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Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Fingers, Jul 9, 2012.

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  1. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Hi all,

    I am a quallified electrician who has been working all over the UK on domestic,industrial,commercial and most recently Solar PV projects. I have a pretty good understanding on the principles of electricity (mainly AC), but i am desperate to get involved in electronics, to be honest im sick of building sites. Also i find the world of transistors, capacitors and wot not fascinating. I have been installing items everyday for years full of intricate little circuit boards and control gear, and its sad to admit in most cases i have no idea whats going on in there.
    I am currently travelling through asia, in two weeks i will be arriving in NZ where i will be living and working for a year. I hope to use this time wisely and teach myself as much as possible about electronics. I was wondering really where to start, i,e best book? any kits that i could purchase?

    Thank you

    Joe
     
  2. mechtronics

    mechtronics

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    Aug 7, 2011
    Hi how r u getting on what i would say is write a list of the most basic components and use google as your research tool, or you could buy a book but internet is the cheapest way out!! it was my best friend in college!!! :) ! if you have a multimeter it would help too, the best tool i have ever bought. you can learn a lot from them. buy a bread board and components and play around with them there are plenty circuits on google you can look at. and just take it from there, even have a look at old circuits out of things that dont work and familiarise yourself with the components, ul get into it after a while thats my opinion on the whole matter anyway, hope this helps.
     
  3. CraziestOzzy

    CraziestOzzy

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    Jul 4, 2012
    Agree with mechtronics....breadboard, some components and start frying chips chasing a wild idea in your head...It's how I started.
     
  4. john monks

    john monks

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    Mar 9, 2012
    I can't remember when I got started. I think It was back when I was in dippers a long time ago. Now I have four degrees and when I think back I realize there are only three basic components, resistors, capacitors, and inductors. I strongly suggest that you read about those three and experiment with them until they become part of you. Make yourself a tabletop AM radio and understand it completely. Then you will be miles ahead of the pack. I certainly agree with machtronics and CraziestOzzy. Hands-on skill Is essential. You cannot learn electronics effectively from a book but they help. And you learn math, at least through calculus. I'm afraid that will require formal training. I do most of my research from the Internet. Khan Academy may help. In fact I'm sitting in my truck writing this on my iPad.
     
  5. KJ6EAD

    KJ6EAD

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  6. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    As someone who is self schooled, beyond what I did at a younger age with basic circuits and those little spring project boards that really didn't teach me much but resulted in something that did something so it was cool... It did get my hands wet and at least I could identify the obvious components, and that is always a good thing...

    But, nowadays with the Internet and the vast library at your finger tips, I would personally hit up one of the electronics 'kit' sites and pick up a half dozen or so kits that interest you... Build them, get them working and then hit the Internet and see how and why they work... See if you can 'mod' them to perform differently, or tweak them to do something different... Get a bread board and some components and whip up a project or two that comes to mind, probably something you found a schematic for on the Internet... A lot of fun can be had with a handful of 4000 series chips, a 555 timer and some LEDs (and of course resistors and caps)...

    And what I'm going to say next sometimes gets a lot of old school workers in a bundle... As a hobbiest, I would not devote huge amounts of time learning the math and how to do stuff with logic chips and the sorts unless you really want to stick to those devices... In todays world I firmly believe that the jump to microcontrollers is a better route... That isn't to say a foundation and knowledge gained learning the math and 'old school' ways of doing things isn't going to benefit and be of a great asset, it most certainly will, and you should continue to push forward in that knowledge... I just feel that skipping ahead to micros, and learning to do a lot of the stuff with software vs physical chips will be of greater benefit and provide a more enjoyable learning experience...

    Of course if you are looking for a career change, start hitting the books and get those degrees in all the 'boring stuff' because you will be expected to know it in the professional environment ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  7. john monks

    john monks

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    Mar 9, 2012
    I agree with CocaCola. If you are a hobbiest, experimenting around with electronic components will serve you well. But in industry, in the research and development lab, you may be required to develop a five pole T-notch filter. Now the math becomes crazy and you will be in trouble if you don't have the math. The math opens up a whole new world to you. My only remaining suggestion is that if you intend to study math do not stop until you completed differential equations. It's much to hard to pick up once you stopped.
     
