I want to emphasize the importance of developing the intuition behind the theory. It's vital, and the lack of intuition is why so many people find a complex, theoretical topic difficult. If they had spent time developing their intuition, then they would not struggle so much to understand and remember the theory.
Last, you have to build stuff (this also helps with the intuition). Decide that you are going to spend $300, and start buying parts. Don't go to Radio Shack, because you will (in my experience) pay an order of magnitude more for the same part. Shop on Aliexpress (or sometimes Amazon or Ebay). Who cares if you have to wait 6 weeks for the part to come in... do it today and it will be here about the time that you are ready for it. Never buy just one of anything. You can usually buy 10 or 20 for the same price that you can buy 2 or 3.
Most importantly: DO SOMETHING! Anything. Watch videos. Buy parts. Put things together, and then try to figure out why it's not working! Whatever you do, just don't stop. You will learn if you keep at it. At this stage for you, though, the most important thing is that you actually start.
Electricity videos. Audio can be annoying, but the visualizations (although corny at times) are outstanding for developing intuition.
GreatScott! - building projects
bigclivedotcom - does A LOT of teardowns, and you learn A LOT by seeing what designers have done wrong.
EEVblog - Dave talks (sometimes a bit long-winded, but I like him anyway) about various electronics topics. His explanations are outstanding.
Afrotechmods - Both good for explanations as well as building stuff
Ben Eater - Builds his own 8 bit computer and walks you through all the steps
Ben Krasnow's Applied Science - Teaches a lot more than electronics, but will also help you get some ideas (don't underestimate watching people do cool stuff to inspire you)
Jeri Ellsworth - Lots of random electronics stuff
AND DO NOT FORGET TO BUY THE BIBLE
There is a very, very base level of electronics understanding for a couple things that are below the scope of what he covers. You're expected to understand what a pull-up resistor is, for example, and he briefly touches on RC circuits but I don't think his explanation would be sufficient for grokking the concept from scratch. Overall though, he is an excellent teacher and I think he makes concepts quite clear.
I personally ran a few parts at 2x speed, and skipped the Turing machine discussion entirely, but I'm sure the info is quite necessary to some people, so I'm glad he included it all.
Not sure you learn a lot, but he's a knowledgeable guy having fun ripping shit apart in his garage with an adorable Canadian accent.
I like his channel because it involves scales that don't play in. Like testing very high torque motors (over bolts bigger than my thumbs).
Julian Ilett - especially if you want to learn about solar
I would also recommend 8-Bit Guy who dives into electronics in some videos.
Does the extension you linked do pitch correction as well? I wish I could find one that does for Firefox, too, if you happen to know of one. The only playback speed control extension I've found for FF doesn't.
low signal to noise ratio. The video log has 400 hour long parts in the series now, it's hard to pull valuable information quickly. It's not structured at all. "all over the shop", to use Dave's words.
Nice introductions, but not very deep. "It's not the Volts that kill you, it's the Amps".
As someone who's self-taught I found that the Art of Electronics was fantastic once I had enough basics. It may require a couple reads as it's quite dense but everything in there is solid gold.
- A real soldering station.
- ALL THE RESISTORS
- ALL THE WIRES (Solid core is really handy for mocking with breadboards
- A good multimeter
- A good power supply
- Shrink tube
I think that covers the main things. Also nice to have are
- Heat gun
- fume hood (this is overkill for a hobbyist probably)
- Oscilloscope (I hear they are getting nearly affordable)
- Crimps (molex)
- A real crimping tool (Not pliers. One of the ratcheting ones.)
- All the other stuff I forgot about.
> A real soldering station
Get a good, name brand soldering station. Yes it will cost a few hundred dollars, but it will make a huge difference in your work. The cheap-o $15 soldering irons all produce horrible results and will shatter your confidence...
Get good, very thin solder. It will be expensive ($40) but will last forever and if paired with a legit soldering iron, will make a huge impact in your abilities.
Warms up in seconds, open source and customizable firmware, takes very little space (kind of important to me since I don't have a dedicated shed/garage for the hobby). What's not to love about it for a beginner?
Other features like a temperature graph or adjusting calibration and control parameters are handy additions when you have a nice display like in the TS100. Realistically though, people aren't really writing their own TS100 firmware with the exception of a few tinkerers. What it comes with is good enough.
For really fiddly SMD items I have a cheap hot air rework station, but I don't need it very often - mostly when I have to desolder something SMD or solder on an IC with a thermal pad on the bottom.
Also they have other great products.
The MINI Nano DSO203 is a great 4 Channel Digital Oscilloscope for around 100 USD... Also the Mini ES 121 is a piece of art screw driver :)
So yehh... I say it is a name brand ! And the Brand is "Mini"
It's nice if you only do audio or low voltage stuff but the first time you're going to point your probe at something a bit more beefy and you will let the magic smoke out (good case) or worse.
If you're just doing a bit of soldering as a hobby, though, get leaded solder. It works so much better than the modern unleaded stuff. Just don't breathe the smoke.
That is personally not the tradeoff I'd make.
Lead is a special kind of poison in that it makes you stupid before it kills you: This is especially true of children, but I don't want any of it on my adult self, either.
Note, you can also buy lead-free 'low temperature' solder, which has a lot of the same properties of lead solder, though it's more expensive.
"don't breathe the smoke" is just generally good advice, and it definitely doesn't become less applicable if you use lead free solder.
Being a technician, I read the MSDS:
I mean, I ain't saying you should lick either one... and yeah, I don't know how much if any lead is released into the air during normal operation, but lead is pretty seriously toxic to humans, and avoiding touching the lead as I'm using it sounds kinda difficult. The flux? yeah, that isn't any good for you either, but I don't think it's in the same category as lead when it comes to toxicity.
> Soft soldering temperatures (<450 °C) are generally too low to generate significant amounts of metal vapors, however, metal oxide fumes/dust or flux decomposition fumes can occur.
> For frequent or prolonged soldering processes, use of a local exhaust system to avoid exposure to thermal decomposition products. For example, use fume cabinet, a hood on a flexible arm, or tip-mounted fume extraction system on the soldering iron.
So if you're only occasionally soldering up a circuit board, you stay well ventilated, and you keep the solder temperature below 450°C (my soldering iron is usually set around 280°C - 300°C) then the risk seems pretty negligible. If you take up circuit board fabrication as a career then obviously you'd take it much more seriously. I should still give unleaded solder another shot, though - maybe it's improved since last time I tried it.
I think the danger is in touching the lead directly; it's a soft metal and comes off on your hands to a certain extent, and my understanding is that some of the dross can end up as lead dust.
According to the NIOSH, just washing with soap is often not effective for removing lead from your hands,
>I should still give unleaded solder another shot, though - maybe it's improved since last time I tried it.
I'm starting to look into different formulations; I'd start with the SAC305 formulation. It's like 3.5% silver and slightly more expensive, but still cheap. and widely available.
Not that I'm any good at soldering myself.
What's a good name brand for soldering irons?
A note - soldering stations usually come with a cheap conical tip as a starter tip. Pay an extra $20 or so to buy two chisel tips: a tiny one for fine work, and a big one for larger work. The flat surface allows you to apply more heat to the joint. Take care of your tips (ie: keep them tinned, don't leave the iron on too hot, and don't scrub too hard with the brass sponge) and the tips should last a few years without trouble.
Also tips, get a hooked tip, about 80% of the time it'll do the job.
Yes, the Hakko's are really nice and quality, but the Chinese clones are honestly 'good enough' for many people. They're workhorse machines that see tons of use in their native market.
Regarding the JBC, after the initial investment, various the tips (chinese clones ~$5 or even originals ~$25) add so much incremental value to the soldering iron base for such a little extra cost.
If you're soldering for a living there are probably better suited soldering stations, but if you're just starting out: get this one.
Also: don't skimp on tin. Good quality soldering tin makes a huge difference!
Get a small airfilter/fan if you're going to solder a lot.
It doesn't have to be super thin but thinner is 100% better than thicker.
I would make the opposite argument that if you can get great results from a cheap-o soldering iron, your confidence and ability will soar thereafter.
