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Books On Electronics For the Lay Programmer? 335

leoboiko writes "I'm a computer scientist and programmer with no training whatsoever in hardware or electronics. Sure, we designed a simple CPU (at a purely logical level) and learned about binary math and whatnot, and I can build a PC and stuff, but lately I've been wanting to, you know, solder something. Make my own cables, understand multimeters, perhaps assemble a simple robot or two. Play with hobbyist-level electronics. How does one go about educating oneself in this topic? I've been browsing Lessons in Electric Circuits online and it's been helpful, together with Misconceptions About 'Electricity' which went a long way in helping me finally to grok what electric charge and power actually are. I've reached the point where I want an actual dead-tree book, though. Any recommendations?"
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Books On Electronics For the Lay Programmer?

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  • by Aglassis ( 10161 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:14AM (#23321236)
    Pick up the Art of Electronics [harvard.edu] by Horowitz and Hill. The lab manual might also be helpful. The Art of Electronics is basically the electronics Bible for physicists and a popular introductory text for electrical engineers.

    For technical electronics work (like soldering or cable assembly) you will probably want to find a specific book (the Navy electronics manuals would be very helpful).
  • Two great books (Score:3, Informative)

    by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:18AM (#23321250) Journal
    An excellent starter is "The Art of Electronics By Paul Horowitz, Horowitz, Winfield Hill"

    http://www.amazon.com/Art-Electronics-Paul-Horowitz/dp/0521370957 [amazon.com]

    You should also have a look at the classic:
    "Foundations of Wireless and Electronics
    by M.G. Scroggie "

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Foundations-Wireless-Electronics-M-G-Scroggie/dp/0750634308 [amazon.co.uk]

  • Community college (Score:5, Informative)

    by SkOink ( 212592 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:22AM (#23321272) Homepage
    I would like to make a plug for your local community college, if you live in a reasonably-sized city. Most community colleges offer a couple of basic-level electronics classes, which teach you basic circuit theory. Books (either eBooks or paper ones) like Misconceptions About 'Electricity' are sort of interesting from a physics perspective, but they don't really offer much insight into electronics. In fact, many of the logical assumptions taught to electrical engineers _aren't_ true, strictly speaking, but are 'true enough' and much easier to understand.

    If you're looking for someplace where you can learn about your basic circuit elements (resistors, capacitors, op-amps, etc) a real dyed-in-the-wool intro electronics course might be just what you're craving.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:29AM (#23321294)
    I have the Art of Electronics and a wide range of other books. AoE is great for introductory EE, but is overkill for the level you are talking about and does not cover practical stuff.

    I would suggest looking at the various hobby robotics books in a good bookshop. Most of these will cover stuff like how to solder, how a transistor/FET work and how to wire up configurations like H bridges etc.

  • by aero2600-5 ( 797736 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:31AM (#23321302)
    As a former Electronics Technician in the Navy, I have to agree with the parent. The Navy Electricity & Electronics Training Series (NEETS) is a great series of books that teach the basic of electronics. After studying these manuals, I successfully built a Superheterodyne receiver [wikipedia.org], also known as your basic radio receiver. You can find all of the NEETS modules online here [davidson.edu] in PDF format. I still have them on CD from when I went through the training in 1998.

    As for your link to electricity misconceptions [eskimo.com], all I can say is that I find the information there disagrees with what I was taught by the US Navy. It reminds me of the old electron flow vs hole flow [uiuc.edu] arguments. The important part is that electric circuits work the same regardless of what you're philosophy is concerning the movement of electrons.

    Best of luck with your search. Just remember that soldering irons are HOT. I've heard good things about the Art of Electronics as well.

  • by draxbear ( 735156 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:33AM (#23321308)
    I recommend this annoyingly named book, which is an excellent cover-all on this and related subjects. Really did join the dots for me many years ago and it looks like it's now in its 2nd edition.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bebop-Boolean-Boogie-Unconventional-Electronics/dp/0750675438/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210145164&sr=1-1 [amazon.com]

    (Any grammar nazi's able to show me how to tidy up that link? Or point me at the right place on here to find out please?)
  • by zobier ( 585066 ) <zobierNO@SPAMzobier.net> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:36AM (#23321332)
    While I grew up with a soldering iron, inventing stuff and hacking hardware projects; I'm primarily a software guy. I find Practical Electronics for Inventors [google.com.au] to be an excellent resource for the kind of projects you're looking into. Also you might consider getting yourself either an ATSTK500 [atmel.com], the starter-kit for AVR micro-controllers (great tool IMO), OR a LEGO NXT.

