Learning more useful knowledge about electronics

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I am interested in learning more about electronics. I know some basics about resistors, capacitors, transistors, and diodes. I would like to learn more about things such as operational amplifiers, transformers, and more, but I don't know where to begin. I prefer to learn by example, I am not against books or that style of learning, but I feel examples are necessary to complement them at the least. I have subscribed a lot of electronics magzines.

 

There are some great blogs out there for programmers, such as Joel on Software(http://chinese.joelonsoftware.com/), Paul Graham's Essays(http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html), kynix semiconductor electronic blog (http://www.apogeeweb.net/)etc. I would love to know about any similar quality content for electronics. Do you have any great blogs or podcasts you love?

 

I am interested in kits (since learning requires various parts and I'd not like to buy them one at a time) which do not require solder (because it often makes parts one-time-use). I have looked into Arduino and similar kits but I feel they miss the point. I feel it is of more use to a veteran engineer than someone wanting to learn. I feel too many steps are missed and it falls off at being nothing more than teaching basic connections and perhaps design theory (the theory of how something could be made without explaining how it works).

 

Also, while I am interested in PICs, uCs, and more, I am currently more interested in learning what can be done without them. I feel too many kits which include these pieces fall back into design theory. That is, they almost introduce them like magic rather than explaining why they work. This leaves you with a circuit which you have built, but don't understand.

 

So, my question is, where can someone begin to learn more about DC electronics without feeling that something is missing? I am interested in project ideas as well as kits.

 

Another problem: Labs

 

However, the problem is the practicum, the labs. The closest university has the labs during the day. The other local university has lab classes at night, but they are too far to drive. As a working software developer, then I really have no options to sign up for a lab class to get my hands dirty.

 

What would be the value of learning from books (or from classes) if I don't get to a lab? The stuff they do at EE labs (the typical electronics lab I class), is that something I can learn on my own? If so, how?

I'm trying to close this skills gap I have in front of me and get more into Computer Engineering. The last thing I want to be is a paper tiger with all theory and no practice. But the labs are always during times of the day that conflict with my work schedule.

 

Any advice?

 

Last Edited: Fri. Jan 19, 2018 - 04:20 AM
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Hi Vivitern,

welcome on this forum.

You remind me of when I started with electronics. Must be over 30 years ago.

One of the first circuits I built was an oscillator with a Relay, a resistor and a capacitor.

Learned a lot. But it took hours of experimenting.

The resistor had to have a pretty low value or it would never pass enough current to switch the relay.

The capacitor had to have a pretty big value to have any decent time constant...

 

The world was another place back then.

Nowadays you'll get overwhelmed with info on internet without even trying hard.

One of your first questions is about opamps.

"opamps for everyone" is an application note from Texas Instuments which is a very good reference about opamps. From the basics to advanced parameters.

Some sources want EUR70 for it in dead tree carcas format (RIP), Ti (and other sources) give away for free. Lot's of versions on the 'net.

https://duckduckgo.com/html?q=%2...

Every big werstern manufactorer of electronics will have loads of information (and software for uC's) on their own website for almost anything they make.

 

uControllers are wonderful devices, but they are pretty useless without having a decent understanding of the suppor circuitry around them.

Davey Jones (EEvBlog) has made a pretty decent video about setting up a relatively decent lab yourself for USD300. Watch it on youtube.

There are loads of tutorial video's on youtube. From the real basics to pretty complex projects.

"Basics" are done to death on youtube. Unfortunately lots of them are done by (relative) beginners, but some are real good.

 www.youtube.com/results?search_q...

 

For "the more complex" projects are usually pretty shallow presented on youtube, but sometimes have links to websites with more stuff.

For analog electonics you can do very much in software nowadays.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPICE

http://www.ti.com/tool/tina-ti

 

For drawing schematics I want to reccomend KiCad.

It is an open source project. It is therefore free, without artificial limitations and will remain so in the forseeable future.

KiCad used to be so-so, but it has improved tremenously in the last 5 years and is now a pretty decend schematics/pcb design suite.

The stable version is, well, stable. In the "nightly build" SPICE simulation is integrated.

There were rumors of version 5 coming out in February, but it seems to be delayed untill probably august.

Maybe an intermediate version with Spice will be official before that.

http://kicad-pcb.org/

 

But spice is not a complete substitute for getting your hands dirty.

