Author Topic: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation  (Read 11501 times)

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Offline slateraptor

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So I was in the middle of having lunch when my mind arbitrarily started to think about why anyone would recommend "The Art of Electronics" as a great starting point for someone with interest but little to no formal background on the subject. There are seemingly countless recommendations swearing by this book, but sometimes I have to question whether these people have actually read it. ???

Take, for example, the section in chapter 1 on Thevenin equivalence, summarily encapsulated on a single page as "Easy!" with Norton equivalent "incidentally" mentioned as an aside. Then right into a short description of specialty Zener and tunnel diodes. Then waveforms. Then the time-domain sol'n to an RC circuit. Then a discussion on impedance whilst brushing off Fourier analysis as "seldom necessary". Really? ??? I mean this is just chapter 1 and it's already all over the place!

Flipping to an arbitrary page: 276 on state-variable filters, a whooping 2 paragraphs written like an advertisement for National and Burr-Brown; shimmy to the index and you'll discover that the only other mention of state-variables is on pg 295: another Burr-Brown advertisement. Flip two pages to Figure 5.24, which I instantly recognized as the topology of a synthetic inductor; with a single paragraph, no derivation, and not even so much as a precaution on its limitations, I couldn't help but wonder how many hobbyists over the years have blown up their circuits attempting to use this guy as a replacement for an inductor in a power circuit.

The structure and contents of the book makes sense after a brief glance through the bibliography section: the majority of references were handbooks. If the book weren't so bulky (and expensive), it would make a great shitter reader for a seasoned engineer. But as a point of entry, I'd be surprised if anyone without a formal background was able to walking away from this book with anything deeper than exposure to the lingo, if you will.

Offline Conrad Hoffman

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2011, 11:18:25 AM »
My opinion is a bit higher, but I've always wondered how good an entry book it is. If you're reasonably well advanced, there's little in it that's useful. If you're a raw beginner, it's missing quite a lot you need to know. It seems good for those with some introductory background, but who aren't yet familiar with all the hands-on basics you pick up the first few years. I know everybody dislikes math because its scary, but I think somebody is way better off with one of the introductory circuit analysis books like Boylestead (sp?). Usually they can be found cheap as used textbooks.

Offline gregariz

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2011, 11:20:06 AM »
But as a point of entry, I'd be surprised if anyone without a formal background was able to walking away from this book with anything deeper than exposure to the lingo, if you will.

You'll be attacked for that post because there are alot of fans of that book. However I completely agree with you.

For some funny reason its a topic that seems to come up for discussion every couple of years. The only conclusion I can come up with is that its because the Authors were with Harvard University. If they had been with the University of Nebraska it would have sunk without a trace a long time ago. I've got a stack of books that I think are all far better than that one.

My take however is slightly different to you. As I've worked with a lot of physicists and chemists my belief is that they don't understand the word synthesis or design process as an engineer is formally trained to do. As a result everything they do has an air of experiment about it. That's at least my take on why the book seems so incoherent - it doesnt flow because the authors were never taught that you need to learn things like norton's before you need to do an impedance match. In my travels it seems to be very popular with non engineers who have come into electronics I think for the same reasons - it gets you to a topic you might need without giving you some background that would appear in design orientated books.


Offline McMonster

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2011, 11:59:39 AM »
I'm a beginner and I got my hands on this book when I was starting. It all depends on how do you read this book, there's a lot of things that look simply scary, but what's great about this book is that you don't have to really pay attentntion to this. If I saw something I did not really liked I just skipped it and read ahead. Sometimes I suddenly got enlightened, went back, read it again and so on. Reading it word-after-word and trying to get it all at once is a mistake in most cases.

If you don't push it, it's a great book. And it's certainly better than all this crappy, boring, academic technobabble (any Star Trek fans?) handbooks, it's written with a much simpler language.

Offline IanB

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2011, 01:04:14 PM »
Maybe there's a reason it's called The Art of Electronics, rather than The Science of Electronics?

(Note: I've never seen the book, so I have no clue about the content.)
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?

