If You Could Give Advice To Someone Starting Out, What Would You Tell Them...

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by MinnesotaStateUniversity, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. MinnesotaStateUniversity

    Thread Starter New Member

    Nov 8, 2012

    I'll be attending college in a few years. I figured I might as well get a head start. It's my dream to become an Engineer. Havn't narrowed it down yet, but electronics intrigue me.

    I spent the last few days studying whatever seemed to be logical. -Basic circuitry. Studied what makes up a circuit, how it works, & the bits & pieces that make up these "electronic puzzles." Those bits & pieces of course being resistors, caps, transistors, etc.

    Okay, so I can wire up a battery to 774 l.e.d.'s using a transistor to turn them on or off.

    Cool story lol.

    Did some more researching & stumbled across IC's, which to me are miniature versions of simple circuits you'd find on a breadboard. Efficient? Hell yes. I see logic.

    A little more research, I came across microcontrollers. Making stuff move now! -I see logic again.

    So, I come across Youtube videos on all these different circuits designed to do all these different things.

    Woa, woa, wait. Let's take a step back. I missed out on something. What are we trying to accomplish here with these "circuits." I know what you're thinking. It's infinite & that's the beauty of it, correct?

    Okay, but is there any way you can break it down as far as circuits & their uses. There has to be something.

    You have microcontrollers which to me are designed to physically move/operate devices & such.

    ...then I come across wireless gadgets using receivers & transmitters. & there's all these different ways these components communicate w/ eachother. -Wifi, radiowaves, RC vehicles, etc etc

    I like, holy @$%@#$%#$, where am I suppose to start w/ all of this

    Lol, even I think this post is abstract, but that's exactly how I see "electronics" now. It'd be greatly appreciated if someone could give somewhat of a list. -A list on what to learn in order, so I can make sense of this all.

    I feel like I'm wasting my time diving head first into all of this without knowing their functions/applications, etc. There has to be a way to break this down.

    For instance, I seen this neat looking clock on Youtube a while back. I'm pretty sure it was based off of some type of servo motor -where the clock could only be read when the servo motor was running.

    ^I'd be lost trying to build one. Okay, so I need a device that can be ran off my (US) home's PSU (if that's what you can call a home outlet). Anyways, it's 120V AC. Now I'm almost positive small devices such as alarm clocks do not run on 120AC. I assume there's some type of converter (transformer?). What is it exactly in the alarm clark that needs to be ran off DC power?

    Lmfao, that's all I got haha
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  2. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
    Hi and welcome to the forum. :)

    I think the first thing you need to do is work out what you want to achieve, then it's much easier to put together a plan to achieve it.

    ie; if you want to build a "propeller clock" or "POV clock" then you can google for those projects and maybe find a kit (kits are the easiest way to build things that will work) or if you want more of a challenge then obtain the parts and build it yourself.

    If you are after generalisation of "where to start in hobby electronics" then I suggest you spend a little bit on some basic essential equipment like a multimeter or two, soldering iron (I suggest temperature controlled and adjustable) and maybe a couple of cheap kits for test equipment. That will give you a bit of experience and the kits you build will be useful tools. Things like a capacitance meter or frequency meter can be bought as cheap kits.

    Ebay would be a good start for pricing and sourcing all of the above, as would visiting a hobby electronics store if there is one near you.
  3. Sensacell


    Jun 19, 2012
    It's deep and wide.

    If you don't have a passion for it, you will never get anywhere.

    The investment of time and energy required is enormous, it had better be fun, otherwise you will soon quit.

    Start out by following your instincts- what do you find interesting and stimulating? Then... build, play, experiment. (repeat)

    Don't expect to learn everything, just dive in and follow that passion.
  4. Blofeld

    Active Member

    Feb 21, 2010
    Your post covers quite a lot of different topics. As for actually building some stuff, I second what THE_RB has said. But if you want to become an electronics engineer, there is also the underlying theory you have to learn. Start with the e-book here on this site and see if you like it.

    Also: Mathematics. Lots of it. Some electronics engineers need more math on their job, some less, but there is no chance to become an engineer without passing the math exams. You don't have to think like a mathematician (doing proofs and stuff), but you have to understand the concepts and know how to use math as a tool.
  5. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    Kids today have their heads buried in too much user electronics - computers, video games, cell phones, mp3 players, always playing, texting without showing any interest in learning how things work.

    If you are not interested in how things work, have not already taken apart a clock, radio, phone or computer when you are under 12 years old, then this is not for you.

    Do you enjoy solving brain puzzles, sudoku, crossword puzzles, Rubic's cube, math puzzles? Do you enjoy playing games that require planning and strategy, chess, Go, Clue, Catan?

    Do you have a passion for math and physics? These are the fundamentals. Excel in these two subjects.

    In this world there are leaders and followers.

    Watch Sparky49. Here is someone who is going somewhere. He loves to experiment. He wants to build a CRT and mp3 player. He is leading the way.