You can get going building your own circuits with (a few) breadboard(s) and some components.

I like working with SMD components (on pcb's) but the old fashioned through hole components are a lot more practical when working on breadboards.

Every now and then you'll let the smoke escape from your components and they often stop working afterwards.

Therefore I recomend to get some assortnent boxes with resistors, capacitors, transistors, voltage regulators and such.

https://www.aliexpress.com/whole...

There is no substitute for building actual circuits yourself to make all the pieces fit together.

Books / Internet / youtube / spice are all great sources but are no substitute for building stuff yourself.

Building a blinking led with a 555 or an ampifier with a long tailed pair is very educational.

 

Try to find some old defective electronics. Monitors, TV's, VCR's Audio stuff.

When they are defective its often a few random components.

That means there are hundredths of good components inside.

 

One of the first things you'll need for your breadboard is a way to power your circuit.

It can be done with a (few) batteries or some wallwart plug module, but these have pretty big disadvangates.

Pretty soon you'll want to have a power supply with adjustable voltage and current limit.

(Adjustable current limit helps a lot in not letting the magic smoke out too soon).

These can be bought from Ali / Ebay for as little as USD5 but it's hard to recommend anything without knowing your budget.

 

If you are trying to build something and get lost you can of course always ask questions on a form.

Avr Freaks is good for anything AVR related and very software oriented.

A very busy forum on almost anything (analog) electronics related is on Davey Jones's website:

http://www.eevblog.com/forum/

 

AN8008 is probably the best USD25 multimeter you can get, but lots of reviews of test equipment on EEVblog.

For a soldering Iron I recommend the TS100. Very good for a small price. (It does need an extra power supply (upto 24V) though.

Power supply bricks for laptops are very usefull. Not only for the soldering iron, but you can also wire a small smps to it to power your breadboard.

 

I waited way to long to get my first oscilloscope. This has held me back in understanding electronics for years.

Decent oscilloscopes (Such as a Rigol) are ... more affordable than they used to be.

Hantek 6022BE is probably among the cheapest reasonably usefull scopes you'll get.

It is PC based, but that seems acceptable for USD65.

It also has a built in 8-channel logic analyser which is very usefull for debugging uC circuits.

I haven't used it because I don't run windowze (Linux only) so I can say nothing on the software usability.

The logic analyser can be used with Sigrok though, which is also a great open source project.

 

Quasi random links:

https://www.electronicshub.org/t...

www.hackaday.com

 

Projects made by university students:

https://people.ece.cornell.edu/l...

Paul van der Hoeven.
Bunch of old projects with AVR's:
http://www.hoevendesign.com

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#2 is a great answer. I have little to add, but I'd like to mention the Tips'n'Tricks from Microchip (they should make an AVR version, btw...):

http://ww1.microchip.com/downloa...

 

It's a great guide on clever use of MCUs with simple analog circuits to achieve a variety of goals. Also, the Analog Dialog journal from Analog Devices sometimes has very interesting reads:

http://www.analog.com/en/analog-...

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El Tangas wrote:
... Analog Devices ...
Did Analog Devices partner with Digilent for a lab setup?

(instructional material, parts, USB scope/etc)

https://analogdiscovery.com/

 

Digilent​

Analog Parts Kit by Analog Devices: Companion Parts Kit for the Analog Discovery

https://store.digilentinc.com/analog-parts-kit-by-analog-devices-companion-parts-kit-for-the-analog-discovery/

via https://learn.digilentinc.com/classroom/realanalog/

 

Edit: "by Analog Devices"

 

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

Last Edited: Tue. Feb 13, 2018 - 01:41 PM
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My favorite is still "Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill. It is getting a bit long in the tooth but still amazingly relevant. There are lots of good examples that that are (mostly) easily constructed in one's home lab. It is also a bit expensive but used copies are widely available. 

 

Jim

 

Jim Wagner Oregon Research Electronics, Consulting Div. Tangent, OR, USA http://www.orelectronics.net

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Yes, Art of Electronics should be on your shelf!  Also, Analog Circuit Design : Art, Science, and Personalities (The EDN Series for Design Engineers) (Hardcover) , has a lot of great insights

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0750691662/ref=sr_1_2_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518421292&sr=1-2&keywords=jim+williams+analog

 

Back in the day, a lot of databooks (such as National semiconductor linear applications) offered a wealth of information.  The basics haven't changed too much...parts keep getting better.

