Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

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Hi,

I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to eventually
create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as guitar pedals
and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.

I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.

Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design some
circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow you to
drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as well?

Thanks,
Matt.

Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

> Hi,
>
> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to eventually
> create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as guitar pedals
> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>
> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>
> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design some
> circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow you to
> drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as well?
>
> Thanks,
> Matt.

LTSpice, from Linear Technology is nice, and free.  It doesn't have a
wide library of device models -- but it's free.

Modeling microprocessor behavior is more problematic.  If you want a
program that'll integrate the microprocessor into an analog circuit
model so you can investigate the interaction of software with the
circuit, you're out of luck.  Such programs, if they exist at all, would
cost in the high 10's of kilobucks, if not 100's of kilobucks.  Some
processor manufacturer's _do_ have simulations for their processors that
are nice, but they won't interact with an external model.

--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
We've slightly trimmed the long signature. Click to see the full one.
Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
>
>> Hi,
>>
>> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
>> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
>> guitar pedals and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start
>> small.
>>
>> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
>> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
>> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
>> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>>
>> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
>> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design some
>> circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow you
>> to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as well?
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Matt.
>
>
> LTSpice, from Linear Technology is nice, and free.  It doesn't have a
> wide library of device models -- but it's free.
>
> Modeling microprocessor behavior is more problematic.  If you want a
> program that'll integrate the microprocessor into an analog circuit
> model so you can investigate the interaction of software with the
> circuit, you're out of luck.  Such programs, if they exist at all, would
> cost in the high 10's of kilobucks, if not 100's of kilobucks.  Some
> processor manufacturer's _do_ have simulations for their processors that
> are nice, but they won't interact with an external model.
>


  Hey Tim. Check out the price list for Proteus VSM. It's not super
cheap, but it's way under $10,000 especially if you're a student. Just
today I simulated a PIC16F876 CCP1 in PWM mode --> 4th-order RC filter
network --> buffered DC by an OP193 spice model... true mixed-mode
simulation does exist! :)

-M


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

>
>>
>>> Hi,
>>>
>>> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
>>> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
>>> guitar pedals and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start
>>> small.
>>>
>>> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
>>> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
>>> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
>>> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>>>
>>> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
>>> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
>>> some circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow
>>> you to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as
>>> well?
>>>
>>> Thanks,
>>> Matt.
>>
>>
>>
>> LTSpice, from Linear Technology is nice, and free.  It doesn't have a
>> wide library of device models -- but it's free.
>>
>> Modeling microprocessor behavior is more problematic.  If you want a
>> program that'll integrate the microprocessor into an analog circuit
>> model so you can investigate the interaction of software with the
>> circuit, you're out of luck.  Such programs, if they exist at all,
>> would cost in the high 10's of kilobucks, if not 100's of kilobucks.  
>> Some processor manufacturer's _do_ have simulations for their
>> processors that are nice, but they won't interact with an external model.
>>
>
>
>  Hey Tim. Check out the price list for Proteus VSM. It's not super
> cheap, but it's way under $10,000 especially if you're a student. Just
> today I simulated a PIC16F876 CCP1 in PWM mode --> 4th-order RC filter
> network --> buffered DC by an OP193 spice model... true mixed-mode
> simulation does exist! :)
>
> -M

Well cool.  I will have to take a look.

What I really want is something that'll interface a PIC or AVR simulator
with a motion simulator like MatLab/Simulink -- but I understand that
I'm being excessively greedy, and will have to wait a while.

--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
We've slightly trimmed the long signature. Click to see the full one.
Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
> Hi,
>
> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to eventually
> create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as guitar pedals
> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>
> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>
> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design some
> circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow you to
> drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as well?
>
> Thanks,
> Matt.


  Hi Matt, there are tons of packages out there. One I remeber
starting with was called Circuit Shop. Their page is
http://www.cherrywoodsystems.com/cshop1.htm . It's cheap, has a demo,
and will definately keep you experimenting into the wee hours of the
morning. There are full-feature packages too which will simulate all
aspects of microcontrollers and tri-state electronics, but they are
not cheap of course. One you might want to look into Proteus VSM from
http://labcenter.co.uk . Any major package has it's own discrete
learning curve, I'd say it would be best to try out as many demos as
you can then stick with the one you like the best (and never look
back.) Switching between EE apps is very difficult.

  p.s. nice choice of email client! :)

-M


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
> Hi,
>
> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
eventually
> create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as guitar pedals

> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>
> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>
> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good

> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
some
> circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually allow you
to
> drop in popular microcontrollers and model their behaviour as well?
>
> Thanks,
> Matt.

