The difference is the entire philosophy on constructing a work. Electronics is highly scientific, and as such comes from a methodic progression of ideas and constructions, connected together. The real art is connecting the proper building blocks together to accomplish a given function.
Given that, there are many circuits that apply both linear and interconnected topologies (arrangements, whatever).
Here's a good example of a series of stages. On the left it begins with a common-cathode preamplifier stage, a summing paragraph as it were. (It does in fact accomplish summation, if you add a signal to the RCA jack as well.) The next triode (circle) splits this signal into two identical but opposite signals for the next stages to build on. The next stage, in the middle, amplifies the signal further, preserving balance between the opposite signals. The second last stage increases the current capacity of the signal, allowing it to drive the last tube, which finally turns wiggling guitar strings into wiggling speaker cones, after the output transformer.
It's like I asked you to do this on a calculator: Enter 7. Multiply by 4. Add 6. Divide by 3.4. Press equal button and read answer. Every operation performs some modification of the signal as it passes each stage. It flows through every one and is processed in full.
Now on the other hand, you might have something like this:
I'll help you out. Each pair of transistors (in the circles) facing each other works together: when one or the other is turned on (positive voltage on the straight line), the collector (diagonal line) is pulled down near emitter (diagonal arrow). Say you pull down the upper-left collector node: the voltage is transferred through the resistors, removing voltage from the inside upper-right transistor. If the outside upper-right transistor is off too, then the collector node will rise near +V, which puts voltage on the inside upper-left transistor -- which you'll recall is already on, holding its collector near zero (ground). Thus, it holds itself in one state or the other depending on which input was last triggered, otherwise known as a register. But there's those other resistors that connect to the diodes, which then connect to the bottom half register, which behaves in the same way, and also to the two transistors at the bottom. The two bottom transistors handle the only input.
What ends up happening is, by way of everything storing, interacting and switching, the P1 and P2 signals alternate every other clock pulse, which is to say the clock frequency has been divided by two.
But creating these. It's different from writing, you just jump in. (This is my first, and last, draft of this post! ;) Jumping into say, designing an 8-bit computer from scratch, now that's a little more troublesome. I mentioned you always start from simpler things. In electronics, the first thing you learn about is the circuit, a switch and lightbulb. Then you might add a resistor, or two, and determine what happens to the voltages depending on the resistances. (Hint: I hope you know some algebra.) Then you can get into nonlinear (nonohmic) components like diodes and transistors. You determine how the diode, transistor, etc. behave, then apply it to other things, like your resistors. If you consider how the transitor works, you can pretty quickly come up with a very high gain amplifier. If you're clever, you can come up with a voltage regulator too, and all other sorts of stiff, constant-voltage circuits. If you combine both, you get an audio power amplifier!
The real genious in electronics is coming up with original connections. One fellow back in the 1920s had the marvellous idea of sending an amplifier's output back to its input. Applied properly, you get negative feedback which reduces distortion. If you apply it backwards (positive feedback), you can get an oscillator, making radio possible.
Taken to an extreme, all of today's linear amplifiers use astounding amounts of NFB -- a factor on the order of thousands -- to reduce distortion and improve bandwidth, with wonderful results.
-- Deep Fryer: a very philosophical monk. Website:
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