Offline robrenz

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2011, 01:31:40 PM »
I think this book is the best all around electronics book   http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Electronics-Inventors-Paul-Scherz/dp/0071452818/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319339386&sr=1"-1  Practical electronics for inventors by Paul Scherz.
It does have some obvious mistakes in some of the figures but it is loaded with extremely usefull info I have not seen anywhere else. I consider this the most usefull electronics book I own.

Online EEVblog

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2011, 01:41:40 PM »
I think of it as the best electronics reference book around, not necessarily the best one to actually learn electronics from scratch.
It's the one I pick up when I have to check something I haven't done in a long time.

Dave.

Offline slateraptor

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2011, 02:41:55 PM »
I know everybody dislikes math...

Speak for yourself. ;) Why is it that math seems to be the only thing on this planet that society has given its blessings to suck at? Food for thought.


You'll be attacked for that post because there are alot of fans of that book. However I completely agree with you.

Alas, bring forth discourse, for it does not exist without dissenting opinion.

Offline Conrad Hoffman

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2011, 03:02:10 PM »
Well, every time I suggest  a book with good fundamentals that covers the math, it goes over like a lead balloon. Admittedly with LTSpice and Excel one can accomplish a lot, but electronics really should be a math-heavy discipline. I appreciate math. I even enjoy math. I use math. Unfortunately, I'm just not as good at it as I wish I was. I think it has something to do with memory and attention spa... look, there goes a squirrel! What was I saying?

Offline tronixstuff

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2011, 04:51:30 PM »
A good contemporary book for outright beginners is "Electronics - A First Course" (3rd ed.) by Owen Bishop. See http://amzn.to/rRIXXT

Very approachable, the math isn't too bad :) however the basics are there and the explanations are excellent. Plenty of questions with answers as well. A great prelude to higher education or more complex books.

A note to my detractors: mathematics is necessary and interesting. When I recommend a book for beginners with some maths in it doesn't mean I am averse to it or don't recommend learning any of it. People need to start somewhere, and the Bishop book is a good point. Once a student has worked their way through it, they are more than ready for heavier texts such as AOE and so on.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 12:47:09 PM by tronixstuff »

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2011, 08:54:15 AM »
Ah, the Generation Arduino at work. No Math please, we are hip, and nothing that requires thinking because thinking sucks.
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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2011, 09:05:11 AM »
Well, every time I suggest  a book with good fundamentals that covers the math, it goes over like a lead balloon. Admittedly with LTSpice and Excel one can accomplish a lot, but electronics really should be a math-heavy discipline.

I think what people like about AoE is that it covers the practical side that most EE texts lack, like what capacitor to pick (or at least which one you would pick twenty years ago). It goes much deeper than most beginner level texts. For example, someone recently referred to this text. It explains the transistor as a current amplifier and how to drive it (almost) in saturation, that's it. You won't understand how to build a current source (do you need another current source to feed it a constant base current?). AoE goes much deeper and shows all kind of applications to confuse and scare all beginners ;). Someone who has read AoE at least won't be completely out of touch with reality. But I agree that for people wanting to get farther into electronics, a more college level text with some proper math is a good read. I think the first chapter is probably the worst offender, going at a very high pace through all the passive circuit and miscellaneous stuff (plus diodes and power supplies) and give a bunch of practical tips in between.

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2011, 11:15:33 AM »
Ah, the Generation Arduino at work. No Math please, we are hip, and nothing that requires thinking because thinking sucks.

Well said,Oh great & grumpy one! ;D

VK6ZGO

Offline urbanwriter

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2011, 01:13:30 PM »
Well, if 'electronics' should be a math-heavy discipline, why not say the same for people aspiring to be machinists? Let's see; geometry, trigonometry, algebra, arguably calculus and I'm sure I've missed strength of materials, metallurgy, machine design, optimization of design as well as dozens of other areas of study. Why, if you take the 'math heavy' requirement far enough no would ever have to plug anything in, or turn anything on, because they'd be studying the math that describes in intimate detail the physics of those operations. I'm amazed that given the dearth of math (me in particular, trust me) that anyone can do so much as drill a hole, let alone string a bunch of components together and still have the LEDs (plural, because in this case it is not driven by an Arduino) blink.

