Learning Electronics

Hi guys!
I am quite a curious person and like to learn whatever I can. I was wondering about where I should brush my electronics skills up, and learn new things. Currently, I do things the ‘cheap-n-dirty’ way. I want to change that into, ‘higher quality than what was demanded’. Where should I start? I have a Digital Electroncs course starting right after the break (or if you want to call it this, KickOff!)

Things I want to learn:
Transistors, and how to use them without making magic smoke.
Should I learn about FPGAs early? We will cover them in my DE class, but I like to learn things ahead of time so that in class, I will only review it!

Thank You, and Happy Holidays!

If I might make a suggestion…

Start out with basic circuits and circuit analysis–a refresher, at any rate, if you already know that topic. Without that, proper use of transistors becomes much more difficult.

That should open up a bit more proper usage for other devices, like microcontrollers and FPGAs.

I know the level 1 basics. However, it is the little harder things like transistors (which aren’t even that hard) that I stumble upon! Otherwise, I do play with microcontrollers and have never made any magic smoke. I really think that budget is what is stopping me from learning. Does anyone know of some inexpensive kits with just a ton of components? Also, what is a good source for allowing me to learn more assembler? I’m always ready to learn something!

Slow down a little. Transistors and microcontrollers and programming are all different planets.

OK, you say you have the basics: Resistors, capacitors, maybe inductors. E=IR and P=IE. Parallel, series, and series-parallel. OK, good.

Now move to AC electronics and see the differences. Get an oscilloscope (a cheap one, or borrow one) so you can see things. They are available for less than a week’s lunch money. Wrap your head around impedance.

Play with diodes for a while. A transistor is basically 2 diodes back to back (but of course on the same die, so you can’t build one from diodes). See what it does to voltage. Figure out how to use one as a switch.

Transistors are next, buy a bunch at Radio Shack for a few dollars (they sell an assortment for cheap) or PM me your mail address and I’ll send you a pile. Look up some simple switch circuits on the Interweb and build them. Learn about biasing a transistor and why, to build a very simple amplifier. That o’scope will help you visualize what is happening. Look up the concept of a transistor curve tracer and get your head around some curve traces to see what they mean. It is OK to let some smoke out.

That should keep you busy until Kickoff.

Yeah. I agree that they are completely different. However, if you have a good dev board, like the BASIC Stamp BOE/Propeller QuickStart, MCUs are easier to use than learning the ABCs!

I was thinking about ordering a large batch of a couple hundred, from a very inexpensive reseller. Is it just me, just AZ, or is RadioShack just expensive? I have seen no better performance in their products, but they cost a few times the cost as different resellers. I am good with the basics, like R’s, C’s and L’s, etc. I am also good with the types of circuits because I have been playing with sparks since I was ten! I should, as you said, get a bunch of diodes. Which type should I start with? Schottky/Regular/Zener/etc? Do you know of a good oscilloscope that I could buy? I don’t have too much of a budget. I do have an MCP3204 sitting around, so I could possibly use that as a poor-man’s DIY oscilloscope? Otherwise, I could also use the one at school!

Also, I like how you call the internet, the interweb :D!
And, Darn it: see the pic!

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I’d rather get books from the public library. There are many good electronics books available over there. The only problem is that I learn something, but don’t have the parts required to validate my knowledge, causing me to fail in self-teaching electronics!

you can find components on ebay, also many manufactures will glady send you some parts for educational purposes. most IC chipsare now surface mount, so harder to test than before. Alied electronics has clearance components, sometime 100 pcs for like $2, they have a minimum order cost though.

That’s no accident. RadioShack makes their money off convenience.

For example: in northern NJ there are now basically 2 places you can go grab loose electronic parts. Wayne Electronics and Greenbrook Electronics. There used to be more. Lashen Electronics for example. However there was more money to made with telecommunications so many of the old hobby stores changed to telecommunications parts. Telecommunications parts are not like the old HeathKit amateur radios. These are not kits at all.

