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The Difference Between "Electric" and "Electronic."

  1. Aug 28, 2015 #1
    At some point in the history of technology something happened whereby some devices that operate by electricity became known as "electronic" devices while others remained merely "electric" devices. The latter are obviously simpler, but it's not clear to me where the cut off between the two should be placed, or if there even is a hard line between them. Could be there's more of a gray area where you can't really say a thing is one or the other.

    The wiki article on electronics seems good to me, but has been flagged as needing citations. Additionally, it said something different not three weeks ago than it says today. Three weeks ago it held the diode as the first electronic component, now it claims it is the triode.

    Anyway, what's your understanding of the difference? Why do you call a certain device electric while another is more aptly called electronic?
     
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  3. Aug 28, 2015 #2

    Student100

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    I had always just referred to things related to power generation as electric, while things that ran on power as electronic.

    I don't think there's any stiff guideline here, the two words are nearly synonymous.
     
  4. Aug 28, 2015 #3

    nsaspook

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    Electric IRT devices to me implies something that depends on the physics of EM energy directly for it's operation. An induction electric motor needs no electronics to work nor does a simple dipole antenna but a typical DC brushless motor while 'electric' needs electronics or some sort of control system that adds a layer to modify a devices EM characteristics indirectly for it to operate.
     
  5. Aug 28, 2015 #4

    russ_watters

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    To me, "electric" contains no control logic whereas "electronic" does. A light switch is electric, a dimmer switch electronic.
     
  6. Aug 28, 2015 #5
    What do you mean by "control logic?"
     
  7. Aug 28, 2015 #6

    Bystander

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    Electric:passive::electronic:active.
     
  8. Aug 28, 2015 #7
    Electronics has active components which are largely semiconductor based. Electrical deals with passive components like transformers, generators, motors etc.
    Tl;Dr- Electronics are things with semiconductors and vacuum tubes.

    Control logic AFAIK doesn't come in at all and the term's used only in softwares. Though digital logic is certainly hardware related.
     
  9. Aug 28, 2015 #8
    Electronic device incorporates "small" components (eg diodes, transistors installed on...boards)
    Electrical device includes larger components (e.g lamp, switch, resistors installed on... walls)
     
  10. Aug 28, 2015 #9

    russ_watters

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    Components that make non-mechanical changes to the flow of electricity in the circuit. A light switch is strictly mechanical. A modern dimmer switch utilizes a triac: an electrical trigger signal controls the output.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIAC

    Perhaps another way to say it is that changes in an electrical signal cause other changes in another electrical signal. Unlike an "electrical" component, which pretty much does one thing only, when a human adjusts it directly.
     
  11. Aug 28, 2015 #10
    O.K. Thanks!
     
  12. Aug 28, 2015 #11

    russ_watters

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    Many older HVAC controls and still some newer HVAC controls utilize electronic-only control logic. If you're saying that it doesn't have to be that complicated to still be considered "electronic", I might agree, it's just a level/method of control issue. I don't want to split an unnecessary hair.

    A basic "electronic" component would be a relay: you can manually flip a switch or a thermostat will flip a switch, then that circuit sends a 24V signal to a relay (solenoid) that flips another, larger switch to turn-on the 240V condensing unit.
     
  13. Aug 29, 2015 #12

    nsaspook

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    It depends on the meaning of passive and active.
    Is a magnetic amp passive or active? It's not 'electronic' or mechanical in the sense that we use that word today but we did use those devices to create AM radio transmitter signals, computer logic circuits for a time and today are used in SMPS voltage regulators to amplify a low-level analog error signal. It posses the properties of amplification (signal *and* a power source feeding it) that we use for active devices. What about core memory? We can design completely electromechanical systems that operate as computers.
     
  14. Aug 29, 2015 #13
    Is an LED bulb electric or electronic?
     
  15. Aug 29, 2015 #14
    I would say Electric.
    Even though it is classified as acting as a solid state device, the output of the device is not a function of the amplification or control of an electric signal. Same reason the diode was removed from the Wiki article as being electronic.
     
  16. Aug 29, 2015 #15
    How are you determining this? I can't make sense of the revision history page.
     
  17. Aug 29, 2015 #16
    I don't know which wiki to which you refer.

    Should a component by itself ( transistors, diodes, triodes, resistors, ... ) be classified as strictly "electronic". Some are, but is that where the meaning of the word comes from.

    Perhaps it is the circuit itself that makes it electronic.

    For example,
    A low pass filter with resistors and capacitors, which are not active elements, does something to the input waveform and outputs a waveform not an exact duplicate, depending upon the frequency of the waveform.
    Digitize the input, pass it through a digital filter with the same characteristics as the RC circuit, and obtain the same output.
    Now put both circuits in a black box and try to tell the difference between one or the other.

    One giveaway is the separate power input into the black box to run the second circuit.
     
  18. Aug 29, 2015 #17

    Astronuc

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    IEEE has a list of definitions of electrical components/devices and electronic components from which one has to infer the meaning of 'electric/electrical' and 'electronic'.

    http://dictionary.ieee.org/index/e-3.html
    electric - Containing, producing, arising from, actuated by, or carrying electricity, or designed to carry electricity and capable of so doing. Examples: Electric eel, energy, motor, vehicle, wave.

    electric components - The electric equipment, assemblies, and conductors that together form the electric power systems.

    electrical equipment - A general term that is applied to materials, fittings, devices, fixtures, and apparatus that are a part of, or are used in connection with, an electrical installation. This includes the electrical power generating system; substations; distribution systems including cable and wiring; utilization equipment; and associated control, protective, and monitoring devices.

    http://dictionary.ieee.org/index/e-4.html
    electronic device - An electronic machine, usually a commercial product, that people commonly use and interact with in their work or home life. In this standard, “device” is used as a shorthand for “electronic device.”

    electronic equipment - In a generic sense, this refers to all analog and digital semiconductor-based equipment including data processing, telecommunications, process measurement and control, and other related electronic equipment and systems.

    It seems that electronic refers to controlling the flow of electrical systems, while electrical refers to systems that generate, transmit or use electric current.

    Passive would refer to components like resistors, while active would refer to capacitors and inductors.

    I believe electrical device and electronic device could both refer to thyristors or controlled rectifiers - depending.

    Relays may be passive or active.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2015
  19. Aug 29, 2015 #18

    nsaspook

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    Normally we classify resistors, capacitors and inductors as passive devices as we use the passive sign convention of voltage and current for all these devices. They (LCR) can have complex current and voltage relationships like a motor but it's still electric.
     
  20. Aug 29, 2015 #19

    Astronuc

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    I stand corrected.

    http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/semiconductors/chpt-1/active-versus-passive-devices/
     
  21. Aug 29, 2015 #20
    Electric: makes use of electrical and magnetic forces in any capacity.

    Electronic: makes use of "electronic" properties, ie, the physics of electrons, such as energy levels and band gaps. The "naive" explanation I've heard is that electronic machines are those where "electricity controls electricity", that is that they work by way of electrically-powered components manipulating electrical signals. They specifically are the machines that are both powered by electricity and manipulate electricity, rather than just using electricity to do physical work directly (ie a motor or light bulb).
     
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