I will suggest that 'math heavy' may be appropriate if you're engineering for money - but then so is accounting, as a financial practice, for the absolute lowest cost for a given level of performance.

Part of the trouble is audience; I once got as far as LCR circuits in technical school, and that's when I bailed. Now, I'm coming back to electronics as a hobby, and trying to get 'enough' math to avoid the magic smoke. But I'm finding it difficult to find circuits (and the related math) that work together - in the way let's say that Dave's piece on heatsinks did - to tie math theory to the real world of smoking components. Sometimes the math/component/circuit problem is easy to arrange. Think of some number of resistors. Measure those resistors as accurately as you can. Now wire them in series. Now measure the voltage across the entire string of resistors. Now calculate the current. And now, just to live dangerously, splice your ammeter in to the circuit. How close is the measured current to the calculated current? Now that wasn't so hard was it.

OK. Now try to explain (calculus I suppose, but I'm only guessing, and with trepidation) what my scope is showing me when I look at the emitter in an oscillator circuit, that only has to drive a few LEDs. I suppose that for some people the mathematical representations that describe the rise, fall, and ringing that are all very evident on the scope don't need the scope. Those people might actually enjoy math, as a good friend of mine does, irrespective of its impenetrability for some of us.

And before I go back to smoking transistors. It is interesting to listen to people curse out (politely of course) all the applications where Arduinos (for example) have been used - too much complexity, too much wasted capability, 'why in my day,' - and even from my vantage point I often agree. But most of what most of us do with electronics as a hobby could just be purchased. A simpler, more elegant, and often more efficient in terms of cost/benefit analysis way to blink an LED. But should we just buy it?

Hopefully no one reads this as anything but a request for bestowing me with a more mathematical bent, or schematics that actually include test points, voltages, waveforms (heaven forbid anyone should duplicate Heathkit of days gone by) for troubleshooting. Or, indeed, something one or two steps higher in the pedagogical firmament than 'Make: Electronics.'

From Canada's rainy Pacific South-West, your math-disabled correspondent.  :)

Offline amspire

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Re: Concerning "The Art of Electronics" as an entry-level recommendation
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2011, 02:38:36 PM »
A lot of the calculations we do are rough calculations and are probably no more complex then calculations about money.

Lots of people claim they are terrible at mathematics, but give them an hour to spend $500 and all of a sudden they are mathematical geniuses.

It is all about getting a familiarity with the way devices work so that the rough estimates of the component values you need are as easy as budgeting to buy presents for Christmas. In fact I think Christmas shopping is way more complex.

If you have a divider chain of resistors for example, you know the current through each resistor has to be the same so you don't even bother to calculate it. The voltage across each resistor will just be proportional to the resistor value.

If you have a transistor in linear mode, you start off saying to yourself that the base-emitter voltage has to be about 0.6V and the base current will be 100 or more times lower then the collector current.  Just from those two facts, you can design a transistor amplifier that will work successfully. You can usually work out how a transistor circuit you are looking at will work. No need to touch databooks, or find equations for the behavior of a transistor.

At minimum you have to understand Ohms law, but is that hard?  Most people probably understand that buying 1kG of beans for $5 is more economical to buying ten 100gram packs for $1. If you swap resistance for the unit price, current for the quantity and voltage for the total price, then Ohm's Law is exactly the same calculation. The only problem left is getting the same familiarity to the components that you do to money and shopping.

If I wanted to buy 10 cans of paint at $20 each, and I said I couldn't remember if I should multiply $20 by 10 or divide $20 by 10 to get the total price, you would look at me as if I was an idiot.  You didn't even need a formula to work it out - it just seems totally obvious.

Well with familiarity, you will know you have to multiply resistance by current to get the voltage - it is just obvious. Anything else doesn't make sense.

So if you are pretty good at handling money, then you are definitely capable of understanding entry level electronics design.

Richard.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2011, 02:49:36 PM by amspire »


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