Interested in learning about electronics?

    Electronics is a fascinating hobby, technically challenging, bringing knowledge from a variety of different fields to a cohesive whole. If anything, it's an applied field with a theory background that satisfies both theoreticians and the more practical "hands-on" project workers alike.

    You don't actually have to be Albert Einstein, Allessandro Volta, Andre Ampere, Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry, Heinrich Hertz, or James Watt to get started in electronics.  In fact, people "dabble" in electronics every day. Whether that's trying to figure out why your house circuit breaker has been tripped, a remote doesn't work, or connecting a peripheral to your laptop. A little knowledge can be invaluable in many circumstances.

    In fact electronics can take you from primary school level science experiments involving a lemon, some wire and a small light bulb, to full blown diagnostic and repair processes of consumer products, to circuit design and applied custom projects. You don't just "learn electronics", it's tied into so many other fields, you can't help but learn some basic physics, mathematics, thermodynamics, programming, along the way... as well as numerous life skills such as:

    • Deductive reasoning (turning everything off after a circuit has been tripped, and turning things on, one at a time to see which device is faulty enough to trip it again).
    • Simple awareness of electrical hazards, but also rudimentary awareness of how many electrical things work. Some include circuit breakers, fuses, batteries, checking connections, unplugging and re-connecting. (Might save you hours of being "on hold" when calling the tech support hotline... or a massively overpriced call out fee for an electrician).
    • Creative problem solving, like using two-prong (or figure 8) lamp cords to extend the reach of your Apple laptop power adaptor. (Taking advantage of plug standardization to save some money on overpriced Apple hardware).
    • Programming is the art of breaking complex tasks down into simple steps that even computers (or children/management/politicians/etc) can understand. It's also likely to be a desirable/employable skill to have in the future.
    • Recognizing that some things just aren't safe.

    Now I don't want to say that this knowledge is prohibitively hard to get. In fact, I'm largely self taught from children's electronic projects (back with Dick Smith stores actually sold electronics rather than consumer products). But don't think that you can start repairing TVs after a weekend course. Take things slowly, start small, and build your way up. Also, if at all possible, seek the guidance of someone who knows that their doing. The odds of success go way up, and so does the safety of all involved.

    However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the risks that you should be aware of. Obviously, electricity can kill you. (So can water if you inhale it). Soldering involves melting metal, and very hot tools. Assuming that you do everything you can to keep yourself safe, there's a lot of potential for doing damage, so don't do things that are:

    1. Unsafe for anyone else, (end users, pets, personal property, etc).
    2. Beyond your capability. (If you're used to "through hole" components, don't think that you're necessarily geared up for "surface mount devices" (SMDs) which are much smaller, often require a microscope, rework and/or heating ovens, and really steady hands.
    3. Unnecessary/Illegal/breaks warranty. (Why not just get the pros to handle it, it's easier, safer, and generally better all round).

    If you want to get to the advanced stuff, you either have to do the appropriate training, or get someone else to do it. If in doubt, stay out of it! Having said that, there's a lot you can do.

    Where do you start if you're interested and on a budget?

    Firstly, I'd suggest watching some series on YouTube. Now there are thousands of videos. Which ones are good? Well that depends, because they're all aimed at people of differing levels of expertise. If you're an absolute beginner. That's completely fine. I have waded through (quite literally) hundreds of videos, so to save you some time, I have compiled a list of videos that have been helpful to me.

    Have a look at my "Learning electronics through YouTube" page found here:

    Learning about electronics through YouTube

    Before you dash off!

    Electronics are used everywhere, and so you should keep in mind that there are a lot of different directions that your Electronics study can go in. Some videos and books are designed with Electronics Engineering in mind. They will be terribly dense, use a lot of mathematical formulas and delve into the physics of every component. Honestly, I would hold off from some of those.... although don't let me stop you if it seems go in the direction you are interested in. Just don't try to bite off more than you can chew. Start simply, and go from there.

    My advice is go through the basics first, understand it, and then tinker a bit, decide what you might like to try, and then pick a direction (yes I know that's obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people ask me about this).

    One of the things that I don't like about YouTube videos is that many waste a lot of time unnecessarily, and are set at a particular pace that you can't really alter without turning them into incomprehensible chipmunks.  Some people like a slower pace in order to digest, think about, and consider the information. While others will wish it would "hurry up and get to the good stuff". Let's be honest here, it's impossible to satisfy everyone in a one-off video. They don't know you, or your preferences, and since you're not really paying for this information, do you really have the right to complain? Simply move on and find something else!

    For those who prefer something they can do at their preferred speed (whether that's faster or slower), then I'd actually suggest a book on the subject. Old school, I know but nonetheless useful.

    I've got a page outlining what I liked and disliked about a number of electronics books, I've read quite a few, but have little time to write my review.. I'll add them (albeit slowly) over time, and if you're interested, you can find it here:

    Electronics Book Reviews

    All the best in your electronics tinkering, may the magic smoke always stay contained... or if it doesn't, that you stay safe and get a fun story out of the event.

    Ham.

     

     

     


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