Someones gotta say it... :->

Forget simulation software. The best way to learn is to get yourself
the following:
- A multimeter
- An oscilloscope
- A function generator
- A breadboard
- A bunch of components.

Then build stuff, you'll learn a lot more - really.
You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
Software ain't hands-on.

If you *really* want sofwtare, try something purpose designed here:
http://www.emona.com.au/catalogue/Section_23/index.html
I think I have seen them on ebay too.

Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
Regards
Dave :)



Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

> You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
> Software ain't hands-on.
> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
> Regards
> Dave :)

I would have agreed with this sentiment before I tried LTSpice.  It is,
in the parlance of our times, the shiznit.

LTSpice is certainly no substitute for actual bench work, especially for
a novice, but it can really help you understand *why* something doesn't
work the way you expect.  It is one of the most valuable troubleshooting
aids around.

-- jm

------------------------------------------------------
http://www.qsl.net/ke5fx
Note: My E-mail address has been altered to avoid spam
------------------------------------------------------


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
>> Hi,
>>
>> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
>> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
>> guitar pedals
>
>> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>>
>> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
>> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
>> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
>> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>>
>> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
>
>> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
>> some circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually
>> allow you to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their
>> behaviour as well?
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Matt.
>
> Someones gotta say it... :->
>
> Forget simulation software. The best way to learn is to get yourself
> the following:
> - A multimeter
> - An oscilloscope
> - A function generator
> - A breadboard
> - A bunch of components.
>
> Then build stuff, you'll learn a lot more - really.
> You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
> Software ain't hands-on.

>
> If you *really* want sofwtare, try something purpose designed here:
> http://www.emona.com.au/catalogue/Section_23/index.html
> I think I have seen them on ebay too.

EWB is crap and essentially useless. Its that sort of software that
literally forced me to write my own as I wasn't about to pay several
$1000 for PSpice.

>
> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
> Regards
> Dave :)

I disagree completly. Of course I strongly agree that there is no
substitute for hands on experience. I myself stated with electronic kits
at the age of 11. The real world gets you a feel that is most certainly
missing in simulation software. However...my opinion is that spice is
still a wonderful complement for beginners. It allows essentially, 95%
of the real world to be fully accounted for. There is so much you can
effectively do in spice and not keep blowing up components. The proof of
this is that in pro i.c design some can regularly ship 1st time product
on first past, and these can be very large circuits. *Today*, one
doesn't have to practise in the real world to learn how to do things in
the real world, flight simulators are proof of this.

Most arguments on not using spice are from, the well I didn't start that
way, so it aint goanna be useful. The world has moved on. One needs to
change ones mind set. For me, it would have been great to have had spice
all those years ago.


Kevin Aylward
snipped-for-privacy@anasoft.co.uk
http://www.anasoft.co.uk
SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.




Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

>>> Hi,
>>>
>>> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
>>> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
>>> guitar pedals
>>
>>> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>>>
>>> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some text
>>> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory, but
>>> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
>>> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>>>
>>> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be good
>>
>>> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
>>> some circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually
>>> allow you to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their
>>> behaviour as well?
>>>
>>> Thanks,
>>> Matt.
>>

Do a Google search on "Craig Anderton". Also "PAIA" and "Electronic
Projects for Musicians".

He wrote a couple of books in the '80's presenting interesting music
oriented electronics projects well within the grasp of a casual hobbiest.
Probably a bit dated now, but I'll bet he's still up to something similar.

Screw software. Get your hands dirty.


Bob


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

>EWB is crap and essentially useless.

That's about my opinion of EWB, as well.

Jon


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
> >> Hi,
> >>
> >> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
> >> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
> >> guitar pedals
> >
> >> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
> >>
> >> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some
text
> >> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory,
but
> >> I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so I'll be
> >> pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
> >>
> >> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be
good
> >
> >> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
> >> some circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually
> >> allow you to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their
> >> behaviour as well?
> >>
> >> Thanks,
> >> Matt.
> >
> > Someones gotta say it... :->
> >
> > Forget simulation software. The best way to learn is to get
yourself
> > the following:
> > - A multimeter
> > - An oscilloscope
> > - A function generator
> > - A breadboard
> > - A bunch of components.
> >
> > Then build stuff, you'll learn a lot more - really.
> > You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
> > Software ain't hands-on.
>
> >
> > If you *really* want sofwtare, try something purpose designed here:
> > http://www.emona.com.au/catalogue/Section_23/index.html
> > I think I have seen them on ebay too.
>
> EWB is crap and essentially useless. Its that sort of software that
> literally forced me to write my own as I wasn't about to pay several
> $1000 for PSpice.
>
> >
> > Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for
beginners.
> > Regards
> > Dave :)
>
> I disagree completly. Of course I strongly agree that there is no
> substitute for hands on experience. I myself stated with electronic
kits
> at the age of 11. The real world gets you a feel that is most
certainly
> missing in simulation software. However...my opinion is that spice is

