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  • EEVblog #302 – Electronics Beginner Advice

    Posted on July 3rd, 2012 EEVblog 8 comments


    Walk Time Rant
    Answer to a question on the EEVblog forum – should you design a kit in order to learn electronics?

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    8 responses to “EEVblog #302 – Electronics Beginner Advice” RSS icon

    • Kingdom for a pic of Dave’s walking camera rig!

    • I’m a one-man kit designer and producer for ham radio related devices.

      In addition to all the technical related matters Dave identifies, don’t forget all the business related issues. Pricing, writing assembly and operating manuals, keeping track of cost of goods sold for tax returns, filing (in the USA) monthly sales tax returns, shipping and receiving, billing and collecting, etc. At the end of the year, plan on spending a couple months working on tax returns where all those receipts for shipping, parts orders, etc. have to be put into the correct form to generate your tax return.

      Also don’t forget all the local government units with their hands held out for various permits and fees, and annual renewals.

      On the technical side, as a one-man operation, if you can’t solve a problem yourself, it probably won’t be solved. A related phenominia is that you can always see room for improvement in products, and hence when the current batch of printed circuit boards requires replacement, there’s a major temptation to make the next one better. Some of my boards are on rev 6, with each rev being a marginal improvement over the earlier version. This endless tinkering will improve the product and help you learn your craft, but it’s not always the most effective as each PCB revision requires work on the manuals, updating parts lists and stocks, possibly writing off unusable parts acquired for earlier revisions and the like.

    • EschatologicalEngineer

      Loved the segment. I found your advice to beginners to be a humbling challenge that has helped me refocus my attention and take a different path than my daily circuit doodling. I thoroughly enjoyed the format of your walk, it promotes excersize and gives us basement dwellers a glimpse of that glorious power supply in the sky, the sun. I love Australia and hope to visit someday so its also nice to have a bit of your world down under in the background. Keep up the inspiring communications, its invaluable to so many of us! Thank you!

      -Dan from Kansas (the boring flat midwestern dead center of the states)-

    • The question is – would product manufacturing be considered “electronics”?

      It’s great to learn about constraints and such, but the real question is are we throwing people into the deep end when really, they should start without drowning first? Sure you learn how to swim by attempting to not drown, but is it the best way?

      And that’s where the vagueness of “beginner” comes in. Should an 11 year old start by having to figure out what parts meet the constraints on Digikey, or to put together something from an Arduino and few shields?

      It also depends on the end goal – is it a hobby, or to be a full fledged career? After all, boring someone out of their mind over endless component selections just because they want to make a LED blink cheaply is a great wya to drill the interest out of someone. Stuff that’s appropriate if you want to get into it as a career just isn’t so much so as a hobby.

      I think the answer is it really depends. Some people won’t get past the Arduino+shield part, others might proceed to building a bunch of kits, then into circuit theory and then be able to design and build circuits and finally transforming them into practical sellable products.

      Then there’s the other way to learn – fixing stuff! Go to an old thrift store or an electronics recycler and pick up an old radio and get it working again (ones piled high with discrete components).

      • Pampanga Audio

        I definitely agree with Worf! I don’t expect an 11 year old kid designing circuits to learn electronics. Building kits is the first step.

    • A homemade steadycam might be useful :)

    • I am just going to the experience of designing a production-ready product.

      http://oggstreamer.wordpress.com

      I learned a lot doing this project.
      Including the insight that producing a moderatly complex device in small quantities is really not cheap at all … I always like to compare WLAN-Routers with the OggStreamer – the have around the same complexity but the resale price is a factor 10x+ bigger for the small volume device.

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