    Happy hacking!

  • Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:41AM (#23321354)

    Much as you can't learn to program well without looking at programs more complicated than you'll find in any textbook, you need to study real world circuits.

    Whether you want to do digital stuff or analog, it's worth your time learning the analog stuff -- digital systems tend to break as a result of the underlying analog problem of circuit design.

    For example, Wikipedia has the internal schematic for a 741 op amp [wikipedia.org] along with a decent explanation. Once you understand the function of every one of those transistors, you'll be able to really understand why it has both a gain-bandwidth limit and a slew rate limit, and what the difference is.

    The best source of real-world circuits I've found is the application notes and example circuits in data sheets published by manufacturers. Since they need the resultant circuits to work when engineers build them, they don't leave out the random extras that textbooks often do. Does that MOSFET need a gate resistor? A circuit in an app note will probably say, whereas an example diagram might well not.

    If your goal is to learn more in general, as opposed to solving a specific problem, I'd pay more attention to the author than exactly what they're writing about. For example, I can't recommend Jim Williams' design notes highly enough -- he's both an excellent engineer and an excellent author. Making Shakespeare [linear.com] a citation is the sort of thing that keeps his writing lively and interesting. Or rating circuit complexity in baby bottles [linear.com] as a measure of how long it took him to design and debug it. And, of course, he often goes into great detail about the *practical* considerations involved in precise, high-speed analog work -- especially as it relates to working at the lab bench, rather than with professionally printed PCBs and the like.

    I'm sure others will have excellent textbook recommendations. They're an important part, but only a part. Add some analysis of real-world circuits that you'll find in application notes, and a bunch of fussing around with actual silicon and a scope, and you'll be well on your way.

  • by zobier ( 585066 ) <zobierNO@SPAMzobier.net> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:42AM (#23321356)
    Oh, and there's a F/OSS toolchain for AVR. More info over at AVR Freaks [avrfreaks.net].


  • Forrest M. Mims III (Score:5, Informative)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:45AM (#23321366)
    (I'm a physics professor teaching electronics to undergraduates this term.)

    I'll second Horowitz and Hill.

    But if you want a gentler sunday school introduction before you pick up the Bible, get "Getting Started in Electronics" by Forrest M. Mims III. This is the book I taught myself with, bought it from Radio Shack when I was twelve. Text-and-drawings done "lab notebook" style, very basic approach.

    You'll need Horowitz and Hill to get the math, but for basic concepts Mims can't be beat.
  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:59AM (#23321424)
    There are No Electrons: Electronics for Idiots [amazon.com] is extremely basic, but its entertainment value is inestimable and it's really quite profound on the basics. You'll never feel like you understand the fundamentals better.
  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:15AM (#23321486) Homepage Journal
    Use the html anchor tag - ie <a href="link_goes_here">Your text here</a> . You don't really need the quotation marks around the URL, but it won't hurt to use them either.

    You'd end up with Bebop Boolean Boogie Unconventional Electronics [amazon.com]

    Tada! :p
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:19AM (#23321500)
    is the SmileyMicro stuff: http://www.smileymicros.com/ [smileymicros.com] It is basically a simplified course in a book, covering microcontroller programming, interrupts, interfacing, control etc using 8-bit micros. No special equipment needed beyond a soldering iron + PC (if you buy the kit with the book).

    Once you get through that you'll have a reasonable understanding of the field.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:23AM (#23321534)

    The guts of a 741 is both a good and a bad place to start learning about [bipolar] transistors. You certainly won't digest it all in one sitting. But it has most of the basic arrangements that are important, and they're relatively cleanly separated. It's got an emitter-follower push-pull output stage, a common-emitter gain stage, a long-tailed pair differential input stage, some current mirrors to set up biasing, and a Vbe multiplier to help bias the output stage; it's really not complicated if you take it in parts and don't feel any particular need to understand it in one sitting. That's true of any non-textbook circuit, though, really.