> still a wonderful complement for beginners. It allows essentially,
95%
> of the real world to be fully accounted for. There is so much you can

> effectively do in spice and not keep blowing up components.

But that's the whole point. When you blow components up, when you wire
something in backwards, when you read the colour code wrong and goof up
a value, when you short something out, when you use your test
instrument incorrectly, when you load down your circuit, when your
opamp oscillates because the leads are too long, when your LED lights
up, when your speaker buzzes, when your relay clicks, when your circuit
doesn't work and you have to actually troubleshoot it - thats when you
actually LEARN!

None of this happens in software, unless you know the traps and
actually program them in! Catch 22?

Beginners need to play with hardware to start out with, not software.
Simulators can come later when you are more advanced and want to play
with the finer details.

I won't disagree that simulators are useful tools, they are great, and
are very useful for intermeadiate to advanced people.

I for one use CircuitMaker 2000 and it's great.

>The proof of
> this is that in pro i.c design some can regularly ship 1st time
product
> on first past, and these can be very large circuits.

The relevance to beginners?

>*Today*, one
> doesn't have to practise in the real world to learn how to do things
in
> the real world, flight simulators are proof of this.

You would trust your life to a pilot that has zero hours in the actual
air?
I wouldn't!

> Most arguments on not using spice are from, the well I didn't start
that
> way, so it aint goanna be useful. The world has moved on. One needs
to
> change ones mind set. For me, it would have been great to have had
spice
> all those years ago.

I'm not arguing that simulators aren't useful, they are. I'm arguing
that a beginner should not use them until they learn the REAL stuff
first.

Regards
Dave :)



Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
>>>> Hi,
>>>>
>>>> I'm interested in learning about circuitry as a hobby and to
>>>> eventually create a few small projects that I had in mind, such as
>>>> guitar pedals
>>>
>>>> and a few audio devices, but obviously I have to start small.
>>>>
>>>> I'm somewhat competent with programming/mathematics, have some
> text
>>>> books, and I do know a -little- analogue+digital circuit theory,
>>>> but I've never had a real hands-on attempt by myself before so
>>>> I'll be pretty much attacking this as though I know nothing.
>>>>
>>>> Can anyone recommend some software (free or cheap) that would be
>>>> good
>>>
>>>> for a beginner to use to learn about circuit behaviour and design
>>>> some circuits with?  Are there programs out there that actually
>>>> allow you to drop in popular microcontrollers and model their
>>>> behaviour as well?
>>>>
>>>> Thanks,
>>>> Matt.
>>>
>>> Someones gotta say it... :->
>>>
>>> Forget simulation software. The best way to learn is to get
> yourself
>>> the following:
>>> - A multimeter
>>> - An oscilloscope
>>> - A function generator
>>> - A breadboard
>>> - A bunch of components.
>>>
>>> Then build stuff, you'll learn a lot more - really.
>>> You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
>>> Software ain't hands-on.
>>
>>>
>>> If you *really* want sofwtare, try something purpose designed here:
>>> http://www.emona.com.au/catalogue/Section_23/index.html
>>> I think I have seen them on ebay too.
>>
>> EWB is crap and essentially useless. Its that sort of software that
>> literally forced me to write my own as I wasn't about to pay several
>> $1000 for PSpice.
>>
>>>
>>> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for
>>> beginners. Regards
>>> Dave :)
>>
>> I disagree completly. Of course I strongly agree that there is no
>> substitute for hands on experience. I myself stated with electronic
>> kits at the age of 11. The real world gets you a feel that is most
>> certainly missing in simulation software. However...my opinion is
>> that spice is
>
>> still a wonderful complement for beginners. It allows essentially,
> 95%
>> of the real world to be fully accounted for. There is so much you can
>
>> effectively do in spice and not keep blowing up components.
>
> But that's the whole point. When you blow components up, when you wire
> something in backwards, when you read the colour code wrong and goof
> up a value, when you short something out, when you use your test
> instrument incorrectly, when you load down your circuit, when your
> opamp oscillates because the leads are too long, when your LED lights
> up, when your speaker buzzes, when your relay clicks, when your
> circuit doesn't work and you have to actually troubleshoot it - thats
> when you actually LEARN!

