Best way to learn?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by jimbarstow, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. jimbarstow

    Thread Starter New Member

    Nov 8, 2011
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    I'm trying to learn enough electronics to build some useful circuits. (Mostly sensor based.) I've read various intro to electronics books with the latest being Make's "Electronics". I've discovered there is a huge gap between being able to understand a simple circuit and understanding a circuit that actually does something useful.

    Any suggestions?

    I've thought that a circuit simulator might be an efficient way to experiment and learn. Is there one available for the Mac? I've seen references to a Mac version of SPICE but I have no idea of that's usable for a beginner.
     
  2. colinb

    Active Member

    Jun 15, 2011
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    The Falstad simulator applet is an awesome tool to get an intuitive feel for different types of components and circuits. You can explore all types of electronic circuits with this gem.
     
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  3. colinb

    Active Member

    Jun 15, 2011
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    Oh, also, read the All About Circuits E-Book! Start with Volume I - DC.
     
  4. colinb

    Active Member

    Jun 15, 2011
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    Sorry for all the short posts but I keep thinking of something else to say... :)

    You say you've read some introductory electronics books, but have you actually built circuits from the books and experimented with them? There is no substitute for doing when you are trying to learn something. Get some solderless breadboards (for really simple quick experiments), some perfboard (this is general purpose circuit board material with holes and various copper patterns or just individual pads), a soldering iron, and a stock of basic through-hole components like resistors, ceramic and aluminum electrolytic capacitors, diodes, and bipolar junction transistors PNP/NPN, some 9V battery clips, 5 volt linear regulators (like 7805), some LEDs, some pushbuttons, an inexpensive multimeter. That's the really basic analog stuff, then you might want to get some basic digital components like some hex inverters, NAND gate ICs, counter ICs, etc.

    Anyway, if you have a book with some projects, you can find out what type of components you need to stock up on by checking the materials lists. I find a lot of interesting projects people post online... if it is interesting enough, I will build it and play with it. Or make a variant of it with my own spin.
     
  5. bertus

    Administrator

    Apr 5, 2008
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  6. crutschow

    Expert

    Mar 14, 2008
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    I strongly recommend using a Spice type simulator to learn how circuits work. It saves a lot of problems and troubleshooting when you actually build a circuit. If you get the simulation to work properly then there is a very good chance the actual circuit will also work.

    LTspice is a good free circuit simulator from Linear Technology but it only runs on Windows. Can you configure your Mac to run Windows programs?
     
  7. colinb

    Active Member

    Jun 15, 2011
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    One should be able to use Parallels or VirtualBox to run Windows programs like LTspice on Mac OS.

    Actually I run LTspice in Windows under VirtualBox on Linux on a MacBook Pro. How is that for a mashup? :) And it works fantastically. I much prefer Windows in VirtualBox to a real Windows installation since it's safer and I can suspend and resume my virtual Windows machine in just about 10 seconds.
     
  8. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    I'd strongly suggest this. You will then be able to design better circuits than many that end up on instructables. Yes, they work, but they work a lot better with a tad bit more effort and common sense when it comes to current and voltage. There are, however, TONS of circuits to make that are fun and simple on instructables, you just need to read the comments about it first.

    I don't know if they've improved recently, but several years ago, most any circuit was posted that would light up an LED, and it would, but only for 1/2 as long as it could be run due to massive over-current. Little problems like that.
     
  9. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    I found grabbing the wrong end of a soldering iron a wonderful teaching experience. It was decades before I needed a refresher lesson. Hopefully your experience will differ.
     
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  10. TAKYMOUNIR

    Active Member

    Jun 23, 2008
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    do you know another websites good like this
     
  11. bertus

    Administrator

    Apr 5, 2008
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    Hello,

    Most software needs to be installed on the PC.
    Here is a page from the EDUCYPEDIA with an overview of a lot of simulation and cad software:
    http://educypedia.karadimov.info/electronics/easoftsim.htm

    On the top of the page there are links to similar pages of other electronics softwares.

    Bertus
     
  12. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    Wait until you get a hot air pencil, they are coming down in price. Very easy to think the heat stops at the tip ala conventional iron. The smell of burnt hair kinda.... lingers.
     
  13. davebee

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    Probably everyone is different, but I'm another one who thinks that while reading about circuits and simulating them with software have their place, building with actual parts on a breadboard really rounds out your education with real-world experience, where circuits come with noise, unwanted oscillation, power brownouts, overheated parts, stuff that's valuable to know for building real working circuits.
     
  14. cumesoftware

    Senior Member

    Apr 27, 2007
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    The key to learn electronics is to practice, practice, practice. Practice with actual low voltage circuits mounted on a breadboard. Do some measurements, do some readings. It is a fantastic way to learn! ;)

    Knowing the theory is essential, of course. But theory is valuable only if backed up with some practice. So my advice: experiment, do some tweaking, even if you do some mistakes. Mistakes are essential for the learning process and everybody does them! As long as you always follow basic safety rules, you should be safe. :)
     
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