    PICs are a great way to do interesting things, but if you really want to know why your PIC works quite well except when the moon is waxing gibbous, you're probably going to have to learn some analog stuff. You can go a long way without paying attention to the analog side, just as you can do an awful lot of programming without ever looking at compiler output -- but in either case, you're holding yourself back compared to what you could be doing.

    Oh, and Jim's scope drawing is probably round because I believe he still uses that scope. Then again, his definition of a computer [linear.com] (page 12) is probably not the same as the poster's ;)

  • by mrcdeckard ( 810717 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:32AM (#23321590) Homepage

    The better the quality, the simpler and easier the circuit.

    Get a receiver or amp that has a problem and mess with it. A receiver in "protect mode" is a good one since that pretty much means that you have a DC offset on the output. A bi-polar amp will drive you nuts, since *any* bad component will throw DC onto the output, but you'll learn a ton going through it. A mosfet amp is much simpler since they are more like tube amps in topology. Hell, for that matter, try to get ahold of an old tube amp. They are very simple and are a good way to get yer feet wet.

    Or an old cassette deck, like an old Nakamichi. Nobody wants them anymore (and they shouldn't, either), but they have a lot of cool control/motor circuitry in them. Especially if you get a hold of one that's discrete -- ie, all the logic and control is done with transistors.

    and get the service manual -- it'll have schematics and sometimes theory of operation.

    Oh yeah, the advice for the Navy Manuals is right on. Those are the clearest and most comprehensive books on the subject.

    mr c
  • Musical Electronics (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:32AM (#23321592) Homepage Journal
    For the musically inclined electronics noob I recommend Craig Anderton's Electronic Projects for Musicians [amazon.com].

    The book goes through all the basics: making and repairing your own cables, soldering, working with metal and plexiglass chassis, various types of boards(breadboards, etching). Projects are of varying difficulty and include a headphone amp, miniamp, fuzz-tone, "ring" modulator and phase shifter(the most difficult). Most projects use battery power and are safe to build and operate(note: unfortunately, none of the projects are synths.)

    Maybe not your cup of tea but more fun to reuse than a run of the mill blinkenlighter.
  • by JollyRogerX ( 749524 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:49AM (#23321666)

    The good thing about "The Art of Electronics" is that the authors assume a background knowledge of only basic algebra. You can actually choose how much theory you want because the really important bits are distilled into a few rules of thumb.

    For the first time tinkerer, it may be a little much. Eventually, however, the tinkerer will want to actually design something from scratch and find "The Art of Electronics" indispensable.

  • by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:50AM (#23321678)
    I recently met up with a few people from my alma mater, and they have bought a bunch of Arduino's to teach embedded programming. From what they told me, they seem to be a great educational tool. I've never worked with them personally, but I do have experience with the processor used in the board, the ATMega. It's a nice architecture, clean design, and advisable. Another hint: stay away from PIC, they have severe limitations (like a hard-wired call stack, memory access limitations).

    Still, this won't help you with understanding elektronics as such, but will it will make a bridge from your programming world to the electronics world.

    Other things you need are: a multimeter (a good one costs some money, and a cheap one is probably good enough for a while, but from what I have heared, the problem of the cheap ones is that the calibration drifts after a couple of years). And a breadboard. That's a board with holes where you can plug in electronic components easily without need for a soldering iron. Very handy for experiments. For an example, see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HteDBfSJ9zo [youtube.com]. (No idea if it's interesting, my flash audio doesn't work for some unknown reason :-( ). Later on, you might feel the need for an osciloscope, these things can be quite expensive but you don't need the latest model, just a second-hand model from 10+ years old will be a very handy tool for measuring clocks, signals etc.

    A last advice I can give you: read Elektor (a magazine available in many languages), find a simple circuit you find interesting and try to understand it. Read the explanation, calculate the voltages at certain points, build the circuit, measure, etc. This will teach you a lot.
  • Arduino? (Score:4, Informative)

    by HFShadow ( 530449 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:02AM (#23321712)
    I'm in similar situation... I just picked up an Arduino. http://www.arduino.cc/ [arduino.cc] It's an open source micro controller that you code in C and it gives you access to ~10 digital IO pins and 6 analog ones. They sell add-on packs to do things like ethernet (built in web server) or wireless. Find something around your house and automate it :p
  • Another option... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:05AM (#23321726) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure how available some of the books listed above are. Hopefully you'll find them, and find them useful.