Yes, but this is just one/some of the aspects. One does exactly the same
trouble shooting in the virtual world. Sure, there are a few effects
that would not be put into the model by beginners, but so what.
Beginners aren't going to get things perfect anyway.


>
> None of this happens in software, unless you know the traps and
> actually program them in! Catch 22?
>
> Beginners need to play with hardware to start out with, not software.

What *actual* real evidence do you have that this is a good way to start
learning circuit practise, other than a gut feeling?


> Simulators can come later when you are more advanced and want to play
> with the finer details.

I simply don't agree. You have to walk before you can run. Simulators
can get you walking in lesser time with less bother. You simply don't
have to worry about getting all these supplies of parts together.

Simulaters are not restricted to the finer details. Indeed their ability
to use ideal models makes it much easier to get the feel for the core
ideas.

>
> I won't disagree that simulators are useful tools, they are great, and
> are very useful for intermeadiate to advanced people.

And absolutly for beginners as well. As noted, I don't disagree in
anyway of what you said about the value of real bench work, my point is
that there are many other of equally useful things to be learned by
beginners using spice. For starters, its so much easier to get something
up and running and plot waveforms. There are many things that it is very
difficult to do in the real world.

As I also noted, its a paradigm shift. One needs to get in step with the
times.

>
> I for one use CircuitMaker 2000 and it's great.
>
>> The proof of
>> this is that in pro i.c design some can regularly ship 1st time
>> product on first past, and these can be very large circuits.
>
> The relevance to beginners?

The relevance of this is that lab work can actually be dispensed with in
real life. We have proof that simulation can, on many occasions, be all
that is needed to make real world designs.

>
>> *Today*, one
>> doesn't have to practise in the real world to learn how to do things
>> in the real world, flight simulators are proof of this.
>
> You would trust your life to a pilot that has zero hours in the actual
> air?
> I wouldn't!

Thats besides the point.

Planes, today, essentially, don't need pilots at all.

>
>> Most arguments on not using spice are from, the well I didn't start
>> that way, so it aint goanna be useful. The world has moved on. One
>> needs
> to
>> change ones mind set. For me, it would have been great to have had
>> spice all those years ago.
>
> I'm not arguing that simulators aren't useful, they are. I'm arguing
> that a beginner should not use them until they learn the REAL stuff
> first.
>

My argument is that yes, beginners should, today, be using simulators
from day one in *addition* to doing real bench work. For the most part
it truly makes no difference whether someone wires up transistors on the
bench or on a computer screen. Sure there are a few differences, as we
know, like blowing up devices, but this is irrelevant. *Most* of
electronics can be learned in the virtual world. This is a simple fact.
Your arguing that just because spice is not 100% exact, we shouldnt use
it as a key tool tool. I disagree.


Kevin Aylward
snipped-for-privacy@anasoft.co.uk
http://www.anasoft.co.uk
SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.




Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
> > But that's the whole point. When you blow components up, when you
wire
> > something in backwards, when you read the colour code wrong and
goof
> > up a value, when you short something out, when you use your test
> > instrument incorrectly, when you load down your circuit, when your
> > opamp oscillates because the leads are too long, when your LED
lights
> > up, when your speaker buzzes, when your relay clicks, when your
> > circuit doesn't work and you have to actually troubleshoot it -
thats
> > when you actually LEARN!
>
> Yes, but this is just one/some of the aspects. One does exactly the
same
> trouble shooting in the virtual world. Sure, there are a few effects
> that would not be put into the model by beginners, but so what.
> Beginners aren't going to get things perfect anyway.

If they don't get things perfect in a simulator then they can be just
wasting their time driving the software instead of solving a "real
world" problem. Some packages are better or worse at this of course,
but the point is the same.
Anything you do on the breadboard is 100% REAL practical electronics
guaranteed.

> > None of this happens in software, unless you know the traps and
> > actually program them in! Catch 22?
> >
> > Beginners need to play with hardware to start out with, not
software.
>
> What *actual* real evidence do you have that this is a good way to
start
> learning circuit practise, other than a gut feeling?

You've got to be kidding right?
The question is not whether real hardware is any good - you, me, and
the rest of the real electronics world all learnt on real hardware.
Even you have admitted that one *needs* real practical experience (in
addition to simulators).
The question is whether simulators add any value to real practical
experience. The answer is of course YES, they do add value, anything
involving electronics adds value, even if it's a software simulator. No
one doubts that I'm sure.