Recall that, back in the really early days, soldering irons were large affairs, consisting of a large block of copper heated via a gasoline or kerosene torch, with a large wood handle and a steel shaft:
Electrical ones weren't much better:
Now granted, connections were mostly "free-air" and not PCB based or similar. Also, some of those irons were meant for soldering sheet metal, not really electronics or electrical work - but that's what people had at the time...
When I learned to solder thru-hole electronics, I learned with what could be called a "cheap-o" soldering iron; something like this (maybe not as nice looking):
I still have it, and still use it occasionally. It takes "forever" to heat up (about 10-15 minutes), and the tip looks like hell. But for thru-hole construction, it works great. Once you know how to use it, you can solder like a champ.
Would I use it for SMT rework? No. Basically it's virtually worthless for anything with less than 0.1" pitch, unless you're removing parts and just need to dump a lot of heat in a small area.
The key to successful soldering is knowing how to control and place the heat where you need it, and flowing the solder into the joint properly. Most make the mistake of not tinning their iron or the part leads, then trying to flow the solder using the tip of the iron, where all it does is stick the iron tip. Instead, you have to heat the component's lead(s), and flow the solder using the heat on the lead(s). Tinning both the iron and the leads helps with this as well. Flux can also help, but if you use a decent flux-core solder (preferably 63/37 ratio tin-lead), flux should rarely be needed. A paste flux is useful though for cleaning the tip of the iron, especially when shutting down for the day.
It's kinda like arc welding. Sure, MIG can be easy to learn. But if you really want to understand, start with rod (stick) first. Yeah, you'll stick the rod continuously, cussing a storm up at first. But after a while, you'll develop the knack of keeping that weld pool just right and moving the rod while feeding it in, without sticking. Once you've done that, MIG is nothing...
I tend to disagree, when you're learning is not the time to be fighting your tools.
First buy a breadboard (or more than one). Buy the resistors and wires you need in the near future. You'll need a crimper pretty soon to cut the wires.
A good power supply is nice, but you can make due with a battery holder and battery at first, say, a 9 volt.
Look at some simple projects you can build, and get the capacitors, LEDs, inductors etc. necessary to build them.
When you want to start soldering things together, get a soldering station, solder and stripboards. Also get solder flux . Soldering is much less of a pain when you have flux, depending on what you are doing.
As the comment section here attests - a soldering gun is hot. Solder is hot. You have to be careful.
Digikey.com and Mouser.com have many, many electronic parts. Adafruit.com has a lot of cool projects and guides. In fact, I would recommend you watch some Adafruit videos, read some of their guides etc.
After you learn some of the basics, you can take a step up and get an Arduino and muck with that.
I find jameco.com very friendly for a beginner. Prices are about the same as elsewhere, shipping is fine, selection is fine for a beginner, and usually it's usually pretty easy to narrow the search results to just a few parts that have fairly clear differences. They have a pretty nice email newsletter too, essentially the only newsletter I allow through my spam filters, and the only one I've ever clicked on non-accidentally. The regularly feature hobby projects on their front page, from premade kits to more advanced stuff.
On the other hand, if you get the right cheap oscilloscope, such as a Rigol 1054z, which goes for $350  and add the $180 "serial bus analysis" option, the 'scope will know how to trigger on and decode I2C, SPI, RS232 protocols.
If you don't mind using cracks, you can enable the serial bus analysis option for free, and also double the memory and the bandwidth.
Rigol's response to the crack is interesting. The cracks work because they used a key length for a cryptographic key in their firmware that is short enough to fairly easily brute force. It's hard to see how this could be accidental. Further suggesting that it is not accidental is the fact that they could have easily fixed this once people figured it out, but they have not.
That has led to speculation that they purposefully did this, so that hobbyists could easily crack the thing and get all the features.
Professional users could also crack it, but they would be reluctant to do so, because of potential liability issues. If you are a pro, and you design something the ends up used in a system that causes harm, and it comes out you were using hacked test equipment, the plaintiff's lawyers will be all over that.
If that is the case, it was an excellent strategy. Over on /r/electronics or /r/AskElectronics, you ask for a 'scope recommendation as a hobbyist or student, and almost all the responses will say get the DS1054z and crack it.
I'm not sure what people mean when they say they want to learn electronics, whether they are talking about getting a micro based kit and hooking things up to it and programming it or whether they want to understand circuits and components and how they work. If it's the latter, then go with a scope.
Annnd they doubled their prices, oscilloscope it is.
also, Horowitz and Hill, to echo what i suppose is mentioned elsewhere.
As for gearing up, I think $300 is way on the high end. A cheap $10 temp-controlled soldering iron, solder, flux, and flush-cut snips are most of what you need. I'd add in some assorted parts bags; you can get like 20 each of dozens of different resistors in a big sack for $15 on eBay. Do that for common stuff like LEDs, capacitors, transistors, and some arduinos and such, and you're good to go. Could be well under $100 for a good start.
His YouTube videos are incredibly accessible despite their technical depth. Once you get your feet wet with the basics, I highly recommend his videos. They are a treasure trove of information while simultaneously being easy to understand & follow. I wish my professors could teach like him.
It’s actually mad the amount of stuff you pick up through watching someone who’s good at what they do doing it and explaining it well, prodding at your understanding while they do it.
Binging with Babish/Basics with Babish
This guys shtick is that he recreates dishes from film/tv. He used to be a video editor iirc so the production quality is great and it’s very focused on the food itself (as you can tell by you very rarely seeing his face). As he got more popular he made the Basics series. Can’t recommend them both enough
This is done by a guy called Chef John. Similarly to Babish he’s very focused on the food/process, and is very good at explaining some principles and encouraging you to think for yourself (he’ll often not give precise amounts and encourage you to add some, taste, add more if needed). His voice/inflections can be grating when you first watch his videos but you grow to love it. He’s got an endless supply of all sorts of dishes so he’s a great resource
It’s Alive with Brad/Bon Appetit
This is a series from a channel about making pickled/fermented food. A lot more specific but it’s hilarious and I’ve made some of the stuff from the series and really enjoyed it. Even if you’re not gonna make any of this stuff I’d still recommend these for pure entertainment value.
There’s also a bunch of content on Bon Appetit (the channel), some of Claire’s vids are very good, mostly baking-related.
Other channels I’ll look at include Alex French Guy Cooking and J Kenji Lopez Alt. Alex does a lot of cool stuff on Ramen, and is quite experimental, exploring different techniques for doing things etc. Kenji is very scientific with how he cooks things and explains the reasoning behind, say, why you should shake your boiled potatoes before you put them in the oven to roast them.
If I think of any others I’ll comment again!
My wife likes watching cooking shows but it is more about the competition and elimination/personalities than the technical side of the cooking etc.
I like to cook, she doesn't really - she bakes so it works out okay as a team - and I kind of watch along but these links are way more relevant to me personally.
Also, You Suck At Cooking https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCekQr9znsk2vWxBo3YiLq2w is one of my guilty pleasures. I think he's hilarious and figured it was purely a spoof channel, but then I actually watched a couple and if you don't mind and/or enjoy his fooling around (and have a moderately well-tuned BS detector to tell when he's fooling around) the recipes are pretty good. I particularly like how he doesn't spend a whole lot of time measuring things out. It's a great counter to the precision generally present in recipe books, which used to be a big hangup for me (pipettes broth into Pyrex measuring cup "gotta get EXACTLY 1 C broth in this soup!" => dumps broth into drinking glass "Eh, close enough!") I'm still adjusting to that style but it has already saved me both time and unnecessary tension. (Seriously. The error margins in most cooking seem ridiculously large to me!)
You sure thats the channel you meant?
"YouTube University. Seriously: watch 30, 50, or a 100 videos. You will develop an intuition for what is happening. THEN read books (some good ones already suggested in other comments) and you will learn the concrete theory."
I have been thinking a lot about it in the past few days, and it makes a lot of sense, and may be very helpful in helping me increase my learning speed. I am not referring to electronics just yet but learning in general. Whenever I want to learn how to make a new dish in the kitchen such as fried tofu, kettle corn, carmel corn, etc. I will simply watch 5-10 YouTube videos and just absorb what makes sense, and I think this may be called intuition and it is nice to realize what is happening.
