Electronics > Beginners

Effectively learning electronics as a hobbyist? (warning: longwinded!)

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Aldobrandi:
Learning electronics on your own can be fantastic on so many levels: you are free to go at your own pace, you get to craft your own curriculum, skipping whatever bores you to death, focusing on the stuff you enjoy (such as blowing caps and blinking LEDs...). But in the past couple of weeks I have found it extremely frustrating for these very reasons: without the guidance of a teacher or a strict program, I have found it very difficult to successfully balance theory and practice, to know how deep I need to go into the mathematical analysis and understanding of circuits (one thing I am inclined to do because this is how I first learned electricity and physics in high school and college), without neglecting the practical understanding of how to design elegant and functional circuits that perform just what you want with a minimum of parts in an optimized and cost-effective fashion. To put things simply, I find myself taking refuge in theory (which I am not even able to understand very well anymore, having dropped the formal study of mathematics many years ago) and being scared of learning by getting my hands, and breadboard, dirty. Sorry, I’m now a writer and you will find these longwinded introductions to be a painful staple of my posts...

Here comes the question: I’m not planning to become an engineer, but I don’t want to just “toy” with electronics either, how do you suggest I organize my hobbyist’s “education” in order to understand what I’m doing and actually doing stuff even if sometimes the theory is wayyyyyyy above my head?

Here are a couple of books I’ve been using with a quick assessment of how helpful/unhelpful they’ve been for me:

* Make: Electronics (Learning by Discovery): it was fantastic the first week or so but there isn’t enough theory for my taste and I feel like I don’t really understand what I’m doing.

* To complement Make book I bought the obligatory “Art of electronics” by Horowitz & Hill. It’s an incredible reference and while I haven’t actually tried any of these yet I absolutely love the exhaustive lists of “circuit ideas” and their counterpart “bad circuits”. My problem with it is similar to the previous book: although there definitely is a lot more theory than in the Make book, I feel it’s going way to fast and not giving me enough of what I need: I need more than a few pages on diodes, and I am extremely rusty on my DC and AC theory.

* To try to compensate the lack of details in both books I decided to get a college electronics text book: Electronics Fundamentals: Circuits, Devices, and Applications (5th edition) by Floyd. Here I am faced with the opposite problem: great for theory and math, not so great for getting your hands dirty.

TLDR: I know I’ll never find the “perfect book”, the real problem is that I simply suck at learning on my own: with these 3 books (not counting the nauseating amount of blog posts, videos and tutorials I’ve watched/read) I definitely feel overwhelmed with all the information at my disposal and as a result I am not learning really well despite all what’s available. HELP !

Rerouter:
although the flashing light programs seem mundane and stupid, they appear popular as they are a starting point, to get people into the firmware side of things, hardware meshing with software and seeing some kind of reaction to what they did,

my personal reccomendation would be to look at something interesting and useful and build on it, make the design yours,

practical experimentation means you get hit with things you wouldnt expect from plain theory, pickles glow on one side when exposed to mains, filters can self oscillate , logic gates have propagation delays and high voltage has corona losses, little things that the math wont make you aware of,

if you must chase a book, then perhaps look into books produced by newnes, a decent amount of there books cover all the information to get into one of the respective feilds,

Aldobrandi:
Thanks rerouter for your reply. I think you are right, I need to build something, build on it, and not move to something else until I really understand how it's working. I'm actually currently trying to design some kind of heat alarm that'll alert me when I leave my bathroom quartz heater on for too long (or better yet, that'll turn it off automatically after a certain amount of time). So I'm in the process of learning about thermistors, comparators, and Schmitt Triggers, but I'm having a hard time understanding really how each part of the circuit works, partly because I'm super shaky on my basic DC/AC principles. The details of this project belong to another thread and maybe the best thing I can do is starting to post about my difficulties and ask for help from you guys :)

Anyways, thanks again !

T4P:
I learnt a shitload from : http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/
Have you ?

Mint.:

--- Quote from: Dave.S on April 14, 2012, 10:21:54 am ---I learnt a shitload from : http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/
Have you ?

--- End quote ---
I have learnt and still learning (reading) a load from Tab Electronics Guide to Understanding Electricity and Electronics - G. Randy Slone.
It is an excellent book with a good amount of theory, basic mathematics nothing too hard, loads of circuit examples and it does not make many assumptions about you before you start the book and this makes it a bit easier!

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