### Author Topic: Reapproaching learning electronics  (Read 1701 times)

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#### scatterandfocus

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##### Reapproaching learning electronics
« on: December 29, 2018, 07:58:37 pm »

Some things that came to mind as I was attending classes were that we should have been working with components and tools from the very beginning (integrating hands-on with theory), building simple circuits and working them up to more complicated circuits, doing some experimentation, troubleshooting problems along the way, keeping notebooks, letting some smoke out (my dc instructor complained when I let the smoke out of a potentiometer, which was one a very few times that we actually worked with components, to which I replied that learning requires making mistakes and learning from them).  There wasn't time made for this type of stuff in the classes that I attended.  And there also should have been some integration of fundamental math for electronics.  At the least, a math for electronics survey type course.  The closest that we got to anything like that was a miserable attempt by the dc instructor to cover some trig basics over a single class period.  There was no math requirement for the electronics program, which seems farcical.

So then, since there are no other schools in my area, I'm thinking of reapproaching learning electronics independently.  I think that I should do it in a sort of layered approach.  Start back at basics, with something like a short hobby type book that covers a broad range of basics without going too deep (a sort of hands-on overview approach), along with acquiring some components and basic tools for building circuits and experimenting along the way.  Later, I would maybe pick up some textbooks (although I tend to despise reading textbooks), and go deeper into individual topics.  But where I'm lost is approaching learning the math side of things.  Alot of people say that electronics is applied math, but are there books or other resources which teach math in that way?  In other words, not just math as an individual study in itself, but rather, math as applied to practical electronics.   Or arriving at the math as needed through circuit requirements.  And by 'math' I mean from fundamental algebra on up.  I would eventually like to get to the point of working with a book such as 'The Art of Electronics', which I have an old copy of (the book and workbook).  How could I work up to that via an integrated hands-on/theory/math approach?  Can it be done without wading years through multiple 1,200 page tombs?  I find that working with textbooks (whatever the topic of study) tends to extinguish enthusiam in the subject at hand.  Does anyone produce a series of smaller approachable books for electronics?

« Last Edit: December 29, 2018, 08:19:19 pm by scatterandfocus »

#### xyrtek

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2018, 09:18:44 pm »
Before I finished reading your post I though about suggesting "The art of electronics" and the eevblog, it seems you have both covered, get going.

In 3 words, stop being "scatter(ed) and focus"
« Last Edit: December 29, 2018, 09:32:54 pm by xyrtek »

#### rstofer

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2018, 09:24:24 pm »
There's more taught in the DC circuits than just simple circuits.  The real topics are Ohm's Law, Kirchoff's Law, Thevenin's Theorem, matrix algebra, solution of simultaneous linear equation (mesh and node equations from Kirchoff's Law), perhaps time domain response of RC, RL and RLC circuits - at least the charging/discharging equations and, I suspect, some topics I have overlooked.  The physical construction of resistors, capacitors and inductors is also covered.

The math required for this program is not too high.  Algebra ought to do it and even that is fairly minimal.  But do expect to solve simultaneous linear equations.

Every bit of the math required is available in video tutorial form at Khan Academy.  Download and learn to use LTspice for circuit analysis.  I would highly recommend installing and using MATLAB but it costs a lot of money (relatively) and the alternative is Octave but I don't see any books for Electronics with Octave.  Octave is purported to be a very close clone of MATLAB and here is a MATLAB book

http://www.ee.hacettepe.edu.tr/~solen/Matlab/MatLab/Matlab%20-%20Electronics%20and%20Circuit%20Analysis%20using%20Matlab.pdf

Maybe the tutorials at Digilent will help:

https://learn.digilentinc.com/classroom/realanalog/

There are tutorials all over the Internet.  Some may actually follow a rational progression from beginning up through some level.  Others seem to wander all over the place.

I don't see a good reason for not just starting with "Art of Electronics" and "Learning the Art of Electronics".  They seem to be a standard approach although I can't say I have spent much time with them.  Maybe because I already took the classes, albeit a long time ago, and I'm not struggling with theory.

FWIW, here is the first in a series of videos re: solving simultaneous equations:

Unfortunately, math is usually taught as math, for math majors, by math professors.  The University of Florida purportedly has two tracks:  Math for math majors and math for others (engineers, etc).  Kudos if this is true.