Do beginners NEED simulators? The answer is obviously NO. As I said,
you me and the rest of the electronics world didn't need it, so niether
do beginners today.

Should beginners use simulators?
My answer is it's up to them and is purely a personal decision. My
opinion as a practical electronics designer who uses both techniques is
that a beginner should not touch simulators until they have learn the
basics. I do not need to justify that, it's my opinion based on own
experience and that other others I know.

I feel that a beginer will get a better grounding in *practical*
electronics if they use hardware. After all, electronics is a
*practical* field (unless you become a uni lecturer :->) and the end
result is that you have to design something and make it work, more
often than not based on many compromises and overcoming many practical
hurdles that simulators can't or won't show easily.

> And absolutly for beginners as well. As noted, I don't disagree in
> anyway of what you said about the value of real bench work, my point
is
> that there are many other of equally useful things to be learned by
> beginners using spice. For starters, its so much easier to get
something
> up and running and plot waveforms. There are many things that it is
very
> difficult to do in the real world.

Yes, but the real world is what they will have to deal with sooner or
later.

> As I also noted, its a paradigm shift. One needs to get in step with
the
> times.

A lot of people say the same thing about digital design. I shudder
everytime I hear someone recommend that a beginner learn VHDL and
FPGA's because that's the "modern" method. Insane.

> The relevance of this is that lab work can actually be dispensed with
in
> real life. We have proof that simulation can, on many occasions, be
all
> that is needed to make real world designs.



> My argument is that yes, beginners should, today, be using simulators

> from day one in *addition* to doing real bench work. For the most
part
> it truly makes no difference whether someone wires up transistors on
the
> bench or on a computer screen. Sure there are a few differences, as
we
> know, like blowing up devices, but this is irrelevant. *Most* of
> electronics can be learned in the virtual world. This is a simple
fact.
> Your arguing that just because spice is not 100% exact, we shouldnt
use
> it as a key tool tool. I disagree.

Spoken exactly like a Spice software developer *sigh*
I did not say simulators should not be used as key tool, I said they
should not be used by beginners for several reasons:

- They don't teach practical hardware and construction related problems
- They can be confusing to understand and drive, and yes they make
mistakes if you don't drive them correctly.
- They don't give you any real world feedback that makes electronics
FUN. Eg, LEDs don't light, meters don't move, speakers don't beep. To
me that's SAD.

Remember I am talking about complete BEGINNERS here! The ones who have
barely understood ohms law and it's implications and don't know how to
hook up a multimeter, and you want them to drive a simulator??

That's not to say that I don't think *software* is bad for beginners,
the tutorial ones that are purpose designed for beginners look to be
really good although I have not tried them. Proper circuit simulators
(like your one) on the other hand are designed for more advanced users,
they are not designed for beginners. Of course that's just my
opinion...

Regards
Dave :)



Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
>>> But that's the whole point. When you blow components up, when you
>>> wire something in backwards, when you read the colour code wrong and
> goof
>>> up a value, when you short something out, when you use your test
>>> instrument incorrectly, when you load down your circuit, when your
>>> opamp oscillates because the leads are too long, when your LED
>>> lights up, when your speaker buzzes, when your relay clicks, when
>>> your circuit doesn't work and you have to actually troubleshoot it
>>> - thats when you actually LEARN!
>>
>> Yes, but this is just one/some of the aspects. One does exactly the
>> same trouble shooting in the virtual world. Sure, there are a few
>> effects that would not be put into the model by beginners, but so
>> what. Beginners aren't going to get things perfect anyway.
>
> If they don't get things perfect in a simulator then they can be just
> wasting their time driving the software instead of solving a "real
> world" problem. Some packages are better or worse at this of course,
> but the point is the same.
> Anything you do on the breadboard is 100% REAL practical electronics
> guaranteed.

But often meaningless. Getting a one off to work on the bench usually
has little value for production purposes. Simulation gets one into the
habit of doing far more variations on circuits that are simple not
practical to do in the real world.

>
>>> None of this happens in software, unless you know the traps and
>>> actually program them in! Catch 22?
>>>
>>> Beginners need to play with hardware to start out with, not
>>> software.
>>
>> What *actual* real evidence do you have that this is a good way to
>> start learning circuit practise, other than a gut feeling?
>
> You've got to be kidding right?

No.

> The question is not whether real hardware is any good - you, me, and
> the rest of the real electronics world all learnt on real hardware.

