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Some Guy

Circuits Circuits:)

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Well, I've always had an interest in those green and yellow cards called PCBs (printed circuit boards). It's interesting for me to study them, and to try to figure out what happens with them. The other day, my dad broke his phone. He took it apart to look at it, and it was all busted up inside, couldn't be repaired. I knew that, and I also knew there was no electricity going into the phone, so I took the phone and studied it myself. I've decided something from studying that phone, and the cards inside Nintendo gamepaks, and that calculator I broke years ago-- I want to learn how circuit boards work. I want to know the ins and outs of them. I want to study them, build them, and design them. They are an enormous interest to me. So, please, could someone with some experience in this field tell me where I should look, what books to read, and what websites to visit? I'd really appreciate it. Thanx. Edited by - Some Guy on December 17, 2001 3:06:43 PM

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well, the printed circuit boards themselves are nothing more than wires and a surface to solder the things to... all those thin strips of copper work like any other wire (except they stay in that nifty pattern attached to the plastic); the important stuff is the pieces attached to those "wires".
so, what you really want is something about basic electronics. i can''t give you any book titles or anything, sorry. but, if you like a "hands-on" approach, you can buy little 20-page booklets from like radio shack or something; they will teach you to read schematics (those diagrams used to design and then build circuitry thingies), and you can learn what the things do as you build the sample circuits in the booklets. they are basically tutorials on how to build, say, an FM reciever, or something basic like that (sounds silly, but that''s how i learned about it back in the day when i was into that). i would recommend reading up on it too, but that doesn''t help much unless you are actually putting the pieces together and seeing how it works (kinda like learning programming without actually coding).

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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Well, that was a bit of a vague question, do you know anything about electronics all ready? If not, I HIGHLY suggest the book "The Art Of Electronics" by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill.
That has a chapter on the basics if you don''t all ready know them, but then it''s only really simple stuff like Ohms law, Kirchoffs laws, and inducance/capacitance laws etc.

Here are the chapter headings in the book:

1: Foundations
2: Transistors
3: Field Effect Transistors
4: Feedback and Operational Amplifiers
5: Active Filters abd Oscillators
6: Voltage Regulators and Power Circuits
7: Precision Circuits and Low-Noise Techniques
8: Digital Electronics
9: Digital Meets Analog
10: Microcomputers
11: Microprocessors
12: Electronic Construction Techniques
13: High Frequency and High Speed Techniques
14: Low Power Design
15: Measurements and Signal Processing
+ loads of appendixes.

It''s a big book, 1125 pages, and well worth the money. If you ever want to/are into electronics, this book is great. Oh, get the teachers version.



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Yeah, Radio Shack has these Proto-Paks, which are each designed to cover a particular aspect of electronics, such as power, logic gates, counters, analog to digital converters, etc. Check out www.radioshack.com and do a search for Proto-Paks.

Eventually, when you start to learn the basics and decide you want to really get into Electronics, you''ll want to buy a good sized bread board (solderless circuit board) and build up your own collection of wires, resistors, logic circuits, analog converts, etc to play around with.

I would start small though, otherwise you might spend a lot of money and find you don''t like it. But the good news is that most parts are really pretty cheap and you can get started and continue to expand without breaking your wallet.

I''d definitely visit Radio Shack and grab one of their starter kits. Then I''d visit the local bookstore and look for a good book on circuit design or electronics. From there, you can get a good grasp of the topic and start to play around on your own.

I remember it being very fun, but you have to be very detailed. It can be frustrating to not have your circuit work, only to find out a wire was a little loose. =)

I think it''s a great project to learn and it''s another great career field.

On a neato note, there is at least one or two companies on the web that will take a Visio or Autocad drawing of a circuit board and produce as many as you want through their factory It''s not cheap, but if you get the point where you want to make your own electronic device (maybe plug it into the computer and write a driver for it) then you can get these guys to make it for you so you have a prototype or just a few to give to other geeky friends. =)

G''luck with it.

R.

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When I was in college (my degree is electrical engineering, though I''m a software engineer by profession), we had a very nice little program called P-Spice, which is basically the autocad of circuit design. It lets you set up circuit boards in a virtual environment and test them out before building one.

The student version was free, it''s probably still available (I don''t have time to look right now...). Professional version is really really expensive, but for the hobbyist the student version will probably do just fine, it has everything but limits your component count, basically.

If you''re starting from basically no knowledge of how electricity works, those little "120 projects in one" type electronics kits from Radio Shack are pretty nice for getting you going conceptually, I got one of those for Christmas when I was about 12, great educational toy. The way it''s set up you don''t have to worry about connections as much as you do on a real breadboard as the components are held down and there''s big spring connectors, you just have to wire it. Well, provided you''re doing what the kit booklet instructs you to, and not using the little fan thing and some wire from old speakers and an erector set to make a little car that leaves a huge divot in the hardwood dining room floor when it''s a little faster driving off the table than you really expected, which will get you grounded. *wince*

-fel

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Dang. Thank you! I will go to Radio Shack as soon as I can and pick up those kits you all talked about. I knew they sold little parts for electronics, but I never knew about those proto-paks. Thanks for the response, guys (keep it coming, if anyone left something out!).