Yes, electronics IS applied math and, basically, it's all math.  You can't even get started without some sense of numbers.  But for the first semester, Algebra should be enough and not even hard Algebra.

How much math you need is determined by how far you want to get.  Mostly hobbyists get by with some limited version of Algebra.  Engineers will take math every semester for five years of undergrad and more when they get to grad school.  Engineering really is all math!

A good scientific calculator will be required.  I use an older HP48GX but I also have the TI Inspire and the HP50 graphing calculators with CAS (Computer Algebra System).  Note that there are limitations on calculator selection for various qualification exams (ACT, SAT, etc).  I use MATLAB at every opportunity - even for fairly trivial problems.

#### rstofer

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2018, 09:29:01 pm »
Watch lots of videos!  EEVblog theory videos and most of w2aew's videos cover the material without getting terribly bogged down in math.

Watch the EEVblog OpAmps Tutorial video:

There's a lot of circuit theory going on.  Note the use of Kirchoff's Current Law (KCL) then go over to the Digilent site and watch their discussion on mesh and nodal analysis.

Any of the EEVblog Fundamentals Friday videos should be useful.

#### Johnboy

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2018, 03:30:16 pm »
Start back at basics, with something like a short hobby type book that covers a broad range of basics without going too deep (a sort of hands-on overview approach), along with acquiring some components and basic tools for building circuits and experimenting along the way.  Later, I would maybe pick up some textbooks (although I tend to despise reading textbooks), and go deeper into individual topics.  But where I'm lost is approaching learning the math side of things.  Alot of people say that electronics is applied math, but are there books or other resources which teach math in that way?  In other words, not just math as an individual study in itself, but rather, math as applied to practical electronics.   Or arriving at the math as needed through circuit requirements.  And by 'math' I mean from fundamental algebra on up...

...Does anyone produce a series of smaller approachable books for electronics?

Considering your above-quoted requirements (particularly "fundamental algebra on up"), I'd humbly suggest taking a look at the current edition of Charles Platt's "Make: Electronics" book as a starting point. The book's math rarely hints above high-school level algebra, while the focus is on simple hands-on projects, including a few opportunities to deliberately let the smoke out of components.

There are some pre-compiled component kits available for sale to use with the specific experiments outlined in the book. They are not inexpensive, but they are a quick way to get started. However, there is a tradeoff for assembling your own components for the book, and this is getting into the habit of examining component datasheets for suitability as well as comparing prices, availability, and shipping times from various suppliers for the components you'll need for future projects on your own.

#### scatterandfocus

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2018, 05:07:07 pm »
I wonder why so many people recommend 'The Art of Electronics' to beginners.  From what I can tell it is not a suitable [set of books] for beginners in electronics, and it is not suitable for self-learning electronics.  I have had copies of the books (textbook and student manual) for years, and I have tried approaching them multiple times, after having taken courses in dc, ac, and digital (albeit not good courses, as mentioned above).  'The Art of Electronics' books were written to accompany a guided course at Harvard, not as books for self-learning.  These books don't stand on their own for the latter, much less for absolute beginners in electronics.

I emailed Charles Platt some years back on the 'Make:  Electronics' book, asking if it covered any electronics theory fundamentals.  He replied saying that it wasn't written for that type of stuff.  So then my impressions of it is that it is meant to be a book for sparking interest in electronics and working with components hands-on for building simple circuits without really getting into how things work, much like those old all-in-one kits made for kids where the user uses jumpers to rewire components on the kit board to form simple circuits.  There is definitely a market for this type of book, but it doesn't seem to be a good fit for me.

An issue that I often see for popular recommendations on technical books is that it seems that most of the people recommending them haven't actually worked through them, or have approached a recommended book from a very different background than the person asking for recommendations.  A perfect example of this seems to be popular recommendations for 'The Art of Electronics' to beginners in electronics.  I would say that most beginners in electronics will be thoroughly lost and confused before ever getting out of chapter 1 in 'The Art of Electronics', which might be a very different situation for an EE student having already taken basic courses in calculus and electronics or physics (years of previous exposure and experience).

