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How to learn electronics as a hobby?

  1. Jul 26, 2003 #1
    I'm quite interested in electronics, circuits, etc... after my brief introduction to them in Physics class. I'd really like to take the time, as a hobby, to learn how to design and create circuits that will perform simple tasks --> eventually graduating to more difficult design.

    Does anybody have suggestions about what I should do to learn this? Are there any good books available that are must reads? Would a class at a university be useful in this regard? What's the best strategy for learning circuits/electrical engineering as a hobby? Thanks for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2003 #2
    You'll probably find a good selection of books on practice at an electronic parts store, the kind that caters to hobbyists. On the theory side learn Maxwell's Equations, you can understand simple circuits without them but knowing them will make it much easier to comprehend electronics in general.
  4. Jul 26, 2003 #3
    Start messing around with the kit projects from electronics shops.
  5. Jul 26, 2003 #4
    Greetings, Clay !!
    Yes, I’ll get to it later.
    All of ‘em
    Definitely. If you are unsure what classes to take, butter up to the engineering dept. head and present him with your situation and interests so he can advise you.
    1) Invest in a soldering iron and practice soldering until it becomes second nature.
    2) Get some more hardware like breadboards, wire clippers, etc.
    3) Subscribe to magazines, or purchase books, that not only provide you with schematics for simple circuitry, but also take you on a component walk-through, explaining the purpose for each part. You can likely find the books advertised in the magazines.
    4) Consider beginning your adventure by becoming a kit builder. Many kits not only provide you with all the parts, but also provide that walk-through I mentioned. Remember, it’s not the complexity of some grandiose kit you’re looking for, but a simple circuit that will provide you with (hopefully) some practical use (to make it all feel more rewarding and enjoyable) and a detailed understanding of what is going on. For example, there are many dozens of projects you could make using simple resistor, diode, and LED circuits containing a total of only a few components. Keep it simple, understand what’s happening, but above all else keep on doing it because that’s how you learn.

    Happy hobbying !!
  6. Jul 27, 2003 #5
    If you're going to a university there is probably an electronics shop on campus. Ask them if they could use a student worker.
  7. Jul 27, 2003 #6


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    Humm... No!

    I was a trained and respected Electronics Technician long before I ever heard of Maxwells equations. When I did learn them I barely recognixed the connection between the practical electronics I was taught in the Navy and the fundmental physics of Maxwell.

    More on topic.

    Get yourself a multimeter, Radioshack has them in a range of prices, they can also be found dirt cheap in may tool stores. Spent a bit of your time with Ohms law and a few resistors learning the relationship between DC current and voltage. Besure to include in your reading books and articals about basic DC and AC circiuts. One of your first projects should be a DC power supply. Find something that will provide a range of fixed voltages (+/- 12VDC and +/-5VDC as a bare minimum).
    Learn the function of each of the basic components, resistor, capacitor, inductor, diode and transistor,

    When assembling kits make an effort to understand the function of the circiuts you are builting, learn to read and understand the schematic diagrames, these are the roadmaps of the circiut.

    Do not expect to become an expert overnight. The military spends 6 months of 8hr days 5 days a week teaching this basic material. (there are no fru-fru courses!)

    Good luck and have fun!
  8. Jul 27, 2003 #7


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    I agree. Maxwell's equations are almost completely useless in low-speed circuit design. For the kind of circuitry you're going to build on bread-board and copper-clad, Maxwell's equations will not be useful in the slightest.
    I agree.
    I disagree. I would suggest that a neophyte stay a long, long way away from mains voltages due to the inherent dangers. Instead, just purchase a decent little "wall wart" AC-DC converter and use that to power your (low-voltage) circuits.

    Some of the most basic analog circuits that you can assemble from discrete components are simple single-transistor audio amplifiers; some of the most basic digital circuits are, for example, ripple-carry adders.

    - Warren
  9. Jul 27, 2003 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    For starters, the "Getting Started in Electronics" book at Radio Shack will have you building circuits in an hour. Really they have a nifty line of cheap books for 555 timer projects, simple gate logic and op amps circuits, as well as some practical things. These give you some great hands on with projects that are safe and fun. Of course this is no substitute for the respective theory of operation. Radio Shack books help you to build simple circuits; they say very little about the theory.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2003
  10. Jul 28, 2003 #9
    I would additionally stress that ability to understanding schematics is most important checkpoint in your progress. There are many ways how to do same thing, and schematics encode (like equations in math) ways of doing it. While trying to understand some schematics, you'd ask yourself why its done this way and not other way, and learn about workings of components to realise benefits or drawback of given scheme, and selection of components.
    I started with analog amps with goal to build hifi amplifiers, both highpower and very low signal amps. On the way I learned enormous amounts of schematics and principles.
  11. Jul 28, 2003 #10
    Thanks for all of the suggestions. I've taught myself some different, but complex stuff before, like SQL, database normalization/design, some programming, game theory, etc... so I am at least familiar with the idea of having a hill to climb to understand what is going on. I'm interested in tackling the challenge. As you have all pointed out, I'm most concerned that these kits that are available will have me building circuits without understanding why I'm doing what I'm doing. If I just want to solder, I can make jewelry! :wink: Anyhow, I have to get through my organic chemistry and physics this summer before I can think of anything else, really. Don't worry! I'll certainly be back with more questions!

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  12. Jul 28, 2003 #11
    I'm presuming that Clay wants to develope an understanding for electromagnetism along with his soldering and other circuit skills. I knew Maxwell's equations before I developed any electronic skills and that helped me understand how an inductor works, how an antenna works, etc., but it also allowed me to learn about practice and theory together.
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