In regards to learning software engineering though, I don't do that as often, although I did with HTTP/2 and it was fantastic. I do watch a lot of videos but I also slog through a lot of technical books at a slow-reading style pace. It is very helpful BUT I see that I will be limited in my learning throughout my life to just a few subjects at this rate.
I am going to now follow your advice and watch 5-10 hours of videos on new topics before doing the deep dives into the books and still deep dive, but now I will have that intuition.
Thanks for sharing that, it has had an effect on my future!
Circuit Jam helps a bit for practice: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.circuitjam
Also, stack exchange: https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions?sort=votes
I'd love to learn electronics. You know what I need? ONE Youtube video, and a single kit I can buy on Amazon.com to build what's shown on the video. Then a second video, and an exercise (either with the same kit, or something else).
That's how I would stick to it.
Too often, people like you think that the issue of learning is about finding information. It's not! In the age of internet and being one or two click away from everything, the issue is simply to keep the motivation high.
Not an advert, nor affiliated, just happy with their products & service.
Eg ask component manufacturers to send you samples, recycle electronics from things you or others throw away, etc.
What about home improvement/construction?
Absolutely, whether it's electronics, woodworking, cooking, mechanics, or whatever skill you choose, you can develop an intuition for a particular craft by watching others perform it. Even if it's not something inherently educational you'll still pick up bits and pieces of information, and things like technique and methods to approach a problem become evident the more you watch.
If you're looking for some suggestions on woodworking channels, I wholeheartedly recommend Matthias Wandel, as well as John Heisz, as these channels are both very approachable and are often presented in a 'how to' fashion, providing plans for their work in the descriptions. There's no shortage to channels dedicated to teaching woodworking or home improvement if you just look for them, although some are less approachable than others, an example of this would be mtmwood which is presented in Russian although knowing Russian is not necessary to understand the videos. He tends to make some pretty neat and complicated cutting boards.
Although I must stress, don't skip the book learning with something like woodworking or home improvement, knowing how to operate power tools safely as well as taking personal protection seriously is absolutely essential.
Thanks for the suggestions. The thing I like about youtube is unlike other things like books, articles, that I always bookmark to look at later, I can immediately immerse myself into youtube.
Any recommendations for home improvement? Or maybe other hobbies you find interesting like watch making?
I was motivated by doing some audio projects. Projects have real requirements, and so they force you to iterate on the design until you hit all your requirements: power supply logistics, signal purity, enclosure, ...
Get a good textbook like Horowitz The Art of Electronics.
Learn how to use a CAD-based circuit simulator program like LTSpice. Build the circuits you read about in the simulator, and run them: apply signals, and look at how the voltages behave at various nodes in the circuit, as a function of time.
Read schematics for equipment that you know. If you're into vintage audio, that is not hard to come by.
Recently I was looking at the schematics for a "Furman PQ-3" parametric equalizer (Google for it). I blinked twice and did a "double take" and then immediately recognized that its filter bank consists of "state variable filters": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_variable_filter
Bam! Didn't even know what that was some four, five years ago.
Here is one copy of the schem: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/attachments/so-much-gear-so-...
Check out the power supply: the output of the transformer goes to a dual-voltage regulator. That feeds the chips. The unregulated voltage is also tapped and that is used for an emitter-follower output-stage on the upper left.
This is completely pointless. The op-amp IC's have such stages inside them too; why do they get regulated power and this one doesn't? On a dual supply, op-amp chips don't really need regulation.
If I built a clone of the device, I'd completely leave out this discrete component output stage; it is pointless. You're not going to drive speakers with this thing, but relatively high-impedance inputs (the next device in the chain, possibly a power amp).
So you can see what I'm doing here; critically looking at (the electronic aspect of) a complete product. Doing that requires some learning, but it also produces learning bit by bit.
You ask questions: why is that stage here? Why did they include this component? What is this transistor/resistor/diode doing here? Is there a pattern to this, and where have I seen it before? Is it really the same pattern and is it justified in this context? And so on.
This class ranked right up there with my nuclear engineering labs in the following sense: 1) using an oscilloscope in a lab setting takes a lot of patience & hard work (similar to radiation detectors) 2) I wasn't prepared for how "fuzzy" (sorry, I know that is not the right word) electronic components behave when examined in a lab setting. I was used to resisters and capacitors, and in previous labs they behaved fairly well. This class showed me how complex it all is, and "Art" is not a bad word to describe it at all.
I learned a lot and strongly 2nd the Horowitz recommendation if you want to really get down into the nitty gritty. Maybe it isn't the first book you pick up depending on your background, I dont' know. AND, I hope oscilloscopes and their user manuals have gotten a lot more friendly in the intervening years since 1991 :-)
I consider analog electronics to be more akin to "dark magic" than anything else...
I'm another fan of Horowitz and Hill's _The Art of Electronics_ - it's my go-to reference after 35 years in the business.
And it's really not that hard.
Also, the discrete output section helps power dissipation in the regulator. Especially if the output gets shorted.
... And I was curious, so I just looked at the datasheet for RC4558. Maximum supply voltage is +/- 18V. So you'd probably have to bring that unregulated "20V" rail down to 12-14V actual to stay within that.
Ah, but that section here is a feedback-stabilized amplifier stage; and the power rail is dual-voltage. The ripple in the positive rail swings opposite to the negative one.
Lots of power amplifiers use no voltage regulation for the rails. The amplifier is a kind of voltage regulator already anyway; if you add a regulator, you're basically adding another amplifier to the amplifier.
(Hey, I heard you like amplifiers, so I put an amplifier in your amplifier, ...)
But most of my experience is analog conditioning for microcontrollers - more sensitive, higher frequency noise, and admittedly single rail with today's op amp technology. An extra component doesn't necessarily add complexity like in software, but can actually simplify one's mental model of the circuit - nice stable supply rails.
If you look at that original circuit, how much did the regulator cost compared to say the transformer? Eliminating the regulator would have required changing the transformer, at least.
I'm just trying to get across that it's a bit of a red herring to prioritize cost-optimizing the circuit if you're setting out to build a one-off clone. Even hobbyist debugging time is worth more than a few ten cent parts.
You can find similar circuits from the 1950s-60s Popular Science back-issues on Google Books; that's the time period when hobbyists were transitioning from tube-based stuff to more solid-state and transistor stuff (transistors came down in price enough, plus they were more reliable) - so occasionally, you can find an article on some project combining both technologies.
Do you have any good resources on learning such conceptually?
It costs a little, if that's a concern.
You really don't need to use EagleCad to lay out your own PCBs for a very long time into the hobby. Perf board and jumper wires are sufficient for prototyping for a long time, most SMD/ball only chips/components have prototyping boards from sparkfun or adafruit or whatever.
Honestly, after a few designs, making a circuit board feels as easy and fun as playing a puzzle game.
Hackaday has a good series of blog posts for familiarizing yourself with the basic commands:
Actually, there are some rumors about him that are quite unsavory, and I'm waiting until the cetacean equivalent of the #metoo movement to make an appearance on twitter to see the fallout from that.
Do you have any alternatives to recommend?
I know he (Brian) has expressed that those articles generated underwhelming metrics for the amount of work they take, but they really are a useful resource for people looking to get an overview of their options. And I'm sure the Whalebait fiasco will blow over soon enough.
I'd recommend doing them quick, as Kicad is on the verge of a new major release(5.0) and these series might become outdated.
Basically, whenever I look at a schematic, I think “why do analog engineers like to work in the equivalent of assembly language?”
I do more digital than analog electronics, and based on Verilog and VHDL, those folks seem to be working with “stone knives and bear skins” too! At least they get to have real names for things.
Not being at all a professional electronic engineer, I’m sure this a misguided reaction, but I’m not sure exactly how.
