How to design electronic circuits

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by adam555, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. adam555

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Aug 17, 2013
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    I've been trying to learn how to design my own electronic circuits for years; I start with enthusiasm, learn a lot of new stuff, try to design something, fail miserably, get frustrated, and abandon it... then start all over again a few years later -this must be something like my 4th or 5th attempt-.

    I'm a quick learner and I thought it would be like learning everything else, like programming a computer; you learn the basics (what each thing does) and then you figure out how to put them together on your own. But this ain't happening with electronics; everything seems to be already invented, and instead of putting things together on your own initiative you have to learn the designs made by other people, and then re-use them to make anything remotely original.

    Am I right; or this is just not for me? :(

    Is there any way to learn how to design circuits?... not even complex circuits... just simple circuits. For example: if I'm to make a flip-flop or an oscillator, the only way this seems to happen is by looking at other people's designs first and then copy them -you must know the circuit beforehand, you don't come up with it-. Is anyone ever able to design this things without knowing what other people did?
     
  2. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    A thing to realize is if you have little or limited electronic knowledge and want to come up with a revolutionary electronic device or circuit, there is almost certain odds you are going to re-invent the wheel.
    Concentrate on learning existing technology and then use the old business credo, 'Find a need and fill it'.
    Max.
     
  3. joeyd999

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    Jun 6, 2011
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    As an inventor, the things I do tend to not have been done before (otherwise, what's the point?). *But*, it helps to know what has been done before, and how it was done.

    Like any journey of a thousand miles, it starts with the first step. For all of us.
     
  4. adam555

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Aug 17, 2013
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    I figured it would be like programming; for example, I'm sure many people before me did the exact same subroutines (or very similar ones), but it takes no effort for a beginner to come up with them on their own once they know what each instruction is for. This doesn't seem to happen with electronics, I can't seem to put 3 components together to do anything (even if other people did it before me). The only way I can make anything is by copying other people's circuits. And the worst part about it, what frustrates me more than anything, is that I studied 2 electronic course, I know what each component is for, know how to do the calculations, but can barely figure out how fairly simple circuits work at first glance... much less figure out how to design them.

    Will it be always like this; trying to figure out already designed circuits, and then copying them to put anything together?

    Is there any way to advance quickly, any good tutorial, videos or online books... everything I find repeats once and again what I already know -what each thing is for- but not how to put them together to make something simple out of it.
     
  5. joeyd999

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    BTW, when I was much younger, I learned electronics from some popular books of the time. Titles like:

    The TTL Cookbook
    The CMOS Cookbook
    The Op-Amp Cookbook

    ...etc...

    If a book related to electronics was called a "Cookbook", I bought it.

    They made me an engineer at 17 years old, so they must have had some value!
     
  6. adam555

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Aug 17, 2013
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    Thanks,

    Maybe I should have also began younger, like I did with computers... :(

    Do you remember finding the same difficulties and frustration as I am experiencing now when designing circuits?
     
  7. Shagas

    Active Member

    May 13, 2013
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    Adam555 I know exactly what you mean, I was thinking the same thing when I started.
    I'm crap at calculations etc , but when I have an idea then I can almost always visualise how i'm going to build it and how it's going to work .
    It takes some practice. You just have to come up with ideas and build them.

    At the beginning it was curious but abit dull , then it started being fun when I started to make things blink , amplify signals and see them fly on the oscilloscope , making things 'work' in general . A month ago I started digital electronics and it's been even more fun :)

    But if you don't get a kick out of making things come alive then electronics is probably not for you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  8. joeyd999

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    No. Sorry.
     
  9. MrChips

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    Oct 2, 2009
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    When you design electronic circuits you rarely create something new that no one has ever done before. You can bet that 99% of the time you are going to use a circuit that someone has used before.

    What is different is system integration. That is, you are going to apply your knowledge to something new that few have thought of before.

    But before you can reach that stage you must fully understand the basics. You have to know Ohms Law, Kirchhoff's Voltage and Current Laws. You have to understand AC and DC circuits, diodes, transistors, opamps, analog and digital circuits. You will copy circuits that have been designed and studied before. You will become an expert with each circuit and all of its varieties, applications and limitations.

    Only then can you start using each circuit as building blocks to create something unique that you can proudly call your own.

    Start by doing simple things such as build a crystal radio. Add an audio amplifier.
    Build a power supply for the amplifier.
    Experiment with 555 timer circuits and make LEDs flash.
    Build a siren with two 555 timers.
    Turn it into an intruder alarm.