So then looking at the recommendation thread at the top of the Beginners forum, I don't see how it is genuinely helpful to beginners.   There is something like 11 pages of recommendations with very little in way of why these resources are being recommended in the first place, who each resource is well suited for (learner background), whether the person recommending the resource has actually worked through the material (and the recommender's background before using the resource), and lack of mentions of the strengths and weaknesses of the recommended resource.  In that way, it is no different than a beginner doing a blind search via google and running with what might seem best.  But beginners can't be a good judge themselves of where to begin (lack of experience and what to look for), and so then 11 pages listing beginner resources without anything much in way of details on those resources doesn't change that position.

I do appreciate any helpful recommendations, but at the same time I do have experience with false starts on technical books and other resources in general, which makes me cautious and cricitial of recommendations without elaboration of why a resource is being recommended, who the resource is specifically aimed at, and how well it meets it's aim.  And so I hope that this post isn't taken as being unappreciative of recommendations.  I'm just trying to find a good resource for where to begin [again] that is a good fit for me.  What I have on my shelf right now and has not been a good fit for me:

The Art of Electronics
Grob Basic Electronics
Electronic Principles (Malvino)

From my perspective, 'The Art of Electronics' assumes too much on the part of a beginner.  It might be good and well for someone in a guided university course who already has the necessary background, but I am not that person.

Grob is the driest of textbooks that put me to sleep every time I have picked it up.  I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Electronic Principles is not written for an absolute beginner.  It assumes previous (well learned) experience in dc and ac.

These are all textbook tombs, which to me in itself is not suitable for beginners and self-learners.  Even university courses only work through something like half of a textbook, jumping whole chapters where necessary.  Beginners approaching self-learning from a textbook can't really know what needs to be skipped, which parts should get more attention, and which parts should be supplemented by other resources (and what those resources are).   Textbooks are not written for self-learning.  They are written for courses guided by instructors.  And from what I have seen, it is rare to find a textbook that stands on it's own and that would be suitable for self-learners.

Another book that is often recommended to beginners is 'Getting Started in Electronics' by Forrest Mims.  It was recommended to me years ago by the instructor of my dc class when I inquired about a resource that is hands-on (the course I was taking involved very little hands-on).  The instructor leant me a copy to look over.  This book doesn't explain much along the way and makes big jumps.  I would be amazed to see any beginner actually work through this book and come out the other end with a good understanding of electronics fundamentals.

Another book that I have looked over is 'Practical Electronics for Inventors'.  You better be well up on your math for this one and be prepared to spend some months reading about anything but practical issues before you ever get to any practical points.  I didn't make it that far.

I would like to find a book, series of books, or other resource (video series, whatever) that is well-aimed at self-learners, that stands on it's own, and that strikes a good balance between theory and hands-on/practical.  I don't know if such a resource exists, but that is what I am looking for.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2018, 05:54:17 pm by scatterandfocus »

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#### tpowell1830

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2018, 05:49:18 pm »
I wonder why so many people recommend 'The Art of Electronics' to beginners.  From what I can tell it is not a suitable [set of books] for beginners in electronics, and it is not suitable for self-learning electronics.  I have had copies of the books (textbook and student manual) for years, and I have tried approaching them multiple times, after having taken courses in dc, ac, and digital (albeit not good courses, as mentioned above).  'The Art of Electronics' books were written to accompany a guided course at Harvard, not as books for self-learning.  These books don't stand on their own for the latter, much less for absolute beginners in electronics.

I emailed Charles Platt some years back on the 'Make:  Electronics' book, asking if it covered any electronics theory fundamentals.  He replied saying that it wasn't written for that type of stuff.  So then my impressions of it is that it is meant to be a book for sparking interest in electronics and working with components hands-on for building simple circuits without really getting into how things work, much like those old all-in-one kits made for kids where the user uses jumpers to rewire components on the kit board to form simple circuits.  There is definitely a market for this type of book, but it doesn't seem to be a good fit for me.

An issue that I often see for popular recommendations on technical books is that it seems that most of the people recommending them haven't actually worked through them, or have approached a recommended book from a very different background than the person asking for recommendations.  A perfect example of this seems to be popular recommendations for 'The Art of Electronics' to beginners in electronics.  I would say that most beginners in electronics will be thoroughly lost and confused before ever getting out of chapter 1 in 'The Art of Electronics', which might be a very different situation for an EE student having already taken basic courses in calculus and electronics or physics (years of previous exposure and experience).