    Some other books to look at are over on the ARRL.org website. Their primary focus of course is radio electronics, but they also have books on basic circuit boarding, robotics, and a few other electronic projects, as well as a few kits if you are interested in them.

    Hope that's of some help. Have fun.
  • Make Magazine (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ghost-in-the-shell ( 103736 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:09AM (#23321738) Homepage
    Google Make Magazine! It is great for the DIY in you.
  • "All About Circuits" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enleth ( 947766 ) <enleth@enleth.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:58AM (#23321880) Homepage
    http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/ [allaboutcircuits.com]

    It's still a work in progress, but it's mostly done by now and really well-written as an introductory guide.
  • by AllynM ( 600515 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:15AM (#23321950) Journal
    As another former Electronics Technician / Reactor Operator in the navy, I can suggest this wonderful reference:

    http://www.usna.edu/EE/ee301/internal/Applied_EngineeringPrinciples.pdf [usna.edu]

    Chapter 1 covers electrical, chapter 2 covers electronic. The remaining chapters dive into nuclear power field topics (chemistry, mechanics, reactor theory - also very handy for those interested in 'just the facts' for those topics). This reference is about as technical as it gets without venturing into "If I told you I'd have to kill you" territory.

    It's awesome that the Naval Academy has an unclassified version out there...

  • by kaens ( 639772 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:17AM (#23321958) Homepage
    Lessons in Electric Circuts [ibiblio.org]

    Seriously. In conjunction with Socratic Electronics [ibiblio.org], it should give you a great start.
  • by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:17AM (#23322198)

    You don't really need the quotation marks around the URL

    While this is true in this specific case, it's only because Slashdot automatically corrects your broken markup. You cannot use slashes in an attribute value without quoting it, and slashes appear in most URLs.

  • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:07AM (#23322472) Homepage
    AofE (sitting right in reach as I type) is probably the "standard" recomendation. One problem with it. It's perfect if you already KNOW the material, and a real DOG to learn from, but a perfect "second book" or "Gee, I can't remember how to...

    I's actually say get
    Elelectricity - Principlas and Applications http://www.amazon.com/Electricity-Principles-Applications-Richard-Fowler/dp/0078262860/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210161568&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

    and as a second book "Electronics - Principles and Applications" (well this seems to be what replaced it) http://www.amazon.com/Electronics-Principles-Applications-Experiments-Manual/dp/002804245X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210161865&sr=1-3 [amazon.com]

    another good one - go to ARRL.ORG and get

    Understanding Basic Electronics

  • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:17AM (#23322534)
    The Horowitz book is an excellent reference, and it's especially good if you want to understand the details of what's actually going on.

    If you really want to dive in and swim however, I might also recommend "Electronic Circuits for the Evil Genius" by Dave Cutcher. I think that will get you into building things more quickly that Horowitz, but without a lot of the fundamentals.

    Another idea is to get yourself one of those Radio Shack 200 in 1 electronic project kits. No soldering required for that, but you could always order the parts for any of the projects and stick them on a breadboard yourself.

    Have fun!
  • by edwinolson ( 116413 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:32AM (#23322606) Homepage
    As useful as Art of Electronics is, it's awfully dated. The particular components it spends so much time talking about are largely obsolete, and I don't think it does as good of a job at generalizing concepts as some other texts.

    Don't get me wrong-- I have a copy on my desk too, but I haven't cracked the spine in years, despite being an active hardware designer.
  • by sharp-bang ( 311928 ) <sharp.bang.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:40AM (#23322648) Homepage
    I have to disagree with your view of The Art of Electronics. It is to electronics what The Joy of Cooking is to cooking: a comprehensive and extremely clear guide for beginners that is equally useful to masters. I've certainly found it to be practical and accessible for a variety of projects.
  • by shapr ( 723522 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:49AM (#23322712) Homepage Journal
    I'd suggest that you buy an Arduino [arduino.cc] starter kit [adafruit.com] from Lady Ada's site [adafruit.com], and try her Arduino tutorial [ladyada.net].