A question-- in my home, the whole floor except the kitchen and the bathroom is carpetted. Should I be concerned with the carpet for static conduction or anything, and do my work somewhere else, like in the garage?

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Some Guy, you have the intuition and qualities of a computer engineer. I am a freshman undergrade majoring in computer engineering(well, because I LUV computer architechtures of course). I don't know where you are in your education, but if your in highschool, you might want to think about majoring in Computer Engineering in University. Is it hard? It's one of the hardest things you can do. Is it worth it? At current salaries, heck ya. At my university, there were last year students who made initial salaries of $120,000. Also, nothing good is EVER easy. That also goes for other Engineering discipline.

Edem Attiogbe

Edited by - KwamiMatrix on December 17, 2001 7:04:01 PM

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quote:
Original post by Some Guy
A question-- in my home, the whole floor except the kitchen and the bathroom is carpetted. Should I be concerned with the carpet for static conduction or anything, and do my work somewhere else, like in the garage?

nah (at least not right away). there are some chips and stuff that are sensitive to static (you might end up buying a little roach clip that attaches to your cuff to keep you from ruining the chip), but you most likey won''t be dealing with those for a while.

--- krez (krezisback@aol.com)

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At school we use a very friendly program to make PCB´s from theoritical circuits (schematics). It´s called EAGLE and you can find it at www.cadsoftusa.com or something like that. Maybe you should check at Google. Felisandria recommended P-Spice, which is the best software for Electronics you can find. In fact, every manufacturer releases with their new electronic components the Spice´s model of them. I recommend you to try Eagle for making PCB´s and Spice for simulating their behaviour7.

A piece of advice: Be patient. Electronics is not easy, but it´s a wonderful field, and you will realize that your programming background will help you a lot to understand the basic concepts faster. Maybe you should begin playing around with resistors, a power supply and a multimeter and studying Ohm´s principles. Semiconductors, that is, diodes and transistors are the next step. Learn how to polaryze and control them. You would want to learn something about Digital Electronics next. Mail me at iliverotti@hotmail.com if you get stuck with something, I will surely help you if I know the answer.
Good luck in your new hobbie!!

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I don''t want to start anything, but I would definitely NOT recommend "The Art of Electronics". It is a very difficult book to learn from. The examples are too complicated starting out. It assumes too much. It is a very good reference, and once you know your stuff, it''s great. But I tried to learn from it, and it was very frustrating. If you''re really bright, and very determined, you could look into it, but also look into other books. A local university/college should have tons of good books on the subject. And yes, those radio-shack books are a very good start.

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I found this website just now. I don''t know how good it is, because I have not read the articles on it, but it has A LOT of them!

http://my.integritynet.com.au/purdic/index.html#fm

It''s all articles on electronics and stuff, and it shows how to build an FM radio and other things. Again, there are a lot of articles there, and again I''m not really suggesting it just yet, because I have read NONE of them, but it does look pretty promising. Check it out if you''re interested.

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Hello there. This also is a very strong going hobby for me, and I know what it was like at first to find any good information on it. I have a few places for you though. Most of my interest was only in digital electronics, however.

Check out and download MultiMedia Logic because it''s free and it is great. You can make very good designs of computers, networks, and many higher level digital equipment. But, it is very easy to use, just read the help file to learn about the connection points for RAM modules, ALUs, etc.

For a site that links to most of the well known tutorials, go to Alex''s Electronic Resource Library. There are many tutorials (once in a while a dead link or two though), but for the most part, a very good place to start.

For pure digital logic bliss, Play Hookey is by far, one of the easiest tutorials out there. It has built in examples as well.

Well, I hope those help you out. Good luck in your hobby!

Regards.

=====
Khaos
=====

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quote:
Original post by Thrump
I don''t want to start anything, but I would definitely NOT recommend "The Art of Electronics". It is a very difficult book to learn from. The examples are too complicated starting out. It assumes too much. It is a very good reference, and once you know your stuff, it''s great. But I tried to learn from it, and it was very frustrating. If you''re really bright, and very determined, you could look into it, but also look into other books. A local university/college should have tons of good books on the subject. And yes, those radio-shack books are a very good start.


Of course you have to work at it, you will regardless, but if you enjoy it then it shouldn''t be a problem. If you have NO background in electronics at all, ie, less than GCSE physics or equivilent, then that book may be a bit to advanced, but not if you work hard at it.

