Good beginners guide to electronics?

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9 posts
by kagaku » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:25 am
I'm a pretty seasoned programmer that has always wanted to get into hardware, however I don't have the knowledge to back it up. Unfortunately, there is no easy (that I know of) manual to teach myself electronics and hardware building. I know the basics of soldering, that electricity is AC/DC and it's the current that kills. That's about it.

Are there any books that you'd recommend to a beginner such as myself? I'm looking for the basics, how to read the markings on a resistor, how to wire up an LED so it doesn't burn out in 5 seconds, etc.. The goal is the learn how to effectively utilize the GPIO pins on my (backordered) Raspberry Pi.

So how about it, community, what books or resources do you recommend?
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by Lakes » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:59 pm
http://www.kpsec.freeuk.com/index.htm

Not seen myself, but is always recommended, Make:Electronics
http://www.makershed.com/product_p/9780596153748.htm

and of course, don`t forget Youtube :)
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by mahjongg » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:04 am
Perhaps "electronics for dummies".
http://www.amazon.com/Electronics-For-Dummies-Gordon-McComb/dp/0764576607
also available as .PDF book.
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by danpeirce » Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:37 pm
kagaku wrote: ...Unfortunately, there is no easy (that I know of) manual to teach myself electronics and hardware building. I know the basics of soldering, that electricity is AC/DC and it's the current that kills. That's about it.

Are there any books that you'd recommend to a beginner such as myself? I'm looking for the basics, how to read the markings on a resistor, how to wire up an LED so it doesn't burn out in 5 seconds, etc.. The goal is the learn how to effectively utilize the GPIO pins on my (backordered) Raspberry Pi.

So how about it, community, what books or resources do you recommend?

Google will bring up a lot of basic circuits and basic electronics information. Practicing and learning directly on the RPi GPIO pins is probably a bad idea. Arduino is set up for learning electronics and it is more forgiving. If you purchase an Arduino version that has the AVR MCU in a DIP socket it would be easy and inexpensive to replace the AVR if it is blown. The Girt board and perhaps some other expansion boards in the works could provide some buffering between the gpio and projects and this would protect you Raspberry Pi from damage.

I have 18 years experience working with electronics students in the lab as an Electronics Engineering Technology Lab Instructor and I would not get post secondary students working directly on the Raspberry Pi GPIO. Actually because of the long lead times in delivery of the Raspberry Pi I'm not going to touch those pins myself before the supply issues are resolved and I can have some spares on hand. I do have an interest in using the SPI pins but I can wait. People with experience with MCU's can connect one to the a USB port through an inexpensive FTDI board. Those without experience with MCU's could connect an Arduino to the USB port. One can program a MCU with a very tight little control loop that responds to IO with very low latency.
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by danpeirce » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:26 pm
Some resources on basic electronics
http://www.clear.rice.edu/elec201/Book/basic_elec.html --- very basic
http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/ -- start with the DC link
You will want to try some of the circuits. I'd start with simulations to try the circuits in the tutorials (you can cover a lot more ground a lot faster with simulations)
https://www.circuitlab.com/ --- one possible online place to try simulations
After working through tutorials try looking at the circuits shown in the Gert board manual. If there is still something there you don't understand you should be able to ask questions or perhaps google the component you are not familiar with.
http://www.element14.com/community/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadBody/48860-102-3-256002/Gertboard_User_Manual_Rev_1%200_F.pdf
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by jackokring » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:36 pm
Maybe having a look at the source code for spice. It does use differential equation solving and deals with large matrix algebra. But as it simulates, and spice models for components are available, the general principals such as ohms law, capacitance, inductance, impedance, amplification, the power law, feedback and gain control, over-voltage breakdown or arcing, over-current melting or atomic drift... The list goes on... It can take many years of study.
Pi=B256R0USB CL4SD8GB Raspbian Stock. https://sites.google.com/site/rubikcompression/strictly-long
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by danpeirce » Sun Aug 19, 2012 12:54 am
jackokring wrote:Maybe having a look at the source code for spice. It does use differential equation solving and deals with large matrix algebra. But as it simulates, and spice models for components are available, the general principals such as ohms law, capacitance, inductance, impedance, amplification, the power law, feedback and gain control, over-voltage breakdown or arcing, over-current melting or atomic drift... The list goes on... It can take many years of study.

You know I was suggesting using simulation to help investigate relatively simple circuits and not suggesting learning electronics by reverse engineering the software.
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by jackokring » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:05 am
danpeirce wrote:You know I was suggesting using simulation to help investigate relatively simple circuits and not suggesting learning electronics by reverse engineering the software.


The statement that a "seasoned programmer" wished to learn electronics, would not rule out looking into how simulation works in source. I could have repeated all that had been replied before, and I gave some concepts I'd hope to find in any basic text on electronics. I would not consider using text based spice without a good graphical GUI, but for someone who may (admittedly also may not, but not clear from content of posting) understand the source, it would be informative as it removes the thought that it's magic and replaces it with code simulates it like so.
Pi=B256R0USB CL4SD8GB Raspbian Stock. https://sites.google.com/site/rubikcompression/strictly-long
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by aideen » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:13 pm
Lots of good information at:
http://www.ladyada.net/learn/arduino/
and: http://adafruit.com/

Like anything else, having a good itch to scratch helps immensely in learning - sensors around home and garden can be a great starting point - esp. for those of us approaching the 'heating season'.
See also: http://openenergymonitor.org/emon/
and: http://jeelabs.org/

The other O'Reilly Make book "Making things Talk" (2nd Ed) is a good source of inspiration too (and a lovely book).
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