Around Christmas I found out that Washington State has a law requiring colleges and universities receiving public funding to waive tuition for us in the over 60 crowd. Up to 2 courses per quarter (or semester), non credit, non-degree seeking, etc., but free.
So I enrolled this quarter, and one of the classes I'm taking is a circuit analysis class, beginning EE stuff. I'm a software guy with just enough hardware knowledge gleaned over the years to be really dangerous, and this course has been fun and very helpful in putting my loose collection of factoids and misconceptions into a useful framework.
However, I'm wondering how anyone ever stays up to date with the enormous variety of devices, both analog and digital, and how he/she knows where to begin in choosing components. Obviously experience counts for most of it, but how one gains that experience looks rather daunting to the hardware noob. Obviously looking at existing schematics and using them as a jumping off place is one way, but I was wondering if there are repositories of "good practices" and/or useful components and configurations from which to start.
This is obviously a wide open question with no right answer, but in short - what's your advice to your new EE nephew as he starts out on his way into the wilderness?
Thanks in advance.
ps: I've already succumbed to "Luke, come to the dark side" so that advice doesn't count.