  8. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,389
    2,774
    Jan 21, 2010
    Tell me about it...
     
  9. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Thank you all so much for your replies, I guess im gonna have to get stuck in. That suits me really because im much prefer getting my hands dirty than reading endless books. I have found a site that runs through the basics:
    http://101science.com
    good place to start? obviously some of it i already know but recapping cant help.

    then kit wise i found this:
    http://www.nerdkits.com/

    Would you mind taking a quick look and seeing what you think, not sure if its a step too far and maybe i should be purchasing something a little more basic first?
     
  10. KJ6EAD

    KJ6EAD

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    Aug 13, 2011
    The Nerdkits are good in that they have thorough documentation explaining the circuit theory but they're breadboard only, no soldering, so they lack permanence.

    Velleman kits are one of my favorites for overall quality but have minimal documentation.

    http://www.vellemanprojects.eu/products/
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  11. john monks

    john monks

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    Mar 9, 2012
    Both your sites look good but I have no personal experience with them.
     
  12. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    I like the Velleman kits, they use a decent quality PC board and will help teach you to solder... I have used several of them over the years as there is no reason to reinvent the wheel when you are doing a quick prototype and you can pick up a kit of a 'textbook' circuit and be done with that part of your design...

    As for the nerdkits they look decent, I really have a hard time giving praise to most micro controller kits in general, they are mostly just a get your feet wet approach and have limited expandability... Not that there is anything wrong with that, getting your feet wet with a simple kit is not a bad idea, but that limited expandability really bothers me personally...

    I would rather get a full blown developer board that has a ton of bells and whistles, even being experienced I do a ton of my prototype work on these full blown developer boards... But these require a bigger investment and genearlly a much steeper learning curve... You have to weigh what works for you, or where you are heading... I'm currently using the QL200 from http://www.pic16.com/en/ it's a PIC based developer board and programmer... Now there is nothing wrong with the board, it works well but the programmer software isn't all that polished, it works fine but it lacks the fine tweaks that could make it better... You will also need to invest in a compiler, and there are a ton of choices to be made there...

    See below for a comparable option that is much more refined, I have a PIC 3 and PIC 5 developer board from them as well but the programmers took dumps and now they are annoying to use... BTW don't accidently or carelessly set your multiple exposed solder points developer board on your spiral notebook as you are working, that cost me the PIC 5 programmer, can't say what every happened to the PIC 3 board, it just got buggy over the years...

    For the newbie looking to explore a full development platform, I highly recommend the entire packages from www.mikroe.com, they offer everything you need, and offer a lot of room to grow...

    As I stated though you need to feel out where you want to go, a cheap get your feet board might very well be more suited to you, if you feel it's not something you are going to stick with... If you are truly devoted and know you are going to stick with it for years to come, then it might be best to invest the money early into something that has the potential to grow with you...
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  13. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Great thanks, had a good look. Any particular kits that you would recommend there?
     
  14. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Wow coca cola, thank you or taking the time to write that reply. I am indeed very serious about this, I'm genuinely hoping to make electronics my career, progressing on from the electrical installation which I currently do.
    The Mikroe equipment looks fantastic and I am ready to make a significant investment for my future development. So would you perhaps reccomend one o these three choices?
    http://www.mikroe.com/eng/categories/view/3/special-offers/
    Or maybe even something different. I'm sorry to ask for such precise direction but I believe that it would be a waste of my time and money to outlay a significant amount of cash on a unsuitable/limited piece of equipment.
     
  15. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    You have to pick a micro brand, I like PIC chips others like AVR... The good thing is the skills you learn on either can be transferred over to another without much hassle... ARM is all the rage right now but it's really IMO too much for newbies and starters, the regular PIC and AVR are plenty to start with and even do many professional designs with before you need the heavy lifting of the bigger and better micros...