    And join a nearby Arduino user group!
    David Mellis just started one in Boston [arduino.cc], which led me to purchase an Arduino last night!
    The forums on the arduino site mention quite a few regional user's groups, maybe you can find one near you?
  • by AdamHaun ( 43173 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:06AM (#23322860) Journal
    The Art of Electronics, which many people have recommended, is a well-written book, but it comes with a couple caveats. First, it is twenty years old, which means it spends a lot of time on topics that aren't as important today (JFETs, for example). Second, and more importantly, it's an electronics book, which means it's intended to be read after a corresponding class in basic circuit theory. Electronics is the study of how semiconductor devices are used in electrical circuits, not the study of electrical circuits in general. While the first chapter of AoE does offer a review of circuit theory concepts, it's pretty terse. If you're good at calculus and want a good textbook, try Engineering Circuit Analysis by Hayt, Kemmerly, and Durbin. This may be a bit more work than you're looking for, but one of the things you quickly learn about electricity is that it's pretty abstract (being invisible and all), and visualization aids like LEDs and even expensive test equipment don't help as much as you might think unless you already have an idea of what's going on. If you're just doing digital circuits you can get by with less, but for anything remotely analog, knowing the theory helps a lot.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:13AM (#23322926) Journal
    I agree, if you're looking to master electronics AoE is a fantastic choice. If you want to get your hands dirty quick I'd recommend something like Practical Electronics for Inventors [amazon.com].

    You can always return to AoE when you're ready.
  • Physical Computing (Score:2, Informative)

    by element609 ( 303265 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:18AM (#23322954) Homepage
    Are you looking to dive in with practical information or learn pure theory first? I personally like to learn by building first, and then start learning theory after I fried a couple of components. I just spent the last three years at an art school in an Interactive Media program. (Art school and electronics? Yes - there's a growing amount of interactive works - not to mention the increasing demand for User Interface Design) We learned some very practical information in Physical Computing: interacting between the real world and computers. We began by building our own temperature sensors, pressure sensors, and then learning how to connect them with computers, without any formal programming experience, using a combination of serial communication, arduino and basic stamps, python, MaxMSP, Processing and Flash.

    You may want to check out the art world for some really creative uses of technology:

    I had an opportunity to speak with Norm White [normill.ca], an artist who has been building with electronics since the 60's , he made some amazing artwork, such as the "The Helpless Robot" - which runs off an old 386 and Delphi. Details here. [year01.com] (He's looking for someone to translate it to a modern language)

    Alan Rath [alanrath.org] is another artist who builds interactive robots.

    Conflux [confluxfestival.org] is a street art festival in Brooklyn that often attracts artists who mix technology with art. There have been some really cool interactive games that use modified cellphones

    Aram Bartholl does some cool work, mixing virtual world concepts such as IM'ing with very low tech. See Chat [datenform.de]

    Some other practical suggestions:
    For a great hands on approach, check out Tom Igoe and Dan O'Sullivan's Pysical Computing [nyu.edu] Tom Igoe is the head of Physical Computing at New York University.

    Amphibionics by Karl Williams was my first attempt at building my own circuit board and robot.

    I usually buy my components online at DigiKey. Navigating their site and trying to choose between the 100s of varieties of 1uF capacitors was a learning experience in itself.
  • MAKE Magazine (Score:4, Informative)

    by ptorrone ( 638660 ) * <pt@NOSpaM.adafruit.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:35AM (#23323152)
    arduino is a good suggestion, i'd also say the online (or print) versions of MAKE. in addition to skill building sections like soldering, making PCBs we also have 4 volumes that come out per year with tons of electronics articles. http://www.makezine.com/ [makezine.com] (i'm the senior editor)...
  • by vettemph ( 540399 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:37AM (#23323172)
    Forrest M Mims -Getting Started In Electronics ...is a fun and informative starting point for the basics. It is kinda high school level in its presentation but covers most topics. It was my main source of 'basics/teach yourself' as a mechie. I eventually found my way to wiring PLCs, creating sensors, etc. In my role as a Mechanical Technician, I now perform power usage studies on products and fully automate our prototypes.(PLC wiring and Programming)

    http://www.toolsusa.com/asp/item_detail.asp?T1=PBE%209WT%20ESI480A&trackcode=YahooShopping&WT.srch=1 [toolsusa.com]