It came with a spiral bound manual that taught GW-Basic. I didn't learn a damn thing at the time, I just slowly typed the lines of code into the PC. I stuck at it long enough that I eventually drew a star on the monitor, as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" beeped at me its 8 bit glory
In that singular moment, I hadn't "learned" anything, but I knew then, I needed to take apart every single piece of electronics I could get my hands on. I never "learned" anything about schematics or what all of these pieces of metal do, yet I remained endlessly fascinated.
30 years later, I do embedded development. There's not a day that goes by when I "learn" anything. But the sheer joy of my continued failures, along with the rare, occasional success, has made me a very happy person, who backed into somehow figuring out how to read schematics, prototype a proof of concept, layout PCBs, order the parts from digikey, order boards from Dirty PCBs, solder them on to the PCB, program Assembly, C, Python, JS.
But when it comes to the folks that can do devops, thats just plain magic.
The way a lot of people get into electronics, as a hobby, is wanting a piece of hardware for a simple application, seeing existing solutions are very expensive, and discovering a community of people building their own solutions.
The way a lot of people get out of electronics, as a hobby, is loosing interest. Seeing something you built come to life is a great way to maintain interest, getting stuck in theory and first principals may delay that gratification long enough to loose interest. Later on it's fantastic for building something new from scratch that no one has seen before (even more gratifying.)
For every generation this is different so depending how old the person you're asking you'll likely get a different 'stock answer' about how they got into it.
In the 50's it was radio equipment. In the 60' was home built hi-fi. In the 70's it was kit computers. In the 80's it was a lot of radio controlled aircraft. In the 90's a lot of car tuning. In the 2000's it was modchips for video game consoles. In the 2010's a lot of stuff with Arduinos for smarthome, smart clothing, art projects. The details and exact time periods may vary a bit but the general idea is you get something tailored to your needs better and cheaper than buying off the shelf.
A good place to start is find a project someone else has done and written up, recreate it, modify it, then publish your twist on it. Repeat. For instance, here is a good starting point to add custom mood-lighting to your home: https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-neopixel-uberguide
Keep a journal of things you have open questions about as you're going through these projects on dropbox paper (for instance) and fill them in with knowledge by asking on forums, stack exchanges, youtube, here and elsewhere.
Caveat: I'm a software guy. I burn myself when I solder. I make smoke come out of components. I might not be the right person to listen to :-)
With the exception of an oscilloscope, you can put together a simple bench for a few hundred dollars. I've had mixed luck stocking components (for instanced, either my circuits are clueless crap, or the 10Mhz crystals I bought off of eBay are just empty cans -- in any event, a circuit that should oscillate just sits there). I found a used Tektronix scope and couldn't be happier, it really makes a difference when you're debugging something.
There are excellent stock images out there to make your soldering experience even more memorable:
The Saleae hardware doubles as a license for the software. Using a "knock off" with open source free software is perfectly fine.
https://sigrok.org/ Is a great tool that works with a great selection of hardware. Including most of the knockoffs.
I actually own a genuine Saleae for ref. Although I blew it up :(
I was maybe fifteen and had my dad help me as a third hand and I burned him. My late dad had the patience of Job. He didn't get angry or raise his voice.
He just told me that he'd never let me forget doing it. Sure enough for the rest of his life he'd tease me about the 'scar' I gave him.
I’ve done this at least once .. soldered a 0805 resistor upside down through a 1-inch hole. It doesn’t wick like you’d expect! Quite hard to do
With respect to oscillators, the old saying of “amplifiers oscillate; oscillators don’t” comes to mind. Electronics is a cruel and unforgiving field.
Also burn myself and let the magic smoke out and I’m apparently qualified in this field. Go figure :)
A broken Tektronix scope will teach you more about electronics than a textbook too. I think I’ve had about 20 of the things over the years.
Indeed. Also, the purpose of expensive integrated circuits is to protect the delicate fuses in your design.
Amplifiers can have a big phase shift and gain which fulfills barkhausen criteria which is the fundamental requirement for something to oscillate. Oscillating amplifiers are usually a very bad problem because it trashes the signal you are amplifying and tends to suck up a lot of power.
Fuses take a glacial amount of time to blow compared to an integrated circuit. When something goes wrong the IC blows up way before the fuse goes.
Electronics covers a huge field and many people specialize in just one area. Here are some of the main areas that are accessible to hobbyists (roughly in increasing order of difficulty):
- Digital electronics. Using microcontrollers to do things in the physical environment.
- Audio electronics. This is a fun area of electronics because the quality of what you build is directly reflected in how it sounds.
- Amateur radio electronics. Lets you talk to other people around the world. Harder than basic audio circuits because you need to know about antennas and radio operates at higher frequencies. Also requires passing an exam to get licensed, but studying for the exam helps with learning some of the theory.
- FPGAs. These are sexy, but not many applications that are that compelling for a hobbyist unless you have something very specific in mind. Plus you have to learn Verilog or another HDL and the way of thinking is very different than normal programming (since you're effectively describing the hardware you want rather than an algorithm).
My advice is to first figure out which field you're interested in, then find a project to work on related to that field. Having something practical to refer to makes understanding the theory (like what you'd learn in The Art of Electronics) easier.
Then get a simple "combo" tool (oscilloscope, signal generator, power supply, digital multimeter) like the OpenScope MZ or the Espotek Labrador. Add a handful of components, a wireless breadboard and some jumpers and you've got enough to do most of the labwork that the first few years of an undergraduate EE program can do.
If you can find an old Maxitronic "n00 in 1 electronics projects" kit they give you a pretty solid platform for building different circuits that you could analyze fairly completely with the USB attached lab instruments.
Depending on how it goes (if you're doing circuits from the all in one kit or building them out of the Art of Electronics book) you can look at how things interact and get a solid feel for things.
 I picked up one of these when I was teaching electronics to kids (https://www.elenco.com/product/300-in-1-electronic-project-l...) and got one of the 500 in one versions at a garage sale.
I was schooled in electronics for 5 years - I have the fundamentals down enough that I can reason about things. I can draw the schematic for a power supply, but I couldn't tell you what sort of capacitive or inductive circuitry specifications would be needed.
On the other hand, i'm building a MTG card sorting machine; and while i've never controlled relays and stepper motors before with software, I know enough that I can fill-in-the-blanks and what sort of issues to be mindful of.
So projects helps a lot - always be tinkering with something or somethings. Watching youtube channels (like aVe) that are tinker-focused and do experiments and explore electronics theory and applications - that can help a lot too.
Also, checkout a hamfest if there's any near you coming up. You see all sorts of crazy stuff there that can inspire all sorts of projects. Just don't go with too much money or room in your car.
Here are some fun project ideas, drawn from stuff I actually did when I was growing up/learning electronics. For reference, I almost completely skipped college, and am a hardware engineer at a company you've heard of (I can't believe it either).
-Lego car with electric motor scavenged from a floppy drive + 9V battery (grade school first project)
-High voltage generator (10kV?) using CRT flyback transformer and 2n3055 transistor circuit.
-Pocket audio amplifier using an OPAMP circuit. (search: mint tin amplifier)
-Countdown timer that can set off fireworks (don't end up on a list please).
-Worm robot using ATMEGA328, hobby servos, cardboard and masking tape.
-Disassembled hard drives and built a laser-scanning XY galvo system from the parts, fed by an amplified audio stereo pair (easy, fun and psychedelic)
I would also add fix stuff to that list. You can learn a ton by fixing broken electronics (or trying to) as it forces you to learn how they work.
As for tools and supplies. I would avoid buying very many things upfront* instead buy them as you need them to complete a project. The only general tools I would buy are a multi-meter (Fluke 115), bread board, jumper wires, resistor kit , solder iron (Weller WE1010NA), and maybe oscilloscope / digital logic analyzer combo like the Saleae Logic 8. You can get all these things, name brand top quality tools, for about $800 total. I would stay away from super cheap import type stuff to start. Some of it is fine but it isn't worth the frustration for a beginner when it doesn't work. The more expensive stuff will also grow with you as you get more advanced where as you will quickly out grow the cheapo stuff.
As far as formal equations you need to know the only ones I ever really use are V=IR (Ohm's law) and P=IV. If you paid attention in high school physics you probably already know these.
*The problem with buying a lot of stuff up front is that you end up with a bunch of less expensive stuff that doesn't really grow with you or a pile of parts that are a pain to keep organized and are obsolete by time you get around to using them or that you can't find datasheets on.
Going to throw another book in the ring. I generally recommend this book for people getting started, because it teaches them how to solve specific problems with real examples. The theoretical side of electronics can be quite daunting because of the sheer number of concepts and understanding of mathematics that are required.
Practical Electronics for Inventors covers a large number of important circuit/electronic concepts but grounds them in real world application. Perfect for getting your hands dirty while learning the most pragmatic aspects of electronic theory.
There's lots of advice geeking out about special high-quality soldering gear, my advice is don't even worry about that yet. You're mostly going to be doing breadboarding at first anyway. And besides a cheap iron is fine. (Everyone, please stop glaring at me.)
Only other piece of equipment you might want is a cheap multimeter. You can get these off amazon for $9. Sure it's not going to be accurate in some edge case you can find but 97% of the time you only ever use the continuity tester and after that the voltage tester, which are pretty hard to get wrong. No, you will not need an oscilloscope or a logic analyzer or a special high quality multimeter or anything like that.
Save the big purchases for when you know you really care about it. Front-loading the cost of a bunch of special gear before you even know why you might need it and may never is a hobby anti-pattern. You can just buy cheap beginner kits.
There are some good youtube channel suggestions. One to add is Eugene K's visualizations of the physics of voltages and electronic components: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkyBCj4JhHt8DFH9QysGW...
Otherwise, and arguably sort of ruining the fun, are circuit simulators. A good one is falstad.com/circuit/ . It's much faster to draw up a simulation than to put together a breadboard circuit, you can add instrumentation and swap values ad nauseam, and you are less likely to make an inscrutable wiring mistake that contributes to small declines in your mental health than you are with a physical prototype. I use this for small analog circuits all the time to double check myself.
People say basics are resistors, capacitors, inductors. Only for theory. If you want to build stuff, start with understanding power, switches, circuits -- not ICs, just making closed loops, series vs parallel, etc.
After your first few toy autopsies, get yourself a collection of LEDs, motors, copper wire, batteries, and perf-boards and paper clips. Make some switchy circuits doing various things. Make a car that can go straight. Make a car that will change directions when it hits a wall. Think about adding a microcontroller. Think about adding a USB interface, or a BT remote control. Add an LED display showing random numbers. If you spend the time on it and some loose change, you can learn a lot up to building real products from simple electronic toys. You'll learn about resistors and capacitors just from following the instructions of how to install these more advanced things into your existing circuits.
And this https://www.digikey.com/en/resources/edu/harvard-lab-kit (BOM's with all the components needed by the book)
I recommend these YouTube channels:
Not all of the videos are useful, but if you browse through the "Most popular", you might find some interesting stuff. I did. There's also a long tail of other channels that post the odd interesting beginner-electronics video. Type in search terms for things you're confused by, and you'll find tens of people trying their best to explain it to you in a way you can understand. Don't understand one? Try the next person.
I bought an "Arduino starter kit" off eBay for about £35. It came with an Arduino Uno, a breadboard, some bits of jumper wire, resistors, a few capacitors, a relay, a servo, some LEDs, an LCD display, etc. Just a basic bunch of stuff to start playing with. (I think I paid more than the constituent parts were actually worth, but if they weren't all bundled together for me I wouldn't have known what to get at all, so I got plenty of value from it anyway.)
Then just start playing with it. In the process of trying to make stuff work you'll accidentally learn about pull-up and pull-down resistors, switch debouncing, filtering capacitors, using transistors to switch larger loads, SPI, I2C, and it'll all start fitting together in your mind. Every time you learn a new thing it opens up a bunch more avenues of stuff to research.
The resources available on YouTube are so much better than they were even 3 years ago. I think that's what has helped me "succeed" this time.
Finding projects that you can make that can actually do something that interests you makes a world of difference.
It's like learning programming/OOP through the typical animal examples versus making an app that is something you would actually use or fills a need that you have.
Examples include fixing or completely re-wiring the electronics in an electric guitar, fixing or building guitar effects pedals, building midi-actuated devices, building a strobe tuner, adding pickups to acoustic instruments like guitars, cellos, and violins, modding a 3-head tape recorder into a tape delay unit, building pickup pre-amps, winding guitar pickups, fixing or modding old synthesizers or divide-down organs, building new midi interfaces, getting into modular synthesis, building oscillators, filters, sequencers, etc...
Music seems to be the sort of domain where there's always some electronic device you wish you had that would make your life a little bit better in some way, and it often happens that the thing you want is something that no one currently sells, or not for a price you're willing to pay.
I haven't done an electronics project in years and I'm still stuck with all the extra parts in my toolkit and shelf.
A music instrument maybe? Automate the blinds in your apartment? Track the motion of earth for long-exposure photography? A multicopter for flying FPV?
Also, get a Soldapullt.
This is a plenty good enough multimeter: https://www.amazon.com/Fluke-101-Multimeter-Equipment-Indust...
Most importantly: Your first oscilloscope should be analog.
You don't need fancy test equipment with a zillion features, but it's especially important for a beginner to have well-made and properly-functioning test equipment. You need to be able to trust the readings even if you do something silly with it.
I look forward to falling further down the rabbit hole.
You should consider setting up a referral link :)
Also, you are likely to want two multimeters at some point: Having one wired in somewhere and another for measuring around, or measuring current+voltage. So having a cheap one when starting and then a more expensive when needed is not a problem.
An experienced tech can spot the errors and work around these limitations. But for someone trying to learn electronics bad test equipment readings can present a real obstacle.
I own a few old motorcycles and I’m swapping cars for something easier to maintain. My next project is to build a wiring harness for my 1973 Honda and this meter will be very helpful.
Here's the "learn" page on the Adafruit web site: https://learn.adafruit.com/
And the Adafruit Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/adafruit
And it's definitely worth just dipping in and out of -- and eventually reading all the way through -- "The Art of Electronics." It's a terrific book, and manages to be both readable and super in-depth about every topic you could possibly want to know about when you're trying to figure out what's what.
There are also a number of inspiring blogs by electrical engineers who are also great writers. Which ones to follow sort of depend on what specialties you are most interested in, but Bunnie Huang's is a great one to start with: https://www.bunniestudios.com/
edit for form
But the ARRL handbook is definitely a masterpiece.
If I'm at home I get on the air for traffic nets or QRP and there the topics are thankfully pre-defined because I'm a lousy conversationalist. I found clubs to be a hit and miss kind of thing. Some of them have active homebrewing groups where you can exercise your love of electronics but they're not as common as smaller clubs that tend more towards operating (emergency comms, repeater installations, stuff like that) rather than building things. 73
What all these have in common is an engaging purpose that focuses learning, and endless challenge that always leads to new learning.
Amateur radio did it for me, and I still maintain a large radiosport station, but for my kid it was robotics that really lit up their eyes.
That's still a good choice, but you'll notice it's getting a bit outdated.
For learning the hobbyist end and some skills and techniques I recommend this guy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh8JiW2G9yR2v7TwUm04m_g
He has some tutorials for simple surface mount soldering, and some useful reviews of equipment. He uses mostly correct soldering techniques too.
When I was younger I used to tinker with tiny electrical projects (from NZ so we had "Dick Smith" kits). I understood the very basics, but nothing complicated. As a fairly proficient software developer, real electronics has always felt alien to me.
Then recently I got an Arduino, and it's opened a whole new world. It's the perfect mix of feeling like you want to glue stuff to it, and feeling like you can glue stuff to it. That one device is already full of so much interesting circuitry (with the timers and the uart and little pins waiting to ground them to make stuff happen). But the docs and libraries will guide you through it. It's like training wheels for electrical circuits.
Your first project will be to make an LED blink, but to do that properly you need to use Ohm's Law (or else you'll forget the resistor and burn something up).
Then you'll make the LED change state based on a button press, which will teach you about pull-up resistors.
Eventually you'll add a modern version of a 7400 IC or two. You'll try powering too many components (likely more LEDs), and you'll discover why decoupling capacitors matter. You might even mess with a MOSFET.
By this point you're a competent novice in digital electronics, and you're likely ready to start learning some of the fundamentals of analog electronics. But along the way it felt like you were just doing a bit more with software, so it was a really easy learning curve.
In the 1970s RS and presumably others used to sell those "100-in-1" project kits with various analog components mounted on a single board, connected with jumper wires using springs. It was kinda cool, especially the project with the "bomb dropping" sound (1000 uF.)
That's my recommendation, assuming your skill level is "training wheels needed."
The spring-and-jumper style seems to have fallen by the wayside, but on eBay I see a few kits that use breadborads, and another called Snap Circuits that looks interesting. And some vintage spring-and-jumper kits which probably need a bit of cleanup.
None of these suggestions will teach you how to solder though.
There are guys with 30years' of experience in some of them and they can set you on the right path. Take their soldering class or intro class, and try to get some hands-on help with volt meters and oscilloscopes.
Next thing I did was design and build a DC lab. I bought my meters and scopes outright, but designed and built my own DC load and power supply. Since I'd already watched Dave's videos about them on EEVBlog, they were obviously influenced by his design, but I made a couple of non-trivial changes to the spec so that I'd have to make my own design decisions. I found this electronics stackexchange post very helpful for heat dissipation calculations . Also, while it's very simple and not suitable for complex or precise work, Falstad's circuit simulator was very helpful for experimenting .
My next step was fixing things. This gave me an opportunity to do a bunch of things:
* Become familiar with ICs. At first I always had to look up the number on every IC I saw to figure out how it was supposed to behave before I could test if its actual behavior matched, but over time you'll start recognizing those numbers and understanding why it was chosen over another component that does the same job.
* Drawing schematics. Debugging is really hard without a schematic, so on anything remotely complex, my first step was often searching for a schematic. This search often came up empty, so my second step would be following all the traces and looking up all the chips so that I could draw a circuit diagram and figure out roughly what I should expect.
* Soldering. This should be fairly self-explanatory.
Frankly, I haven't gotten past here yet. I'm not terribly good with AC theory or RF stuff. I came to this thread looking for recommendations on that part, but I don't think there's any reason my methods so far wouldn't work; I just haven't had the time.
The 8-Bit Computer video series by Ben Eater (reshared on HN recently, https://eater.net/8bit/) was the first thing I saw which ignited a passion for understanding the hardware underpinnings of computing.
ElectroBoom, GreatScott, EEVBlog, Julian Ilett, and Adafruit YouTube channels are really great, too.
What I have found is that having a dedicated space for your hobby is probably the best way to help.
Having a dedicated desk it means that all my stuff is immediately ready when I have few minutes of time to do something, test an idea, etc. No amount of hardware will help you if you will have to set it up on your desk and then clean up every day. At least that's what is working for me.
I think there are some things that have made it easier, others that have made it harder. The availability of parts, data, software tools, and knowledge, have of course exploded. You no longer have to call an IC maker on the phone and beg for a data book, though they were usually generous to students. There are some great videos and blogs. I like the stuff at the Adafruit site. I also like Teensy, a lot.
On the other hand the proliferation of stuff seems forbidding. My first Digi-Key catalog was less than a quarter inch thick! The last paper catalog I saw was over an inch thick, and lists only a fraction of their offerings.
It's too much.
For this reason I suggest choosing a small chunk of the field. If you're at HN because you're a computerist, maybe playing with Arduino would be a way to break in. Build a few kits, or just duplicate someone's published project. Gradually build up a little mental library of parts that are useful for your particular interest area.
A community college course that covers basic electronic measurement and technician work might be a good start. They will have all of the tools so you don't have to choose what to invest in right away.
Pretty worth it (if you can find a good?) for the lab. The lab is really convenient and you something you would't know how to set up.
1.) Get into the culture of it all. Weird, right? But like lots of people are pointing out, YouTube has a bounty of electronics channels, one more niche than the next. There are also audio podcasts like Macrofab Engineering, Embedded.fm and The Amp Hour (disclaimer: this is my and EEVblog's audio podcast)
2.) This is probably the most important -- once you're a bit into the culture, you need something to shoot for. If the first part is figuring out WHY you want to build, then this part is figuring out WHAT you want to build. I would recommend starting with either a simple project (555 timer is a simple starting point) or slightly modifying someone else's existing project. There are no new electronics circuits, so lean into kits from adafruit, sparkfun and the sellers on Tindie. This is a wonderful time for all of the kits in the world. Electronics are cheap and plentiful and simply following someone else's instructions and getting the "muscle memory" for electronics is a good start.
3.) The last step is the HOW of electronics. This is going to be where peoples' opinions crop up the most. Some say start from the bottom up and learn semiconductors first. Others say you should start with firmware and arduinos and slowly learn what each piece is doing as you get into it more. To quote a familiar TV program, the right answer is probably "middle out". This is also a practical answer, since there are always lower level concepts you can learn and higher level concepts you can learn.
I usually do not suggest The Art of Electronics to people getting started. Instead, I think they should use a project idea of what they want to build and Google. Again, a shitty answer, but this is the best method I've found. Most books start with "What is Ohm's Law" and other math based operations and I think that's not the right move for most people. It lost me when I was getting started and I've been doing hardware for 15 years.
If you're unsure of where to start, make something blink. I have a short tutorial on how to build a circuit board, solder it up and blink it with a Rasbperry Pi. It sounds dumb, but it's important to get the dopamine flowing. Check it out here: https://contextualelectronics.com/courses/shine-on-you-crazy...
1. Don't stock up on components at the beginning. Only buy components that you need to build a chosen/designed circuit. Passive assortments contain useless stuff like many slightly different values of nanofarad capacitors. They will waste space in your parts storage.
1.1 Always keep your parts organized!
2. Surface mount (components sit on top of circuit board) is not hard. For any thru-hole circuit (components have wires that pass through holes in the circuit board), the surface mount equivalent will be easy to solder. Only the surface mount chips with tons of pins, like 32-bit CPUs, are tricky. Those don't exist in thru-hole. Plus, if you start making PCBs, you won't have to drill holes in them.
3. Classic op amps like the 741 and 358 suck. There are newer cheap op-amps that behave closer to the ideal model.
4. If you want to get into repair, practice desoldering before you desolder anything from an expensive board. It's easy to damage components and board by overheating when struggling to desolder.
- bench power supply
- soldering iron
- wireless breadboard and jumper wire kit
- common resistor pack
- common capacitor pack
- Some basic components like 555 timers, flip flops, op amps, leds, variable resistors/knobs, small speaker, etc.
For books, I highly recommend Getting Started in Electronics, Forrest Mims - 
Spend some money and get a good power supply, soldering iron, and multimeter. You need an oscilloscope as well but you don't need to break the bank. You can get started without it but you won't get very far once things get complicated. The multimeter is like using print statements to debug your program. The oscilloscope is like using a debugger.
Next is to figure out what you want to make. Things like induction heaters and tesla coils are surprisingly simple to make. You can make a tiny tesla coil known as a slayer exciter using a transistor, resistor, led, and some wire.
[pdf] - https://theeshadow.com/files/Forrest%20M.%20Mims%20III%20-%2...
For me this worked very well - I need a goal, a purpose. Designing things is good, but I think repairing things is perhaps even better for learning and getting started. Particularly if you have one working example and one broken example, and you can compare circuits.
So my advice - if you have one of something that works and has a circuit board, and you can find a schematic for it...go buy a broken one, and fix it. Then you can sell the newly working one, and do it again with something else. You'll learn a lot, and it will be very practical stuff to have learned. The art of hardware troubleshooting is its own wonderful talent to have.
I keep coming back to it, though I only tinker. I've recently gotten into modular synths, and that's neat becasue there are plenty of kits to build wihtout having to know a lot about hot the stuff works.
In the last month I've built a pretty complicated VCO and an Oscilloscope.
The stuff is cheap.
I've had a pretty good informal education as a nerdy musician and computer guy over the last 2 decades.
IMO the good thing is to keep in mind that a) for low voltage stuff you can mess around a lot and not hurt yourself (the devices can be another matter) and b) a lot of this stuff is just within 10% tolerance... like you can do a lot with minimal knowledge.
I got a lot out of a series of youtube videos that were tied to a company selling kits of resistors, breadboards, etc:
And then it's like learning to code (if you know how to do that): find a project that seems like you more or less understand the broad strokes and try to implement it.
For the practical side of things buy a protoboard, a multimeter and some components (resistors, capacitors, etc) and start mounting simple circuits. Learn how to solder and start fixing stuff and doing fun projects. You'll eventually need more stuff to learn, having an oscilloscope to see the signals is needed to understand what is going on with AC circuits, but you could probably simulate it instead with software like Multisim https://www.multisim.com/create/
Learn about Microcontrollers too, they give you the ability to do the really cool stuff, like robotic projects.
I'm starting by soldering together kits for modular synthesis. That's teaching me all of the technical skills and ensuring I have the right tools. Some friends to help correct my shitty habits have given me the right skills and equipment to build.
Then I know how to assemble things, so now I'm trying to build my own very simple circuits. Once I can breadboard them, my friend can help show me the ropes to get PCBs printed and then I can manufacture my own things.
Finally, the troubleshooting exposes you to a bit as you have to understand what's going on.
Learning and watching on the side take the basic exposure and distill knowledge from that.
Buy a PCB board some components and start putting things together. Supplement with youtube, blogs.
-Take it easy- and don't get in too deep. You want to learn, not get frustrated. (A mentor can be -very- helpful.)
I'd suggest breadboarding to 'learn electronics', while avoiding 'learning construction' at the same time. Also find out where you'll be getting the parts you need. As a beginner, you might want to start with a parts kit. Get a good book and learn what each kind of part is and the basics of what it does.
It can really be most worthwhile to start with the introductory Engineer's Mini-Notebook volume, "Getting Started in Electronics" where everything is so simple. Once available at Radio Shack for $2.49:
Then work your way through the other Engineer's Mini-Notebooks of interest and you will be able to recognize all kinds of other resources that can be helpful to build on this foundation in similar ways.
Regardless of your objective you will need a foundation in analog circuits and here's a classic reference for schematics:
But he wrote other books published through Radio Shack (and maybe TAB publications?) that did address things for learning and such.
His website has a complete listing of his works:
In fact, the first book on that page is called "Getting Started in Electronics" (he's actually a prolific author); between that book, the mini-notebooks, and AOE - that would be a great set for an electronics education.
Book wise, start with something from Forrest Mims III, who provides graduated and clear examples of basic circuits and theory. When you're ready for the hard stuff, the The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill.
You'll never be as good as someone with a reasonably current EE degree, but developing your intuition will enable you to have meaningful conversations with them.
Step 2: Start reading the datasheets of different Integrated Circuits that you might use in your circuit. Its not that hard. Once you understand what Vcc, ground etc., are it becomes really easy.
Step 3: Try and solder the the elements that you used on a board. Soldering is a basic skill that many engineers I know lack. It is good to know it. I have fixed many broken radios and other electronic items using this skill.
Step 4: Start designing printed circuit boards on a software and send it to a company and print it(there are other means to do this too).
Once you cover this, you can do a lot of really cool stuff with electronics. I hope this helps.
Note: This makes you an amateur. Now if you want to learn about FPGAs and other stuff, then its gets a little tricky. You might need a book for that.
Today, in addition to this there are monthly electronic subscription kits that can be pretty cool.
The way I'd do it today is find projects online that I can order the parts myself from AliExpress/eBay to come from China and have a project a month to do. Things take 4-6 weeks to arrive, and you can order the next project while working on the current one.
Without the motivation of a thing to do it's very hard to learn much useful for me. So much is interesting or important in theory but rarely used, and without a target goal it's hard to tell the difference.
Like, newton's law for circuit analysis was really great for lots of interesting problems -- I just never have to solve those problems in real life ever. It's important, but is harder when you're self-teaching. When I self-teach I want to be getting pulled into a rabbit hole and pick up deeper knowledge there. I want to know what questions I need to answer.
And when you get more sophisticated, read many, many datasheets very closely. It's the only way to really get a feel for the wealth of options available as an electronics designer.
Electronics is a big subject. Some of it can be approached like Lego but others, especially high frequency work needs a more holistic and mathematical approach.
So I think you need to state your goal a bit more precisely.
Me - grew up with it as a hobby/passion. I just learned what I had to to accomplish my goals. So my advice would be to come up with some projects/goals and figure out what is needed to accomplish those.
One downside to this is that your electronics understanding will only be focused on a concrete usage of it, so you might not get the depth on certain areas of electronics that the application doesn't cover, e.g. you won't learn how a solid-state drive works in the context of electronics if you focus on radio technology.
Also a plug for MakeCode: https://makecode.com/
It's the friendliest electronics programming environment I know of, and you can program Adafruit boards with it. You can program with blocks or Static Typescript.
(Disclaimer: I worked at MakeCode as an intern, specifically I made the breadboard system for https://maker.makecode.com)
Functioning of electronics was more or less clear for me by the time I finished high school in Russia, the only way up was to learn real electronics engineering.
So, begin with dusting off your school textbooks.
Note that: 1) I never understood electricity or even electronics, no matter the level (<HS, HS, College).
2) as a computer guy I had the fetish to actually know what the hell was going on. And since my first laptop, I have an itch to mod boards.
yet nothing happened for a decade, until .. maybe the rpi came out. You can find boards for 10$... so now I have a bunch. Then I bought other stuff (wires, multimeter). Then a soldering iron. Then I started to scrap old electronics and parts from stuff that people threw away.
But that doesn't teach you anything. I guess a blend of youtube videos (greatscott, electroboom, AvE) helped getting a tiny bit of theory. Then actually powering dc motors and esp8266 boards. Then trying to read proper text books. (just google 'best electronics books'). Oh also /r/electronics and #electronics on freenode <= an amazing bunch of people here, very knowledgeable, 99% helpful, even for idiots like me.
Also it depends on your brain. Some people will crave rigorous mathematics, some will want to solder stuff and light things up. I needed a blend so I went my own way.
One thing, for low voltage circuits, you can maybe assemble anything you want. Just get a pair of gloves and plastic goggles and you'll never injure yourself and plug things together without fearing capacitors blowing. Stay away from power electronics at first, actual safety is required unless you plan to either cry or visit nurses in the ER.
I find the topic quite fascinating.. that sophisticated green planar with lines everywhere and components.. is just an abstraction layer above waves of f/a and mathematical relationships between them. Even the clock of your circuit is most probably a crystal which material order waves.
Also, it's so damn tangible... it's not pure ideal like code. It's matter that you touch, that heats up. It connects to chemistry (you can make a resistor with a graphite rod, a pencil, and variate the resistance based on the length before the other terminal).
Advantage of the kit is that you'll have a working product in the end, and you'll learn soldering (and other things) on the way. You may not understand all the underlying principles of the kit at first but Rome wasn't built in a day :)
As an example, I started with guitar pedals from techniguitare.com (allowed me to practice basic soldering + refresh opamp theory), then progressively moved to more complex projects. My experience with communities that build these kits is that they are generally very friendly and helpful when you want to learn.
Then, projects like led cubes (i.e. you'll learn matrix multiplexing) or esp8266 based IOT are easy and usually rewarding
Make a light blink. (without 555 timer)
Make two lights blink at different intervals.
Make a light that only comes on when it's dark out.
Make a light that comes on in the presence of an electrostatic field.
Make a crystal radio.
Make a transistor radio.
Make a radio transmitter that your transistor/crystal radio can receive.
Make your transmitter send and receive morse code between computers.
Make your transmitter send and receive data with FSK.
Make an Arduino control your transmitter.
Congratulations! You're off to a great start!
EDIT: Also, not sure if this is still the case today, but I learnt tons from reading Application Notes. I guzzled application notes books from all the semiconductor manufacturers.
An equivalent today might be a the add on kits for Raspberry Pi or Arduino. Plus the high school robot competition clubs.