So then looking at the recommendation thread at the top of the Beginners forum, I don't see how it is genuinely helpful to beginners.   There is something like 11 pages of recommendations with very little in way of why these resources are being recommended in the first place, who each resource is well suited for (learner background), whether the person recommending the resource has actually worked through the material (and the recommender's background before using the resource), and lack of mentions of the strengths and weaknesses of the recommended resource.  In that way, it is no different than a beginner doing a blind search via google and running with what might seem best.  But beginners can't be a good judge themselves of where to begin (lack of experience and what to look for), and so then 11 pages listing beginner resources without anything much in way of details on those resources doesn't change that position.

I do appreciate any helpful recommendations, but at the same time I do have experience with false starts on technical books and other resources in general, which makes me cautious and cricitial of recommendations without elaboration of why a resource is being recommended, who the resource is specifically aimed at, and how well it meets it's aim.  And so I hope that this post isn't taken as being unappreciative of recommendations.  I'm just trying to find a good resource for where to begin [again] that is a good fit for me.  What I have on my shelf right now and has not been a good fit for me:

The Art of Electronics
Grob Basic Electronics
Electronic Principles (Malvino)

From my perspective, 'The Art of Electronics' assumes too much on the part of a beginner.  It might be good and well for someone in a guided university course who already has the necessary background, but I am not that person.

Grob is the driest of textbooks that put me to sleep every time I have picked it up.  I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Electronic Principles is not written for an absolute beginner.  It assumes previous (well learned) experience in dc and ac.

These are all textbook tombs, which to me in itself is not suitable for beginners and self-learners.  Even university courses only work through something like half of a textbook, jumping whole chapters where necessary.  Beginners approaching self-learning from a textbook can't really know what needs to be skipped, which parts should get more attention, and which parts should be supplemented by other resources (and what those resources are).   Textbooks are not written for self-learning.  They are written for courses guided by instructors.  And from what I have seen, it is rare to find a textbook that stands on it's own and that would be suitable for self-learners.

I understand that you want to get good recommendations, and that is extremely difficult of a task to put towards this or any other forum community. We often get this question asked on this forum and, although the source media varies from each replying member, it is an honest and best effort answer to the general question. The general question is which book, media sources are best for a beginner. That is where that plethora of names and sources comes from.

To me, although it is not obvious to the beginner, is: What does it take from me to be able to learn electronics? Are there sources that are available in books, media, etc.?

The answer is simply discipline and focus. If you truly want to self learn, you can with the available and recommended sources. No one is going to create a custom learning system for you. Learning electronics is very, very difficult under the best of situations. You are asking us to make the exact perfect recommendation specific to you. This is not going to happen. It also would help if you loved the discipline and electronics in general.

I recommend that you watch Jeri Ellsworth's videos and also find videos about how she got to where she is and her history. Very revealing about the nature of learning difficult things, as she is completely self taught.

Hope this helps...
PEACE===>T

#### scatterandfocus

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2018, 06:06:53 pm »
Tpowell, I do understand that making recommendations is a difficult task, and I do appreciate thoughtful recommendations.  Just iterating that sentiment.

At the same time, I see on internet forums many of the same resources being recommended to beginners over and over, which I have actually checked out myself.  And the usual recommendations are not suitable for beginners and self-learners.  And I can only wonder why these same resources are repeatedly recommended to beginners.  I think that much of it must be down to hearsay.

By the way, I have watched lots of Jeri Ellsworth in the past.  She is definitely an inspiring person.  I can only wonder about the details of how she made her way along.  I think that maybe her genius is unrecognized.  Another person who seems to have made his way without the traditional formalities is Jim Williams.  But these people are very rare.  I am not in their league.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2018, 06:08:55 pm by scatterandfocus »

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#### rstofer

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2018, 08:46:32 pm »
Learning electronics is very, very difficult under the best of situations. You are asking us to make the exact perfect recommendation specific to you. This is not going to happen. It also would help if you loved the discipline and electronics in general.

I recommend that you watch Jeri Ellsworth's videos and also find videos about how she got to where she is and her history. Very revealing about the nature of learning difficult things, as she is completely self taught.

Hope this helps...