    Features you will immediately / eventually want in a meter:
    (aside from standard features like ac/dc volts, resistance)

    -DC AMPS = 10.0
    -Diode Test ->|-
    -Capacitance -|(-
    -Relative Reading(ability to zero the meter)
    -Freq(Hz) / Duty cycle(%) / ms (to measure pulse trains/PWM)

    I use that meter at home.
    I use a Fluke 89IV at work because I didn't have to pay for it. (Fluke is gold standard in DMMs)

    A Circuit Simulator applet:
    http://www.falstad.com/circuit/ [falstad.com]
    check out the examples in the 'Circuit' menu.

    Good Luck
  • by marimbaman ( 194066 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:00AM (#23323368)
    c is merely the maximum speed of light. It is constant in the sense that it is the speed of light in vacuum, all over the universe (we think).
  • by phkhd ( 172530 ) <russbbrink@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:02AM (#23323394) Homepage
    I totally agree. H&H (AoE) is the bible. It is the standard reference everyone uses. But, it is also way overkill if all you want is how to make something work. There are lots of other options out there. My personal choice is "Circuit Design for Electronic Instrumentation" [amazon.com] by Darold Wobschall, ISBN:978-0070712300. I like it because most of the time I'm interested in hooking up sensors of various sorts to a micro, for which this book is a perfect fit. It does a great job of explaining the vast majority of the basic stuff you might want to use.

    The one caveat is that it is old. So it is not going to have things like spread spectrum (cell phone). Fortunately, most of the basics haven't really changed in over 30 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:48AM (#23323890)
    I know alioth may not be trying to toot his own horn, but his journal has a lot of entries about electronics [slashdot.org]
  • I love the series, don't get me wrong, I own five titles. But they contain numerous errors in the schematics, sometimes critical ones.

    Some are obvious, like misoriented diodes in a rectifying bridge. Some are not, like a PNP BJT where a NPN should be.

    However, before you build any of the projects, especially any of the high powered ones, make sure you search online for errata, or better yet, have a real EE check the circuit (if you're not one). And if you wanna build something really nasty, like an EMP gun or a magnetic accelerator, treat it like you would the Anarchist's Cookbook...

    Also be aware that the Evil Genius series is very light on theory of operation, and what is present is occasionally oversimplified to the point of being misleading. Don't rely on them for theory.

    But overall, for a hobbyist, they are an excellent example of how to approach a complete project, including planning, packaging, and building your own tools and test equipment. And for those who don't want to craft every PWB or enclosure on their own, the publisher sells kits.

  • by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @11:27AM (#23324288)
    This person is on the right track.

    Go to the library and get a bunch of books on electronics. Then go to Radio Shack and buy a bread board. A bread board is a board where you test circuit designs out. You don't need to do any soldering on it. A strip board is for a more permanent circuit that you don't plan on changing. One thing I recommend if you're going to be soldering on a strip board is FLUX. It makes soldering a hell of a lot easier. Components to buy from Radio Shack: A soldering iron, solder, flux, a breadboard or two. Also get a few 9 volt plugs to plug into the bread board or strip board and 9 volt batteries. Radio Shack also has a few cases you can put your circuit in, although there isn't much selection. You're going to need wire of course.

    Now the question is - what do you want to build? The library books will have some circuits. So will bookstores. You can find them on the net as well. This girl from MIT has a lot of cool [adafruit.com] circuits and kits. Once you decide what to put together you will also probably be getting some other components like capacitors, resistors and chips like 555 timers. You can find 555 timers and chips like that from Radio Shack, but for more obscure chips you might want to look to see if there are electronics components stores in your area that sell this stuff. If not, go to Mouser.com [mouser.com] or Digikey [digikey.com] where you can usually buy whatever you need, unless it is a specialized chip that they don't have. This should get you a start on putting boards together.

  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @01:16PM (#23326326)

    It's 1 divided by the square root of the permittivity of free space e0 multiplied by the permeability of free space u0. Link here. [reciprocalsystem.com]

    That's why the speed of light is different in different materials. Differing permittivity and permeability.

    Interestingly enough, you can use e0 and u0 to calculate the impedance of free space. It's approximately 377 ohms.

Forty two.