This is no argument to justify that we still do it that way.

> Even you have admitted that one *needs* real practical experience (in
> addition to simulators).

That's right.

What I am saying is this. What is the real emperical evidence that those
that learn basics on simulators are worse off than those that learn the
basics on the real thing. Assumptions are not valid. I doubt if any
study has ever been done on this. What I do know is this. 100's of new
graduates go to i.c. design companies and use spice from day one, and
produce viable product, er...sometimes..

> The question is whether simulators add any value to real practical
> experience. The answer is of course YES, they do add value, anything
> involving electronics adds value, even if it's a software simulator.
> No one doubts that I'm sure.
>
> Do beginners NEED simulators? The answer is obviously NO. As I said,
> you me and the rest of the electronics world didn't need it, so
> niether do beginners today.

Do beginners NEED real breadboards. For analogue i.c design, my answer
is a definite no. We don't use bread boards in i.c. design. When they
were used, they were dubious at best.

>
> Should beginners use simulators?

Absolutely yes. The reality is that here are many things you can't do in
the real world. Try running 1000 component variations.

Try making accurate measurements without oscilloscope ground bounce. I
can tell you this, investigating current in components is very difficult
in the real world. Doing so in simulation allows you to *really* see
things that are hidden in a *practical* lab bench.

> My answer is it's up to them and is purely a personal decision. My
> opinion as a practical electronics designer who uses both techniques
> is that a beginner should not touch simulators until they have learn
> the basics.

My experience as being both a hobbyist, from age 11 to 20s+ and as both
a pro professional board and i.c. analogue design engineer for over 20
years is that spice is indispensable *today*.

> I do not need to justify that, it's my opinion based on
> own experience and that other others I know.

For me you do. My experience tells me different. I have spent 10,000's
of hours on the bench and 10,000's of hours on simulators. Both are
usfull, in general, *today*. You cant compete anymore with a bench
"design". i.e. to all intents and purposes.

>
> I feel that a beginer will get a better grounding in *practical*
> electronics if they use hardware.

Of course, if beginners use hardware they will get a good grounding just
as they will in using simulators. I am not arguing for an either one or
the other, I am stating that *today* both are required to become an
effective designer. Without using a simulator, you are at a major
disadvantage to these that do. The sooner you get started using a
simulater, the better.

> After all, electronics is a
> *practical* field (unless you become a uni lecturer :->) and the end
> result is that you have to design something and make it work, more
> often than not based on many compromises and overcoming many practical
> hurdles that simulators can't or won't show easily.

As I said, simulators show 1000's of things that *don't* show up on the
bench until its too late. Absolutely, *more* things show up in a
simulation than can possible be seen on a one off bench suck it and se
design.

>
>> And absolutly for beginners as well. As noted, I don't disagree in
>> anyway of what you said about the value of real bench work, my point
>> is that there are many other of equally useful things to be learned
>> by beginners using spice. For starters, its so much easier to get
>> something up and running and plot waveforms. There are many things
>> that it is very difficult to do in the real world.
>
> Yes, but the real world is what they will have to deal with sooner or
> later.

That's why they need simulators. Its called Monty Carlo and Worst Case
for starters. Or for example, try actually trying to measure loop gain
in the real world. Try probing current at any node in a circuit, at any
time. Its a no contest. Its simply not doable in the real world.

>
>> As I also noted, its a paradigm shift. One needs to get in step with
>> the times.
>
> A lot of people say the same thing about digital design. I shudder
> everytime I hear someone recommend that a beginner learn VHDL and
> FPGA's because that's the "modern" method. Insane.

I don't see any problem with this, in principle. There is nothing, other
than speed, that cant be done in software. Who cares about trivial
little gates. We are away beyond that now. Again, just because you
learnt that way, dont mean it is a good way today.

>
>> The relevance of this is that lab work can actually be dispensed
>> with in real life. We have proof that simulation can, on many
>> occasions, be all that is needed to make real world designs.
>
>
>
>> My argument is that yes, beginners should, today, be using simulators
>
>> from day one in *addition* to doing real bench work. For the most
> part
>> it truly makes no difference whether someone wires up transistors on
>> the bench or on a computer screen. Sure there are a few differences,
>> as
> we
>> know, like blowing up devices, but this is irrelevant. *Most* of
>> electronics can be learned in the virtual world. This is a simple
>> fact. Your arguing that just because spice is not 100% exact, we
>> shouldnt use it as a key tool tool. I disagree.
>
> Spoken exactly like a Spice software developer *sigh*

No. See above, i.e Software is only a hobby of mine. I wrote SS because
I personally wanted it to do designs with as an anlogue engineer.

