Beginner Electroinic

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I've been programming since I was a young kid; but only recently have I
gotten into electronics.  I picked up a basic 300 in 1 kit from Radio
Shack and started building a couple of the projects, but it was obvious
that these were for kids and the instructions didn't really go into much
detail about basic electronics.

I'm at the point now where I'd really like to be building my own
projects, but I'm limiting myself to kits that have all the electronics
already built for me (or step-by-step instructions on how to put it
together).  I'm starting back to school in the fall, but cannot take any
electronic courses until I complete at least two semesters of physics.
I'll get into those courses as soon as I can, but I'd like to get
started as soon as possible.

Basically, I'm not looking at becoming an electrical engineer --I enjoy
programming too much.  I am, however, very interested in building a few
small projects and hoping to get a better understanding of circuit
design so that I have at least _somewhat_ of a clue what the hardware
guys are talking about if I ever get a job developing firmware on a
professional level.

Can you please recommend me a place to get started?  I would imagine
books are going to be very useful, so any recommendations would be
greatly appreciated.  My primary interest is in robotic development.
I've read a little about H-Bridges and such, but my understanding is
somewhat limited.

I thank you much in advance,

--
Sean

Re: Beginner Electroinic

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A good book, that should last you for quite some while, is "The Art of
Electronics" byPaul Horowitz & Winfield Hill. This covers the majority of
the theory side that you will require and would also be useful through any
course of study you undertake.

I am not sure how good they are these days but the magazine that got me
started was Practical Electronics <http://www.epemag.wimborne.co.uk/ . They
used to run a number of project articles that had all sorts of useful (and
not so useful) little gadgets to build. Other magazines, like Electronics
and Wireless World and Elektor did similar things, and I am sure that some
of those on the USA side of the Atlantic will advise the American
publications soon enough. I know they have something called Circuit Cellar
over there too.

If you can find one near to you perhaps joining an Amatuer Radio Club might
also give you a lead in to some practical projects (but be careful as it
can also be a very addictive hobby - sometimes more so than programming).
Such clubs will have a number of knowledgable mentors who could answer
those awkward questions and aid your understanding of the subject.

As for when you get a job, I would tend to hire someone who can do both the
hardware and software aspects of a project in equal measure. I would also
expect a failry wide range of interest in other topics outside of embedded
systems (especially in other physical and theoretical sciences, social
past-times etc. - so don't neglect those aspects either).

Best of luck in your endeavours.

--
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Re: Beginner Electroinic

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Personally, I found this a very good book after I already knew some
basic AC theory. I don't think it's a good introduction for a raw
novice. Maybe it should be coupled with a standard introductory textbook
explaining basic circuit theory in more depth.

Al

Re: Beginner Electroinic
Hello Al,

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But it does start with pretty basic stuff like "what is an inductor".
That has helped me in explaining, for example, a switch mode converter
to others (use of an inductor as an energy storage device).

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: Beginner Electroinic

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I'm like the OP (Sean Fao); most of my work has been programming.  I bought
"Art of Electronics" a few years ago, but found it much more comprehensible
after I'd taken some DC and AC theory classes in a local community college.
The book we're using in those classes is Electronic Fundamentals (Floyd),
and I think it's a really good introduction.  However, Floyd chooses to
discuss AC circuits without using any mathematics more involved than
multiplication, division, square and square root, sine, cosine, tangent, and
arctangent.  I did some outside reading (including Art of Electronics) and
finally realized why complex numbers are useful and easier to use for AC
theory, so I'm using those instead.  As for the more complicated mathematics
of AC circuits, Laplace Transforms aren't something I need to bother with
right now, but perhaps in the future.

Wayne


Re: Beginner Electroinic
Hello Wayne,

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In day to day design work that's really all you need. There will be the
occasional integral but you can always use a nifty approximation.

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That stuff is the "upper room" of electronic design, just short of
Maxwell's equations they pestered us with at the university.

One very useful tool is Spice and you can obtain a free version
(LTSpice) from Linear Technology. Nice GUI, lots of helpful tools. Then
you can try "what-if" scenarios on the PC without any capacitors and
stuff blowing up in your face. IOW you can draw a circuit or part of it,
see if it does what you expected and then build it.

Then, for down-to-earth RF design there is the "ARRL Handbook". This is
also a very good book to get started in electronics pretty much from
scratch. But the goal towards the end is more RF than anything else.

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: Beginner Electroinic

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Point taken on the book (you could have put a more complete reference for
the Floyd ie: Title/Author/Publisher/ISBN - it helps when searching for the
book on-line or in stores). As one of the early respondents and suggestors
of Art of Electronics I had also reccommended the OP joined a local amatuer
radio or electronics club where he could have gained some of that useful
initial guidance.

On the maths front, yes, math with complex numbers is easier when dealing
with AC circuits than having to remember whether you need to use
Squares/Square Roots Sine/Cosine etc. You will probably need to eventually
but much of the graft is taken out by using the complex math and keeping
the real and imaginary parts separate until you need the real result. I
have seen some components whose impedances are actually quoted as a complex
number pair.

As for Laplace and the rest of Calculus. Due to having an absolutely awful
maths tutor I never really got that stuff while at college. My Electrical
and Electronics Theory Tutors were always amazed that I turned in so much
homework in complex math (albeit correctly) rather than do so much less
written work in calculus. Still, in over 30 years of career I have never
really needed the calculus stuff but still use the complex math regularly
enough. Some of my Forth programmes utilise the complex math techniques to
keep calculations simple enough to manage easily.

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Re: Beginner Electroinic

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and
to
the
amatuer
complex

Paul, you're right about needing to cite the book more plainly.  The ISBN
for the Floyd book I'm using is
0131111388, and the amazon.com link is
(Amazon.com product link shortened) .

Thanks for your perspective on the Laplace Transforms.  Sounds like what I'm
learning now will serve me well enough.  I've also found that the TI-89
calculator is well-suited for the classwork; I can input complex impedances
in rectangular form (real + imaginary impedances), and it can automatically
display them in polar form (magnitude and degrees of phase angle).

Wayne



Re: Beginner Electroinic
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It's amazing how much you can do with the TI-89 once you learn how!  I
hated it when I first bought it because all my math instructors used the
TI-83 in their classes; but once I figured out where everything was, I
was living large!  And boy does it ever come in handy when calculus
throws in a Z-axes ;-).

--
Sean

Re: Beginner Electroinic
You might try "Designing Embedded Hardware" by John Catsoulis,
published by O'Reilly.


Re: Beginner Electroinic
Hello Sean,

"The Art of Electronics" is what I also would suggest. It was one of the
best investments I ever did. This is the book I use most to explain
electronics to others. By now I probably should get some royalties for
all the sales this created...

With respect to robot stuff check out this company:

http://www.sparkfun.com/shop/index.php?shop=1&cart18%9389&cat81%&

No, I am not at all affiliated with them but bought a few MSP430 header
boards there and the prices were really good. So it's also a good place
if you want to get your hands onto micro controller porgramming but
don't want to spend an arm and a leg. The SW tools are mostly free, at
least with Texas Instruments if you limit yourself in code size.

Regards, Joerg

http://www.analogconsultants.com

Re: Beginner Electroinic

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I
obvious
much
electronics
any
physics.

Check these out:

http://www.imaginetools.com /

http://www.coridiumcorp.com /


Re: Beginner Electroinic
Thank you for all the recommendations.  I'll check into the books
listed.  I'm sure I have a long way to go; but hopefully this will give
me a good jump start.

Hopefully I'll see you guys again soon,

--
Sean

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