    Are you a leader or follower?

    There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't.
  6. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    I should also add that there is growing interests in Asperger syndrone and the increasing number of high profile people with high level of intellect but poor social skills.

    We might suspect that AAC attracts many people who have the tendency to exhibit this trait. My point here is while we encourage a strong interest and passion for mathematics, physics, science and electronics, we must not forget and ignore the human side of life and the need to form healthy relationships with those around us.
    Austin Clark and Sparky49 like this.
  7. Sparky49

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    Thank you for the very, very kind words, Mr Chips - that means a lot to me.:)

    Well, as Mr. Chips says, taking stuff apart is always a good start. To start learning, I would recommend some of the Electronics for Dummies series. There are a couple of books in this series, one is more academic, introducing you to new things like resistors, capacitors, ics, etc. The other is more project based, but each project is very clearly described and written about, so you can learn how the whole circuit works.

    The stage after these 'beginner' books is the hardest step for the hobbiest, in my opinion. There just doesn't seem to be much inbetween the basic introduction books and the big advanced books. However, if you're keen, you'll manage it with time. I think alot of these books are meant to be used in universities where a lecturer is meant to explain the ideas clearer, but if you are willing to put in the time, you can get through it.

    You can also work through the book on All About Circuits. I must confess, that I haven't looked at it much, but that's because I already had a decent intro to electronics before I joined - however there is stuff in there that I still learn from. Always learning! :)

    I would say the hardest thing to get is an inquisitive mind. The rest, like books and components are quite easy to find.

    But the single bit of advice I would give is not to ask yourself why, but to ask yourself why not?

    Why shouldn't I build an mp3? I could go and buy one for a fiver. But then I would learn from building one, nor would I get the same satisfaction from hearing the first tune played on it.:)

    Anything else you want to know, just ask here. The vast majority of people here are very clever and very nice.

  8. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    Don't worry about mains power yet, it's usually cheaper to buy a low voltage power supply rather than make one. They start pretty simple but if you want high efficiency they get complicated. Also mains voltage can be fatal, so best leave it until later.
  9. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    It is really easy to get thrown off track while learning electronics. If you have a grasp of things(which, it sounds like you do), then this seems like a place you can call home. You've spent time attempting to learn, this shows you want to know more about things and the way they work. I would say for you, at this level, go buy a electronic starter kit from Radioshack(one of the few times I'll recommend the place). Forest M. Mims III does an excellent job at getting people to make a working circuit and giving enough information so that you feel like you are learning a lot.
  10. K7GUH


    Jan 28, 2011
    Get yourself an amateur radio license, then get on the air, then start building little projects. Many an engineer got started this way. It makes a wonderful, life-long hobby.
  11. Stuntman

    Active Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    It almost sounds like you have the solution and are trying to find the question.

    Electronics is vast (I don't say that lightly) collection of parts, methods, and skills. A first look can seem almost overwhelming.

    I can tell you that my beginnings in electronics started with a 300 in one electronics kit I tinkered with as a child. Although it was many years (and a college degree) later when I realized this is what I wanted to do.

    Passion has been spoke of. I agree, my schooling in EE may have given the theory I undoubtedly need, but I can say that my projects outside of the classroom have been a crucial complement to my education.

    Where to start? Why not a 300 in one electronics kit? Just reading the different projects might spark an idea for something you want to build on your own... then the fun (and learning) begins.
  12. vk6zgo

    Active Member

    Jul 21, 2012
    Some useful "Do's" & "Don'ts"


    Read,Read Read!!:D
    Any Electronics stuff you can get your hands on-there is some really good stuff on the Internet,but there is a lot of dreck,too,so I would go for real books & magazines in the main.
    That said,the AAC stuff is very good.

    Read Project articles in these books,& mags,build a few,try to work out why the designer did things a particular way,& not some other way.

    Pull old stuff apart--you will get an idea of the way real commercial stuff is put together.

    Become a "Ham"---or at least,attend a few Hamfests & look at some of the Electronics parts & equipment there,talk to some Hams,they are usually friendly,& some are very knowledgeable.


    Decide to build something beyond your knowledge & ask dozens of annoying questions on forums,as even the very helpful people on this site & others will get tired of giving you the same information over & over.

    Get too keen on "designing" something before you have any idea of basic theory--this leads to the situation referred to above.

    Rely on Arduinos the like.
    They are great,but they let you do a lot without knowing much Electronics,so you will end up asking stupid questions about interfacing them to some incompatible piece of equipment.

    The (excellent) answers to your problem will be so far beyond your understanding,that you will have major problems,apart from annoying the responders.
  13. Sensacell


    Jun 19, 2012
    LOL! SMH! FML!

    It's a brave new world out there.
  14. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    Checked my electronics dictionary:

    LOL = Low Output Level
    SMH = Surface Mount Hybrid
    FML = Female-Male Logic
  15. Sparky49

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    Aim for the stars, at worst you'll land on the moon.:)