 

The various app notes from Linear tech & Analog devices are also a treasure trove.

 

Some rather basic experiments (but important fundamentals), can be found here:

https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/experiments/chpt-5/audio-oscillator/ 

 

When in the dark remember-the future looks brighter than ever.

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I have discovered YouTube for videos of electronic technicians tearing apart old electronic machines and devices while describing what they do and why.  The EEVblog hosted by Dave Jones of Sydney Australia is interesting and informative.   As for parts, at the risk of seeming declassé, I suggest looking in the dumpsters of local college campuses during the weeks when the school term ends and the students are moving out of the dormitories.  They often throw away good but old electronic equipment that often works quite well.  If it doesn't work then you can harvest electronic parts from boards inside the chassis boxes.  Then take the remnants with all the good parts removed and put it back into the dumpster from which you got it.  Recycling is what recycling does, as Mr. Gump might say. 

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There is a pretty good seminar for analog electronic / signal processing.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist...
https://www.youtube.com/playlist...

but you will need to work a hard to go through it :)

Also "nptelhrd" has A LOT of seminars almost about everything related to mechanic, physics, electronic, chemistry, math, ...

https://www.youtube.com/user/npt...

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The way I learned more tha 5 decades ago was reading catalogs, data sheets, applications notes, and building projects. After all that, earned a bsee degree. Varied work experience, that combined experience in power, analog, digital, electro mechanical, chemical, uC, and mathematical fields.
Now retired, and not keeping up, so what worked for me may be different today, may require specialization.

It all starts with a mental vision.

Last Edited: Tue. Feb 13, 2018 - 12:52 PM
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I spotted some of these in a bookshop a couple of months ago and had a quick browse and even though I've been 'doing' electronics for longer than I care to remember I was very impressed with the content and style.

 

 

I've just looked and this one is by the same author and if it's of the same style and quality then it ought to be just what you're looking for...

 

"This forum helps those that help themselves."

"If you think you need floating point to solve the problem then you don't understand the problem. If you really do need floating point then you have a problem you do not understand."

 

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Burn things out, mess things up- that's how you learn. Sums up my job! And I'm still learning!

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Regarding the practical aspect, nowadays you can build a decent lab without too much expense (a few hundred dollars/euros/pounds).

This video will give you an idea of what is needed: https://youtu.be/HicV3Z6XLFA

One thing Dave forgot there are SMD to DIP adapters. Nowadays, you really need to learn SMD soldering and have a collection of adapters always handy.

 

It's absolutely essential that you experiment and see what is happening with your scope and multimeter(s), best way to learn.

If you can't build a lab now, you should at least use simulation software, it's a good approximation. In fact you should always use simulation before building the real thing, in my opinion. I've avoided lots of magic smoke that way.

 

Many major analog component manufactures will usually provide some kind of free analog simulator. Look around in TI, Analog Devices/Linear Tech, and Microchip.

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Welcome to the Forum.

 

In addition to all of the advice above, I would recommend buying some (inexpensive) electronic kits.

 

The kits will have all of the correct components, so you don't have to design a circuit, and not know if it is going to work or not.

You also don't have to order parts in small quantities.

The kit includes the circuit board, which is arguably the hardest part of a small project, (if you aren't just building it up on a bread board).

 

Many small kits will have, with the instructions, a section describing how the kit works.

That will help to study the schematic, study the description of what is happening within the circuit, and perhaps even look at the signals with an O'scope.

 

Know that what you build really isn't that important.

It could be a small power supply with a digital readout, a small signal generator, a $25 (toy) O'scope, a kids game, (e.g. "Simon", the flashing led and sound game), etc.

 

You will have the added benefit of getting some practice soldering.

 

This approach could well help to replace the "lab" practical experience that you are having difficulty scheduling if you take a class, (either in person, or on line).

 

JC

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avrcandies wrote:
Yes, Art of Electronics should be on your shelf!

Learning the Art of Electronics: A Hands-on Approach

by Thomas C. Hayes

https://learningtheartofelectronics.com/

Its BOM

https://learningtheartofelectronics.com/parts-lists/parts-lists/

references

 Proto Advantage

Proto Advantage - LAoE (8)

http://www.proto-advantage.com/store/index.php?cPath=400_410

 

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller