School, hobby electronics- Basics

Basic Basics: My guide to voltage, resistance, current, measuring them, etc.

Doing it digitally: I think my analogy for how digital circuits work is unusual, and helpful for beginners. There is other introductory material there too.

Home-made printed circuit boards: A sketch of how to make them with minimal expense and bother.

Surface mount: The hobbyist's options


Explanation of electricity/ electronics... plus some other topics about mathematics and science. Supposedly prepared for young learners, but useful to people of many ages, I suspect. If the link for that gets changed, look for "peter schmedding australia science"

If you want to 'make' digital circuits on a Win3.x or Win95 simulator, consider the shareware products reviewed here.... and consider Virtual Workbench (see next item)....

I haven't tried it, but from experience of their other FREE product (Logo for Windows.. 16 & 32 bit versions. Very good, big, professional... don't tell them I said so, but they should charge for it!), this product will be excellent. Virtual Workbench's site will tell you more. As I understand it, the program allows you to 'draw' electronic circuits on your screen, complete with various meters, and then 'see' how the circuit would behave if you made it 'for real'. It seems to be oriented towards logic circuits, I don't know if it also handles analogue. Thirty day free trial (full function), $35 to use after that, $99 for site license.

If you don't know what a "breadboard" (electronic type!) is, consider getting one, if you are playing about with making up circuits.

They are a useful little beast consisting of a half inch thick plastic block with lots of little holes into which you can poke solid (not stranded) wires.

The 'secret' is that bunches of those holes are connected. (But not EVERY hole is connected to every other!! Not every breadboard is configured as below, but generally...)

Imagine the block of plastic in front of you with the long dimension going left/ right. There's probably a channel or gap about halfway 'up' (i.e. away from you) the board. Call a bunch of holes running 'up' the board a column. All the holes in the half of a column above the channel are connected. All the holes in the half column below the channel are connected.

Oh yes... and there is probably a row or two across the 'top' and 'bottom' that are connected to one another but not their columns. These can be used for anything, but are generally used for the positive and negative (usually called 'zero') voltages from the battery or psu you are using to power whatever you're making. Get in the habit of connecting the top row to the positive voltage. The rows of holes for the power supply are called the power 'rails', both in their physical manifestation on the breadboard, and in their logical existence in more abstract things, like circuit diagrams.

Breadboards are only for low voltage things, say up to maybe 20v... NOT household electricity, i.e. 110v in US, 230v in UK.

Surface Mount Devices and the hobbyist

We are seeing more and more ICs being produced in surface mount packages. How does a hobbyist work with these?

If you have everything for making your own PCBs with computer generated artwork... I envy you. Even then, you may not want to make a pcb every time you use an smt device.

Happily, thanks to the Usenet, I finally found someone manufacturing the obvious solution. It is a very small (1.2 x 0.6 inch) pcb with pads in the center for sioc smt devices. I think it will also work with some tsoc devices I've recently bought. Soldering the device to the tiny pads will be a challenge, but do-able. From the tiny pads for the smt, tracks lead out to pads of more manageable dimensions. Just what we needed! A dozen cost me $17.24, including p&p, etc. ($5 of that was a small order surcharge, waived if your order goes over $25... very reasonable, really.)

Furthermore, the supplier was a delight to do business with. The PCBs are part of a range called "Surfboards". The one for soics is part number 9081CA-ND.

You can look at this pcb on a page of the Digikey catalog.

A great magazine for hobbyists

I've had a lot of fun, learned a lot of electronics from the British magazine Everyday with Practical Electronics. The articles by Robert Penfold have hit my interests especially well.

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