For example, see
http://www.anasoft.co.uk/Mospoweramp2.jpg.

This circuit does < 0.001 THD. Evaluating each configuration for its
effect on distortion would have been, essentially, impossible in the
real world. Spice allows every cascode, emitter follower etc to be
examined for their effectiveness in distortion reduction over the whole
frequency range in seconds.

> I did not say simulators should not be used as key tool, I said they
> should not be used by beginners for several reasons:
>
> - They don't teach practical hardware and construction related
> problems

Irrelevant for beginner i.c. designers.

> - They can be confusing to understand and drive,

As can the real world.

>and yes they make
> mistakes if you don't drive them correctly.
> - They don't give you any real world feedback that makes electronics
> FUN. Eg, LEDs don't light, meters don't move, speakers don't beep. To
> me that's SAD.

Not to me:-)

>
> Remember I am talking about complete BEGINNERS here!

I know.

>The ones who have
> barely understood ohms law and it's implications and don't know how to
> hook up a multimeter, and you want them to drive a simulator??

Yes. A simulator is easier. You don't need to hook up meters at all. You
just click on wires and pins. A simulater can give background on what to
expect in the real world.

Again, its a paradigm shift.

>
> That's not to say that I don't think *software* is bad for beginners,
> the tutorial ones that are purpose designed for beginners look to be
> really good although I have not tried them. Proper circuit simulators
> (like your one) on the other hand are designed for more advanced
> users, they are not designed for beginners. Of course that's just my
> opinion...
>

I agree that SS is not designed for beginners, but its so easy to use
that beginners should be able to use it with far less instruction than
would be required for them to get a real circuit working.

Kevin Aylward
snipped-for-privacy@anasoft.co.uk
http://www.anasoft.co.uk
SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.




Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?

> After all, electronics is a
> *practical* field (unless you become a uni lecturer :->)

Or a software salesman...


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
> Someones gotta say it... :->
>
> Forget simulation software. The best way to learn is to get yourself
> the following:
> - A multimeter
> - An oscilloscope
> - A function generator
> - A breadboard
> - A bunch of components.
>
> Then build stuff, you'll learn a lot more - really.
> You said it yourself, you don't have enough "hands-on" experience.
> Software ain't hands-on.
>
> If you *really* want sofwtare, try something purpose designed here:
> http://www.emona.com.au/catalogue/Section_23/index.html
> I think I have seen them on ebay too.
>
> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
> Regards
> Dave :)
>

Very true.  Understanding comes through the fingers, not just from reading
or software.  Electronics will be a dead subject to you if you don't get
stuff working.  I have seen this - even in qualified electronics engineers.
Some people wait until they know exactly what they are doing - but they
never get started.  The practice and concepts feed on each other.

Step one is go to an electronics shop or tech bookshop and look at the
books, then *buy* some books you feel will get you started.  I wouldn't rely
only on internet information - get real books.

Even those "test bench in software" tools with a pretend oscilloscope, power
supply, generator will waste your time.

For a start, you can get going with a multimeter, small power supply and
breadboard.  Go to Radio Shack etc and see what is available. The breadboard
you want has a forest of holes 0.1 inch apart for you to poke in component
leads.  You can read your books, build, modify and learn.  Make lights
flash, speakers beep.

best wishes
Roger




Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?


>
>> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
>
>Very true.  Understanding comes through the fingers, not just from reading
>or software.  Electronics will be a dead subject to you if you don't get
>stuff working.  I have seen this - even in qualified electronics engineers.
>Some people wait until they know exactly what they are doing - but they
>never get started.  The practice and concepts feed on each other.
>
>Step one is go to an electronics shop or tech bookshop and look at the
>books, then *buy* some books you feel will get you started.  I wouldn't rely
>only on internet information - get real books.
>
>Even those "test bench in software" tools with a pretend oscilloscope, power
>supply, generator will waste your time.
>
>For a start, you can get going with a multimeter, small power supply and
>breadboard.  Go to Radio Shack etc and see what is available. The breadboard
>you want has a forest of holes 0.1 inch apart for you to poke in component
>leads.  You can read your books, build, modify and learn.  Make lights
>flash, speakers beep.

I agree 100%  In particular, run away from the "we put in 10,000
features whether or not anyone needs them" sort of SPICE program.
That would be like learning how to operate a nuclear reactor when
what you really need is a flashlight battery.  The time spent
learning the clunky human interface that only a programmer who
holds all lesser mortals in contempt could love is better spent
learning circuits.  

