Bringing it all together

Thread Starter


Joined May 11, 2012
Hi everyone,

Ive always loved electronics and designing circuits and im an avid reader of HackADay which always feature really cool bits and bobs and things people make. And ive always wondered how you start to learn to make your own ideas come together.

Im just finishing my first year of an Electronic Engerneering degree and things are really beginning to look a lot clearer.

Digital circuit design I love, its clear cut you start with wanting to build something to perform a certain task and you systematically work through it and produce the out come.
For electromagnetics on the other hand, it really doesnt get my interest. I think its cool and interesting but just doesnt sit well for me, just to many "external" factors and "perfect condition" requirements...anyway...its not about that.

But what im still stuck on is

1) designing a circuit that interacts with a PC. Over USB or parallel port for example.

2) for something like a POV wand or a light painter I see many people building their own but I have the same feeling of not knowing how or where you would start in wanting to design and build something like that.

I dont even know what to look up on to teach myself.

I have a few different ideas of things I want to make. An RGB LED strip that with different dials can control brightness, colour and how many leds should be on for example.
Then say using a PC to set LED patterns, plug in my circuit over USB say, then save the pattern to the LED strip as a preset for example.

I just have no idea on where to start or what I should be looking up on to get this kind of design knowledge. Not how to do it explicitly but gaining the required knowledge for me to come up with a solution myself.

Ive done circuit design and analysis as well, op amps, mesh, loop, transistors etc thats all fine with me as well, i enjoy working through circuits and coming up with solutions.

So the question of bringing it all together is learning the extra building blocks I guess that go in between.

I know this probably sounds like a strange post but hopefully someone can understand whats going on in my head! hah



Joined Aug 27, 2009
I only suggestion is to just to start making things with simple micro-controller circuits and keep at it until it becomes an instinctual process of taking a concept, breaking it down into functional units and knowing what it takes to implement those functional units. Get a high quality development board with lots of external components for circuit interaction and learn a computer language to program it with. People learn by repetition and pattern creation, building many simple circuits that are easy to understand when starting out builds a framework for complex circuits later. You can't really skip this and go to a complex project needing PC/USB connections because your brain will have no frame of reference to organize the thoughts you have about how to build it.


Joined Mar 24, 2008
µC do not teach electronics. They do a lot of really cool things, and make excellent projects, but it is only a small subset of what is out there.

Case in point, someone had a school assignment to make a digital clock using gates and flip flops, while someone was recommending using a PIC. At the end of the day, who knows more about fundimental digital logic at the end of the course?

PICs and what not can save oodles of circuits. If you want to learn electronics you need to know how not to use them. I am not against using PICs, but they are not the same as knowing electronics.

The way I see it, you an try a more formalized approach, which is no fun by yourself. Or you can pick a device, and study it, asking questions here to get it down. We have plenty of bona fide experts that can answer almost any question.

The other side is to build things. It will teach quite a bit by itself.

We have a decent but incomplete text book that is part of this site. It is good reference material.

I have one guy who stated that he understood LEDs, then proceeded to demonstrate he didn't by stating PWM was controlling the current.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, it ain't what people know that gets them into trouble, its what they know that ain't so.