This is exactly the problem!  Many of the respondents are engineers who spent 4 or 5 years in college learning this stuff.  It was a LOT of work.  Yet a newcomer wants to come along, grab a magic book and understand electronics without spending a similar amount of time.  It ain't gonna happen!  Sorry...

What we need to do is break the problem down with a first cut:  Are we talking hobby level or are we talking engineering because there is a world of difference.  Hobby level is pretty easy to deal with.  Ohm's Law plus Kirchhoff's Laws should cover it.  A hobbyist can go a long way knowing just these two ideas.  OK, throw in Thevenin, it's pretty easy (except for figure 1.11 in Art of Electronics!).  In the day to day hobby stuff I do, these are all I need and, really, it's only Ohm's Law that comes up all the time.  It's only when I play around with Beginner's questions on circuit analysis that I need simultaneous equations and probably MATLAB (because I am lazy).  Laplace and Fourier seldom come up (for me) except that there is a thread re: FFT going on right now.

Here is a list of the 15 Best Books and, sure enough, The Art of Electronics is at the top of the list.

https://www.electronicshub.org/electronics-books-beginners/

You could try "Introduction to Electric Circuits" by Jackson.  It's the book I had back in '70 for EE101 so it's old.  It's a LOT slower than "Art of Electronics" which, I'll admit, covers a lot of territory in the first chapter.

#### rstofer

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2019, 03:23:48 pm »
You might also take a look at Udemy...

The quality varies considerably among the programs.  Sometimes there is a language issue - the courses are in English, no problem, but the dialect may be an issue.

Still, the courses are cheap enough to try.

I'm still pretty convinced that hobbyists can get by with Ohm's Law plus Kirchhoff's Laws for a good long while.  Add in the results of the capacitor and inductor equations, without stumbling over the derivations, and a lot of electronics can be done.  Bringing in things like transistor amplifiers really just requires Ohm and Kirchhoff.  Same with op amps.  We're just reusing simple concepts.

That's a lot of electronics without needing very much in the way of math.  Of course, matrix algebra will come up with mesh and nodal analysis.  Use a solver!  Octave should be a good (free) choice.  That MATLAB book I linked above has examples.  That's about as hard as it has to get at a hobby level.  But some hobbyists want to go further.  That might take a little more math or at least understanding the results of higher level derivations.  FFT comes to mind.  It's the kind of thing you can do with a solver (Octave) without getting too bogged down in the details.  Many scopes do it like magic.

#### MrAl

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##### Re: Reapproaching learning electronics
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2019, 08:52:58 pm »
Hello there,

I think i understand what you are going through because at one time i went though the same thing almost.  I was very young and had no education in electronics yet and i was trying to get through a grad level DSP book.  I stared at it for hours at a time trying to make sense of it, even just what each symbol meant.  It took a lot more preparation before i was able to read that book cover to cover.

I've worked with many beginners on line and through the email systems as well as in real life person to person.  One thing i noticed is that people like to have some idea why they are learning something.  Why do we need c=a+b, who cares.  Why do we need E=R*I, what for.  Most books dont go into detail about the why just the how.  Knowing why peaks your interest because once you know why you understand why you should learn that.  I have one friend that knew nothing about electronics when we first met, now he uses transistors and Arduino.

It appears that you could use some detailed help to get you started.  I would help through the email system if you like.
You should note however that the minimum math you would need to start would be algebra.  If you dont know at least some algebra you are not going to like doing the problems.  Even the simpler problems which would start you going like resistor circuits.  Series, parallel, voltage sources, current sources.  That's how you start.  What you learn is quickly applicable to more advanced circuits.  If you know complex math you can do AC circuits almost right after the DC circuits.  If you use math software you can go even farther.
If this sounds interesting to you let me know and i'll send you my email address, with the stipulation that you dont give it out.
Again to start we would use resistors and voltage sources.
For Lab work you would need to purchase some parts.  Some small resistors, maybe a battery holder and batteries or a small power supply.  Resistors are cheap, battery holders not expensive either.  Depending on what power supply you want, it could be just a wall wart or a full blown power supply with meters.  You would get this stuff online at your favorite parts place.

Take care for now,
Al

PS
Almost forgot to mention, that if you know algebra going to complex math isnt that big of a jump for use in AC circuit theory.
If you dont know any algebra, you would really have to study that a little first or concurrently.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 08:56:53 pm by MrAl »

Smf