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Real Electronics

  1. Oct 30, 2014 #1
    I come across a number of electronic circuits - simple ones - in my studies as an undergrad student in Applied Physics. But I often wonder: the circuits that we are taught about are all run under idealised conditions. Even during practical demonstrations and labs, we run them with function generators, voltage generators and DSOs which all have myriad electronics within them to check and balance any discrepancies that may arise (over-potentials, over-currents and what-not).

    How might electronics in these devices work? Electronics in real devices like laptops and amplifiers? For example, we learn about a diode clamp for voltage protection at inputs in electronic circuits. But I just can't believe that such a simple solution might be used to limit input voltages in a laptop's power supply or in a USB stick's interface. There are probably a hundred more things that go into making these devices robust and usable in real conditions.

    But what are these hundred other things? It seems the things I study in college only lay down the basic ideas for me. When building something 'electronic' on my own, the lowest level device I might use is an IC. But it just never happens that I think of building something simply with diodes or resistors and capacitances - because what I've learnt about using these devices is just too idealistic.

    I'm beginning to feel my electronics courses are pointless. I want to know what real electronics looks like. I want to know where I can learn the real stuff.
     
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  3. Oct 30, 2014 #2

    phinds

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    Personally, I don't think reality is all that different from what you have learned. You DO use idealized components but they are not all that far from the real thing, differing for the most part only is subtleties that make relatively little difference in real circuits.

    For example, in analyzing circuits, a diode is taken to have a mathematically sharp knee between non-conducting and conducting whereas in reality the knee is a bit softer, but this has little to no effect on circuit analysis unless you are examining the area right at the knee bend and even then the math/analysis tools you have learned to use are perfectly applicable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2014
  4. Oct 30, 2014 #3

    SteamKing

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    Find old computers or other electronic stuff that's not going to be used anymore or is broken and take it apart. You'll get an eyeful of what 'real' electronics look like.

    If you've ever put a computer together, you can see the intricate design of the circuit boards. Old power supplies are pretty cheap, especially if they no longer work, but be careful around any large capacitors (you don't want to get a shock if they might still be charged).
     
  5. Oct 30, 2014 #4
    Okay, I guess I just think about it all too much. Gotta put faith in what I'm being taught. Thanks, phinds.

    SteamKing, I've taken apart my laptop quite a few times, but there are circuit boards that I can't make sense out of. Or is there something I can use to view what kind of circuits have been printed onto the board? Some magnification tool of some sort?
     
  6. Oct 30, 2014 #5

    phinds

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    I haven't looked at any PC boards in a long time but I'm sure there are very small components in use now (on the order of 2mm square) that are going to be hard to ID even w/ a 10X loupe. They are made this way for two reasons, small size and ease of automated insertion/soldering. Most stuff of any significance outside the power supply is likely to be done w/ general purpose chips or with ASICs. For the ASICs, you aren't going to be able, probably, to have a clue about the insides except to know that they are digital logic with zillions of transistors.
     
  7. Oct 30, 2014 #6

    SteamKing

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    You can pick up all kinds of hand held or work magnifying glasses if you can't see the components. Computers are only one type of electrical device. There are transistor radios, clock radios, appliances, any number of devices. You are ultimately limited only by your curiosity.
     
  8. Oct 30, 2014 #7

    donpacino

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    buy an ardunio or rasberry pi and start doing "random" stuff with it!

    there are many different thing you can do with those custom microcontroller. each little project will teach you something new. just like Rome was not built in a day, you will not learn all of the hundreds of circuits in a day.
     
  9. Oct 30, 2014 #8

    symbolipoint

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    None of the response bring modulus to a clear answer. What modulus wants is to know what to do to learn and understand electronics. This was possible many years ago at some community colleges, but now such programs and courses have been closed-down, and if you want to learn them, you need to be an engineering student at a university. Technology has now advanced too much.

    I wish I could get a better answer that could be put into practice for the same question.
     
  10. Oct 30, 2014 #9

    Donpacino answered the question really well actually, arduino or raspberry pi kits are going probably going to be the best thing apart from a class with dedicated lab equipment; ham radio as well.
     
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