Also, there is a great book that you should get.  It's called
"The Art of Electronics" (often referred to as "AoE" here).
See http://www.artofelectronics.com/ for details.

--
Guy Macon <http://www.guymacon.com



Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
On Mon, 29 Nov 2004 18:15:28 +0000, Guy Macon <http://www.guymacon.com

>
>Roger Lascelles wrote:
>
>>David L. Jones wrote:
>>
>>> Forget the "spice" type packages, they are not suitable for beginners.
>>
>>Very true.  Understanding comes through the fingers, not just from reading
>>or software.  Electronics will be a dead subject to you if you don't get
>>stuff working.  I have seen this - even in qualified electronics engineers.
>>Some people wait until they know exactly what they are doing - but they
>>never get started.  The practice and concepts feed on each other.
>>
>>Step one is go to an electronics shop or tech bookshop and look at the
>>books, then *buy* some books you feel will get you started.  I wouldn't rely
>>only on internet information - get real books.
>>
>>Even those "test bench in software" tools with a pretend oscilloscope, power
>>supply, generator will waste your time.
>>
>>For a start, you can get going with a multimeter, small power supply and
>>breadboard.  Go to Radio Shack etc and see what is available. The breadboard
>>you want has a forest of holes 0.1 inch apart for you to poke in component
>>leads.  You can read your books, build, modify and learn.  Make lights
>>flash, speakers beep.
>
>I agree 100%  In particular, run away from the "we put in 10,000
>features whether or not anyone needs them" sort of SPICE program.
>That would be like learning how to operate a nuclear reactor when
>what you really need is a flashlight battery.  The time spent
>learning the clunky human interface that only a programmer who
>holds all lesser mortals in contempt could love is better spent
>learning circuits.  
>
>Also, there is a great book that you should get.  It's called
>"The Art of Electronics" (often referred to as "AoE" here).
>See http://www.artofelectronics.com/ for details.

Another vote for AoE here. If the OP only gets one book, that's the one.

On the SPICE issue, my preference is BeigeBag Spice. I've used it for
years; have NOT sampled many of the others, though.
www.beigebag.com/products

--
Rich Webb   Norfolk, VA


Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
Quoted text here. Click to load it

I will recomend my SuperSpice (http://www.anasoft.co.uk ), as the GUI is
very easy to use.

The demo version can actually allow quite large circuits to be built.

Of particlar relevence is that support for the demo is also free, by
someone who also knows a fair bit about music based electonics, hint:
http://www.anasoft.co.uk/founder.html . If your into tubes, it comes with
a full set, even includes humbucking pickup symbols
http://www.anasoft.co.uk/screenshot.html

Kevin Aylward
snipped-for-privacy@anasoft.co.uk
http://www.anasoft.co.uk
SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.



Re: Software for a beginner to design and learn about circuits with?
Quoted text here. Click to load it
is

I have not played with your software, but after looking at the screen
shot here http://www.anasoft.co.uk/screenshot.html I've got to say that
surely you must be kidding!
You would recommend this to a "beginner"???

Look at all those buttons "Sc N I M Ot G Lg D FF P Tx Rr aa ss so PO DD
R G N II ac itf tr fft ff", and what is all that spice stuff in the
Model window?
Geeze, my mind boggles just looking at it all, and I know what it's all
about!

You seriously expect a "beginner" in electronics to digest all that and
know how to use it effectively?, let alone effectively enough to
actually learn useful practical things?

BTW, I'm not bagging your product, so please don't take this as an
insult, I'm sure it's a fine simulator package. I'm just saying that I
wouldn't recommend this to a "beginner" in a blind fit. No doubt though
you'll go tell me to try it... so I'll pre-empt that (:-P) by saying
the screen is way too "busy" and technical for a beginner.

A few people have bagged Electronics Workbench, but at least it is
designed for the beginner types with it's virtual instruments,
simple/drop interface, and hides the technical stuff like spice
commands etc. At least it was like that when I played with the 16bit
version.

Actually I like the look of the "Electronics tutorial" CDs that I
posted a link to before. They seem to show photos of real components,
how to indentify them, and then lets you simulate building basic blocks
etc. Anyone actually tried it?

I don't think anyone has actually touch on one very important aspect of
actually building stuff instead of using simulators. It's FUN! and
actually holds your interest and makes you want to learn more.
Simulators don't do that, at least for me and every other practical
engineer I know.

Regards


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