there is a tutorial but I suggest reading that book I mentioned first).

    https://www.electronicspoint.com/dc-electronics-f102.html

    Don't worry about asking stupid questions because I will be doing that for you LOL

    Good luck! Let's touch base to help each other's newbie questions later.
     
  9. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,497
    2,838
    Jan 21, 2010
    For a first multimeter you could go out and spend under $20 (I have one that is under $5) and it will do the trick for quite a while.

    There are several beginner mistakes you can (and probably will) make which can damage your meter. It's far better to damage a $20 meter than a $200 meter (OK, damaging a $200 meter may also be harder).

    NuLED's Fluke 117 is a really good meter (He can give it to me any time he likes) but he may not need or use all the features for quite some time. (He should think of it as an accidental investment).
     
  10. NuLED

    NuLED

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    Jan 7, 2012
    Hahaha Steve I thank you for all the help you have given me here but NO WAY JOSE I am keeping it :-D

    I will probably use it for higher power stuff later when I start messing with solar panels.

    The only thing really it doesn't have is low amperage reading, so not suitable for electronics.

    I also have a $20 GE cheapie which is not auto-ranging and it works OK but that was only because like an idiot I blew my budget on the 117 :-D

    If I had to start all over again I would probably just get those two I recommended (around $50) and be done with it for a while.

    I use the 117 for voltage, resistance and capacitance, etc. everything except current, which the $20 GE will do.

    PS - Hey Drymetal, solar panels, if wired in series sufficiently, can kill you. Be aware! I did not realize that. Tread carefully as a newbie.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  11. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
    Thanks for all the feedback. I'm really pleased that so many people responded. It makes me feel a lot better about getting into this. I think a strong community is important to learning something new. (One of the reasons I chose PHP over other languages so many years ago...)

    I don't normally use eBay - I tend to use Amazon because I bought a Prime Membership there. Do they have any good Power Supplies? When I look - all I see is computer power supplies and something tells me that isn't going to work out too well. : )

    This seems to be one of the higher rated multimeters there:
    http://www.amazon.com/Mastech-MS8268-Digital-Manual-Multimeter/dp/B0050LVFS0

    Is that a good one? NuLED I wouldn't mind the two you recommended, but I think that $30 in savings could go to other stuff I'll need. At least initially.

    NuLED, why do you suggest not getting the Arduino?

    If I don't get that, should I just get the breadboards, and a collection of items such as capacitors and stuff? So I can build that dark sensor and other things? I've added that book to my cart also.

    PS. I didn't know that about Solar Panels. I should probably learn to respect the things I'm messing with and not take safety for granted.
     
  12. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
    Oh and I hadn't seen the latest Star Trek film yet. I've been waiting for it to come out on Blu Ray. I wonder if these movies are going to lead to another TV series? I've watched TNG to death I think...
     
  13. NuLED

    NuLED

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    Jan 7, 2012
    I think I heard of that one also before BUT do not 100% trust Amazon ratings. They can easily get 20 of their own staff / friends to post stuff. See what the other guys say here about that DMM but probably it is OK too.

    I don't suggest getting the Arduino RIGHT NOW until you are totally sure about it.

    My Arduino UNO is still in my cabinet drawer because I decided I will go mess with the PIC platform instead of Atmel and this is after doing a bit of research. I will still use the Arduino LATER but not initially, so there was no point for me to get it. It has been sitting there for a year+ now and what I should have gotten is a box of capacitors and another of resistors (I have, but only when I realized I need to, thus wasting time and stopping my learning in the tracks because I didn't have the parts).

    The book MAKE ELECTRONICS will tell you exactly what you need to buy. But yes you will need a breadboard (get a large one!) and all those parts. Suggested box of parts are JOE KNOWS ELECTRONICS and ELENCO (the Joe stuff is higher quality). Resistors, capacitors, diodes.

    Read the book first; you will know exactly what to buy. :-D
     
  14. NuLED

    NuLED

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    Jan 7, 2012
    The new Trek is a bit more "engaging" I think but some people don't like it. Probably same guys that railed on TNG and said they prefer TOS. Oh well...
     
  15. NuLED

    NuLED

    294
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    Jan 7, 2012
    Oh! Don't buy the "components kit" that MAKE sells for that book. Super pricey. You may be better off getting the parts and tools separately (probably much higher quality too).
     
  16. NuLED

    NuLED

    294
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    Jan 7, 2012
    Xcelite 170M General Purpose Shearcutter, Diagonal, Flush Jaw, 5" Length, 3/4" Jaw length, Red Grip

    (or similar).

    I bought a roll of cheap speaker wire and cut and strip it. It has 4 wires on it (red, white, green, black) so there is plenty for all my jumper wires on the breadboard.

    Stripper (probably the most loved tool you will own):

    Neiko 01924A Ultimate Self-Adjusting Wire and Cable Stripper

    Radio Shack usually has crap stuff for crap prices FYI.
     
  17. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
  18. drymetal

    drymetal

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    Jul 5, 2013
    Maybe I should run to RadioShack in the morning and look around
     
  19. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,497
    2,838
    Jan 21, 2010
    Radio shack is the option of last resort.

    By all means go there, but just look at stuff, see what the prices are and keep your wallet firmly in your pocket.
     
  20. drymetal

    drymetal

    10
    0
    Jul 5, 2013
    Ok, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for the heads up.
     
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