James B. Calvert, Denver, Colorado, 2001These pages, or units, are a review of electronics based on laboratory experiments, with little purely theoretical work or comprehensive treatment of any topic. Nevertheless, most of the fundamental concepts of electronics are discussed and illustrated. The emphasis is on understanding. This is not a collection of electronics projects, and there is no emphasis on construction practices, though some construction may be interesting and valuable. There is no use of SPICE-like circuit calculations, which can also be informative, but is no substitute for prototyping and experimentation. An effort has been made to include interesting historical electronics, such as vacuum tubes and Nixie displays, which also furnishes a deeper understanding of the fundamentals. References are given to further information.
There is more here than can be put into a typical electronics course of 30 or 40 lectures, which should concentrate on the fundamentals. These are the nature of amplification (transistors, for example), feedback, stability, relaxation oscillators and phase-locked loops.
The author has taught electronics at university level, and has a rather low opinion of most of the courses and texts available. This is mainly the consequence of the instructors being instructors and researchers, not electronic engineers in anything but name, often leaving the laboratory in charge of a subordinate of limited knowledge and experience. The laboratory itself is often managed in that wonderful orderly fashion that makes it of limited usefulness and little fascination, characterized by set experiments and "writeups" that teach little, as well as by physical surroundings that are nothing like a real workbench. For learning electronics, however, the laboratory is absolutely essential. The only way to handle a laboratory, incidentally, is to assign to each student his own, lockable, bench. The way not to handle it is to "set up" benches in the laboratory in advance of each "experiment" and otherwise to pack everything away in a single storeroom.