    The possibilities are infinite. Use your imagination.

    The best advice I can give you is build stuff.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  10. strantor

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    Just how far up the food chain do you want to go with what you define as "designing"? Even if you did design your own circuits, and I define that as the physical connections between components on a board that you selected, you're still riding on someone else's coattails. Someone else designed all the components you're using. Prior to your arrival on the electronics scene, someone smarter than you put together some combination of circuits (invented probably by an even smarter, earlier person) in an IC and packaged it for your convenient use. Unless you are going to manufacture your own silicon in the garage.... actually, if you want to be a truly revolutionary designer, you're going to have to find a way to make semiconductors out of something other than silicon, then manufacture them, then make circuits with them, being ultra careful not to make your circuits look like something that's been done already.

    My point is, making physical connections between components per an instruction set need not be looked down upon. You're building it for your purposes. The application is what's important. Once you build enough of the circuits that the pioneers laid out for you, assuming you read, and read until you understand the purpose of the components you're soldering together, you'll start to understand how portions of the circuits work, and how to combine these portions together into your own unique circuits.

    It takes time, and patience. Patience, not being something that seems your strong point, having admitted giving up several times already, is absolutely required. If you can't make yourself stick to it then I can't guarantee you'll be able to learn it. It's not for everyone you know.
     
  11. mcgyvr

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    There is always sewing :p
     
  12. strantor

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    My problem is somewhat different than Adam's. I never actually "built to learn." I built out of necessity, and learned along the way. I think of application first, and what components might get me there (often with help from the forum, to give due credit) and then research how to make them work together to get what I want.

    Once I get through the arduous design experience, I usually find that what I've done has already been done before, and I probably could have bought it wrapped in plastic for a lower price. It goes back to what Mr Chips said; 99% of everything you can think of is already thought of. If it's an idea worth making, it's probably already made, and if not, it's probably a bad idea. But I will not claim "there is nothing new under the sun," rather "99% under the sun is old"
     
  13. MrChips

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    Another way of looking at it:

    We all stand on the shoulders of giants and that makes us even taller.
     
  14. joeyd999

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    I better quit my day job!
     
  15. adam555

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Aug 17, 2013
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    I really like electronics, all that's involved in it -even the maths-; but I feel like I'm making no progress, stuck between knowing the components and the laws, and not been able to put them together at will.

    That has always been my greatest fear: electronics being about the study of how small modules work and then putting them together. But I always had the hope for some reason that I would be able to design those modules on my own rather than studying what others made before me.

    I studied all that up to understanding small circuits, but never reached up to how to design them. Now, for what you guys are telling me, that's not the intermediate step that I was hopping for, but the last step of a long road; which not everyone reaches. :(

    I did already some of that stuff, but just now I realized I'll have to go through all of them; and really understand how they work, not only being able to copy them.

    Well, what I was actually hopping for was to be able to design the small circuit portions on my own so that I wouldn't have to learn what other people did before me. But I see that's not going to happen; the only way to progress is doing exactly what I was trying to avoid, learning how each module works and then being able to modify them and put them together.

    Been there too. :D
     
  16. strantor

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    No, actually I chose my words carefully because I knew you were reading. Apparently not carefully enough ;). You're one of the 1%... but I use that term not in the political way that I know would make your skin crawl hehe.. the 1% that makes things nobody has before.
     
  17. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    First of all, a J-K flip-flop is a pretty complicated thing to design, and whatever genius first invented it surley studied other latching designs before coming up with it. So in essence, the flip-flop was developed over time by people who studied other people's work. That's how one learns to design and invent. Dont' beat yourself up just because you didn't invent something out of thin air.

    You may actually be able to design more than you think. You might just need a structured approach to design, and we might be able to help.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  18. adam555

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    Aug 17, 2013
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    Not sure exactly what you're asking for...

    1) is just an AND gate
    2) an OR gate
    3) an NOT gate

    and

    4) a NOT gate for b and both into an AND gate, or a NOT gate for a and both into an AND gate.

    But that's easy, that's just digital...
     
  19. JoeJester

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    That means more than just the internet culture follows the 89-10-1 rule or 90-9-1 rule.
     
  20. w2aew

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    Jan 3, 2012
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    The only thing I can add to the good comments and advice you've gotten thus far is - recognize the fact that you'll learn a LOT more from your failures than from your successes. If you design something and it fails, don't abandon it, dig in and learn WHY it failed and how to fix it. I think *every* design engineer will agree that the most valuable lessons have been learned as a result of failure, not success.
     
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