RadioShack takes loose, sometimes poorly quality tested parts, puts them in a neat little packaging kit and sells them at a good markup. Now if you ever need to buy quantity on those parts they’ll still try to hit you for that markup when you call Texas.

Surplus is your friend if you have no budget and need stuff to play with: All Electronics, Marlin P. Jones, Herbach Rademan, Surplus Sales of Nebraska.

Also you should find your local Ham radio clubs and if possible visit the Dayton Hamvention.

Look up your local college. See if they offer courses to high school students (I took several college courses while in high school). Look up your local vocational-technical school. If you can find the course books the college uses and buy them used at a good discount (it’s the same information after all).

Also a little business tip: since I was 9 years old (yes I worked when I was 9 in electronics mind you) I have spent a portion of my income every month on stocking up electronics. As a result I have a selection of: resistors, capacitors, inductors/transformers (and cores to wind my own), diodes, rectifiers, TTL logic, CMOS logic, MCU, CPU, motors, wires, lugs and tools that is at least as large as any hobby store had (just I don’t have as much quantity).
Don’t just rush out to buy stuff and pile it up. If you are committed to this budget yourself and have a plan.

Along the same lines of textbooks, I found a while ago this free textbook (http://www.ibiblio.org/kuphaldt/electricCircuits/)which walks you through the basics of DC, AC, Semiconductors, and Digital logic. Its a spectacular resource and also available on the android app market, just look up “lessons in electric circuits”. Although this does not solve the physical parts issue, one of the volumes of this book is just experiments that could help you apply what your reading about. Whats nice about this volume is it also explains the concept from the results of the experiment.

I want to buy the basic components to get started and build my inventory over time so I don’t have to disassemble everything I build/set up! That’s why I don’t have a Pi anymore. I have put it in a permanent place, so I just use it invisibly!

If you are having a hard time finding parts, another option is a simulator. PSPICE is what you’d use for more accurate simulations, but there are plenty of user friendly online simulators. I use this one occasionally: http://www.falstad.com/circuit/

I’ll put in another plug for reading – good books, websites, etc. Are you familiar with Kirchhoff’s Laws?

Yes. I am familiar with Kirchoff’s law! E{abs[ups]-abs[downs]}=0, where E means Sum of!

The Kirchhoff’s Laws the previous poster is referering to are the circuit laws. They basically say that all of the voltages in a loop must equal zero, and all of the currents at a node must equal zero.

That leads to the mesh-current and node-voltage methods of circuit analysis, which are fundamentals to all circuit design. Highly recommended starting point!

The Kirchhoff’s Laws the previous poster is referering to are the circuit laws. They basically say that all of the voltages in a loop must equal zero, and all of the currents at a node must equal zero.

That leads to the mesh-current and node-voltage methods of circuit analysis, which are fundamentals to all circuit design. Highly recommended starting point!

The ARRL Handbook is really good and should be availible at your library. It had enough theory to get you started, and then lots of projects.

What do you guys think of this? It’s probably the most thorough book I’ve looked at!

“Your session has timed out”. Dead link.

The three textbooks I used for my sophomore level courses at Purdue were Linear Circuit Analysis 2nd Ed (DeCarlo/Lin), Microelectronic Circuit Design 4th Ed (Jaeger/Blalock), Digital Design 4th Ed (Wakerly) (for ECE201, ECE202, ECE255, ECE270).

I wasn’t too thrilled with DeCarlo’s book, but the subject matter (linear circuit analysis) is very important for a solid foundation in electrical engineering. Jaeger’s book is very thorough, and very heavy. It’ll have most things you’ll want to know about diodes, transistors, CMOS logic, and amplifiers. I really didn’t touch Wakerly’s book, but that’s because the notes and labs for the class were that good ( https://engineering.purdue.edu/ece270/ ). Note that the course website is reused for each semester, so in January the content may be reset.

Hope this helps.