Also, about being "bright". As long as you are scientifically minded, you''ll be fine, "bright" is a bit of a general word

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May I ask what the difference is between analog and digital devices? Digital stuff is based on boolean logic circuits, truth and falsehood, like it said in the second chapter of Art of Assembly. So what''s analog based on?

Also, this is a different subject entirely, but has anyone else heard of a computer called a "Quantum" computer? I guess it runs on some liquid or something, and I think it uses a ternary number system instead of binary. A little interesting, but really boring at the same time, for me anyway.

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quote:

May I ask what the difference is between analog and digital devices? Digital stuff is based on boolean logic circuits, truth and falsehood, like it said in the second chapter of Art of Assembly. So what''s analog based on?



Digital is based on fixed values such as 1 and 0 (On or Off)

Analog is bases on frequency, and things like that...for example:
---
A battery connected to a variable resistor will give a Analog output.

A radio recives radio "Waves"...waves are analog messages sent through the air. You can send Digital Messages in Analog form. Lots of math involved in Analog circuits.

Output Example:

A sample digital output: 01001001001001
A sample analog output: 128.5 Mhz


Go to a good school...like...MIT..? Hehe

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I wouldn''t worry too much about static until you''re playing with digital devices. Analog devices generally aren''t susceptible. Digital devices are because they''re basically pretty fragile layers of charge that''s been imprinted on silicon by saturation with ions to make a transistor, the voltage of a static shock can destroy the layers, though generally they''re a lot tougher than people give them credit for, unless you''re working with Programmable Logic Devices that require base charges to set your logic devices in which case as little as 12V can randomly reset the base gate charges. You can buy nifty little wrist-cuffs, but the easy thing to do is get a long piece of wire, strip an end and wrap it around a pipe (water pipes are grounded as a general rule), strip the other end and give it a quick twist around your wrist (or if you have a metal watch attach it to that.)

Generally speaking along with the breadboard and kits, be sure you get a set of needle nose pliers/wirecutters/wire strippers etc, get a volt-ohm meter, and get a wall voltage power adapter (prebuilt or build your own from a kit), usually outputs of 5V and 12V DC works nicely. If you''re going to be actually soldering, get a nice soldering iron (iron, not gun, guns are a pain) because the cheap ones are horrid to work with.

Above all... be careful. Wall voltage can kill you, and if it doesn''t kill you it''s definitely going to hurt. Never leave a project plugged in unattended, and always make sure you unplug before you pick up or move components. I noticed a backwards diode in a clap-on switch I was working on in high school and picked the board up absently without unplugging... I couldn''t move my arm for about 30 seconds and it hurt for the rest of the day. If you''re using capacitors bigger than a pencil eraser, be sure to discharge them by crossing the leads with a wire... they can stay charged for a while. Make sure you carefully read instructions, and pay attention to things like capacitors with polarity, I''ve seen some pretty impressive explosive power behind a relatively small capacitor with polarity that someone put into a circuit backwards.

Electronics is fun.

-fel

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A quantum computer is a theory and hasn''t been invented yet. (as far as I know). It is based on sub-atomic particles taking every possible path simultaneously, then deciding on a path only when they are viewed. Sounds crazy, but it is based on some sound physics. A bit too complex for my brain though.

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quote:
Original post by Thrump
A quantum computer is a theory and hasn''t been invented yet. (as far as I know). It is based on sub-atomic particles taking every possible path simultaneously, then deciding on a path only when they are viewed. Sounds crazy, but it is based on some sound physics. A bit too complex for my brain though.


Mine too. I saw an article about it at www.howstuffworks.com, as well as another article on some new kind of monitor (forget what it''s called) that uses a 3d display rather than 2d-- and I''m not kidding. Writing a game for an Intel machine is hard enough-- imagine writing one for all that nonsense!

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quote:
Original post by felisandria
Above all... be careful. Wall voltage can kill you, and if it doesn''t kill you it''s definitely going to hurt.


Really? Hmmm. Once, when I was plugging in an extension cord for a leaf blower, my finger slipped when the prongs were half-way into the outlet, and touched the exposed prongs. My arm started to shake. It even continued to shake for a few seconds after I took my hand away. No pain. No long-term damage. Nothing.

But this stuff is supposed to mess you up?

I guess that explains some things then!

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I''ve heard that there''s a difference between DC and AC, so if you regulate wall voltage it could be deadly. Don''t know if that''s an urban legend or what (I should know, being an ECE guy). Either way is dangerous, though. I''ve zapped myself with wall voltage (120VAC), and felt tingly for quite a bit afterward but am still here. Maybe if my other hand was grounded I''d be a cinder now.

BTW, digital devices are still analog, they''re just interpretted differently. =) But the point is that a digital output only has two values, and is usually clocked. Analog output takes a continuous range of values and is continuous over time. It''s like the difference between continuous math and discrete math if you''re familiar with that.

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