    I would probably start with the 'Easy Start' kit just like they recommend as you can always add on and grow from that point... Since you mention making it as a career I suggest jumping right in to C as the compiler language, it is the industry standard language and will open the most doors... I personally use PICBASIC PRO for 99% of my stuff, but I will also be the first to admit that my lack of C programming would hurt me in the professional corporate world... I fly in BASIC and I crawl with C... Since I'm an independent contractor/self employed and contracted to deliver finished working products not source code or the actual design plans I'm my own boss and that affords me the luxury of using what I prefer even if it's not industry standard...

    The mikroC compiler is probably far from industry standard but once you learn C porting to another compiler is hardly that much trouble, and mikroC is still a decent compiler at an affordable cost with a very good support forum...

    And someone will likely jump in and suggest the Ardunio, I cringe at them but they are a quick and cheap way to get your feet wet, and there is TONS of support as they have become the new swiss army knife of electronics... But you will outgrow them fairly quick and have to move forward, it's truly a student/hobbiest tinkering system...

    Either way I suggest you look over your options and explore as many options as you can before you commit to one package or another... Don't make a haste decision, as it can be costly to back peddle... My suggestions are just that suggestions based on my experience, what I do and what has worked for me... I have invested a great deal over the years trying other things only to find out it wasn't for me even though many recommend it, if you have the fluid cash it's not to brutal but for many it can be a hard pill to swallow when you find your investment isn't working for you...
     
  16. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    AH so C is a language to program Pic? Im no expert on programming but i did fiddle about with it maybe 5 years ago. Not C++ i take it though?

    Think to be honest that im going to order one of them starter kits. Iv been researching pretty much all day (stuck in a hotel room with poory wife).

    At this time though i will not be able to afford that compiler software and the starter kit, so maybe il look out for some cheaper/free software that i can get started with. I guess i better get my head stuck in a guide to C as well.
     
  17. KJ6EAD

    KJ6EAD

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    Aug 13, 2011
    Whatever you like really. The MiniKits are, as the name implies, usually smaller, simpler and cheaper than the others. You might choose one that you can actually use long term rather than one that you play with for a bit and set aside or you might choose one because it uses a particular type of circuit that you want to understand better. For most kits, the schematic is included in the assembly instructions on Velleman's website.

    If you're just learning to solder, it's easy to practice on scrap circuit boards from dead units before committing to even an inexpensive kit.

    Prices on Velleman kits vary significantly between sources so shop a bit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  18. Fingers

    Fingers

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Ok thank you for your advice so far guys. I am going to order a kit in two weeks for when we arrive in NZ. I have spent the last two says contacting electronic manufacturers in Nz, and have applied for 3 jobs on the assembly lines. Thought a basic job like that could help me quite a lot, so now I just await some responses.
     
  19. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    If you find a good company and good people around you, yes you can learn a lot on the assembly lines... If nothing else it should help you get a feel for soldering, and how things go together... Although I knew how to solder before hand my first job at Motorola was on the assembly line making car phone handsets I was on an 'elite' line that made the OEM Rolls-Royce and Coach Car (aka Limousine) hand sets... Unlike all the mass produced flip phones they were cranking out by the 1000s every hour, our quota was about 10-20 handsets a day, as they had to be perfect and were almost all hand assembled... Needless to say our line had a little extra time each day so we would assist with repairs and running new prototype equipment, so I was lucky to learn a lot more then just the most mundane assembly work... I don't miss the mundane at all, I used to get stuck on the line that made the little clip on hands free microphones for your visors, they couldn't make enough of them damn things even though the quota was 300/hour per line of 3 people... Talk about a boring repetitive job, the only good thing is that you get so good at it you can do it with your eyes closed (literally) and catch up on some zzzzzz....
     
  20. nepow

    nepow

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    Jul 18, 2011
    Practise good soldering skills also!! it's easy to create all manor of intermittent problems and none functioning projects, all down to poor soldering. So make sure you can solder well. Best of luck with your hobby
     
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