Must have worked because I later attended MIT ;-)
Just as an aside, if you have kids especially, the "BrainBox" kits are really cool for playing around. For instance http://www.cambridgebrainbox.com/Explorer2.html they come with a bunch of passive / active components to play with. I found I could demo a lot of principles to my son and we could play around with ideas. It's probably not going to last you more than a week in terms of learning electronics, but it makes playing with simple circuits super easy.
While there are many ways to connect components like breadboards and stripboard, and many modern and digital versions of circuits, getting some experience with basics, even something as simple as a low-component flip-flop to flash one or two lights, will help you translate thought and theory into knowledge and experience.
From there, an indespensible resource in my education was diystompboxes.com/smfforum (DIY electronics forum). Focus is on guitar effects, but there are people making amps, guitars, hi-fi, and digital gear as well. The community there has an excellent core of helpful veteran DIYers and engineers, and a strong culture of sharing and teaching.
The humble Fuzz Face is generally a "beginner" level project which you can get working in an afternoon, yet if you drill down into why it works you've got enough to chew on to fill 2 or 3 college courses (at least 1 of those being a "weed out" level course). This pedal was a staple of Jimi Hendrix, but he had a good ear and legend says he'd sort through boxes of them to find the good ones, because they varied a lot.
The reason they varied is because they were built around germanium transistors, which were low tolerance parts. And the circuit itself is really high gain and temperature sensitive and has all sorts of caveats around it.
So if you covet that Jimi Hendrix-quality Fuzz Face sound, you need to deep dive into things like measuring hFE and keeping wiring clean around high-gain circuits to keep from turning it into an oscillator (or a radio). There are numerous rabbit holes to explore, like "do old school resistors sound better?" or "what if I want to power it from a normal +9V power supply instead of a battery?"
Then you realize that turning the guitar's volume knob down causes the Fuzz Face to totally change character from racous fuzz into something like a Brian May-esque treble boost, and why the heck does that happen? It's because the input to the Fuzz is a low impedance relative to the guitar, and causes the (mostly inductive) guitar pickup to be heavily loaded at high frequencies, making the distortion smoother than it would otherwise be. So the guitar itself is part of the circuit, and inserting an active circuit (like another pedal) between the guitar and the Fuzz Face ruins everything!
So I guess my point is don't go into it with the generic goal of "learn electronics", instead have a specific goal like "make the best Hi-Fi system possible for my living room, for under $2000" or "make a quadcopter from scratch". Eventually you'll accumulate a ton of depth in a specific domain that you really care about, and you'll pick up general concepts along the way.
Read their high voltage warning.
Remember at one time almost everything was high voltage compared to today.
Pick up the theory and math of EE along the way, and you should be good to go. There’s all sorts of neat things to learn in the analog space or in the op-amp space for those that come from a CS background.
My own and my neighbours garden lights are controlled by the nodemcu unit that I put together and I am working on a RFID project at the moment. Great fun.
At the same time I spent 8 years learning it day in day out in high school and university, so it's hard to tell how far you'll get with just self-learning.
It also depends on what you want to do with the knowledge. Perhaps just go book browsing to a library that has a good set of books about electronics, to find what you mind be the most interested in. Libraries associated with electotechnical schools typically have plenty of these books.
Print: The Art of Electronics
You can build some cool stuff without having much in depth knowledge (there are tons of step-by-step projects for Arduino/RaspberryPi just a Google away).
If you're the type that doesn't mind hunkering down and reading textbooks, I'd suggest Electric Circuits (Nilsson and Riedel) paired with Fundamentals of Microelectronics (Razavi).
Electronics is hard - esp building good quality electronics is hard - but its disappearing as software eats the world. If you're on HN you can probably code already, rpi is a great way to start with software and gradually add more eletronics for robots or sensors etc.
For example, here are the labs for Berkeley's EE105: http://inst.eecs.berkeley.edu/~ee105/fa15/labs.html
I believe MIT OCW has several electronics courses with lab materials.
These days many electronic parts are from China, we will see the how the trade war impacts the price at aliexpress.
2) For digital: arduino projects to start with microcontrollers. After that, try an AVR dev kit if you want to go low level assembly/etc. or just move to RPi if you want to stay at a higher level
But that doesn't matter if all you want to do is low-speed digital electronics like Arduino and microcontrollers. I think the problem is that you don't know what you don't know.
So, practical basics. Understand the concepts of Voltage and Current. Learn what resistors and capacitors are: find a site that has basic linear circuit theory (Ohm's law, Kirchoff's voltage & current laws). Understanding those two components and wiring is basic to everything else. There's a lot of misinformation out there and knowing the basics will help you avoid being trapped by it. You don't need to know the depths of circuit theory: a good overview will get you on more solid footing than most of the "makers" out there.
Want to learn to build audio circuits, or RF or precision instrumentation? Move on to active circuits: transistors, diodes, op-amps. Read everything you can on proper grounding.
Want to blink LEDs and do more "real-world" interfacing & control stuff: find a site on microcontrollers (the Adafruit learning series for Arduino is pretty good), learn about interrupts, analog to digital conversion, digital to analog conversion, sensors, etc.
But it is also a sign of the times, rather than having a bunch of logic the quickest way to get some project off the ground is to tie the i/o to a microcontroller and solve the remainder of the problem in software.
Stay away as much as you can from microcontrollers and ICs, at least until you have grasped enough knowledge and handling/soldering capabilities. I'm very serious, stay away from Arduinos, Raspberries and everything like that. There will be a time for them. Opamps and logic ICs also are a vital part of electronics, but starting with them would do more harm than good. Get a book for basic electronics (No, The Art of Electronics although wonderful is not a good choice now).
Start with simple stuff to get an idea of what the Ohm Law means, that is, some resistors, a battery and some multimeters. While for serious stuff a Fluke is worth more than a billion cheap Chinese multimeters, having 3 or 4 of the latter will be immensely more useful than a single top brand one because seeing in real time the battery voltage and what develops around a voltage divider when you change the resistors ratio has no price.
Same for instrumentation: an oscilloscope is worth the information you get by using it, so you have first to know what it does measure, otherwise it's not even worth a 5 bucks Chinese multimeter.
Try the voltage divider with a 9V battery and measure everything, the total current the battery voltage and both voltages on resistors wires. Change resistors and take note of what changes and try to find out why. Use from very low value resistors to very high ones maintaining their ratio and watch what happens to current and voltage.
Now swap a resistor with a led. Does it light or not? Was it inserted the right way? If yes why doesn't it work? If not why it still doesn't work? What's the resistor value and how much current is flowing through the led?
Measure voltage and current, choose the wrong resistor and burn some leds -> learn more.
Put a high value capacitor in parallel to the led, why the led turns on and off slowly when connecting/disconnecting the battery? Again measure voltage and current: why current increases before voltage when battery is connected?
Build a solenoid by winding from tens to a hundred turns of enameled copper wire around a big iron nail, then connect the battery with some iron small screws or iron powder near the nail head, what does happen and why?
When you remove the battery do you see a small spark? Why?
All those experiments though can be performed with very little money will put you on the right track.
It's a good read if you're trying to learn the fundamentals.
I know a lot about development and architecture. Yet, I suck at electronics. Tried it a few ( short) times but not enough to grasp it.
Will follow up, the humble bundle deals about electrics is wasted money for now :p
Both are pretty good.
Wouldn't have been possible without a slide rule.
Then after basic magnetic circuit theory & transformers, there's a whole chapter of math reference, ends up where they wish they had computers:
Which you are expected to be fluent in before you go forward from there.
Through the remainder of this handy little 1540-page guide, enjoy 'em all.
I've made/adapted quite a few.
The old Radio Shack 200-in-1 electronics kits are informative and easy to use.
They're designed to teach the fundamentals; capacitance, resistance, logic (74-series) gates, volts/amps...
Lots of really useful stuff, entertaining too. You'll have to pick through the videos, but it's all there.
Electronics is a complex topic but doable with the right strategy. Suppose instead of electronics I wanted to learn "how does my mind move my finger?". As a person with a mind and a finger the answer is quite simple: my mind creates the command and the finger moves. While this is true, under the covers though the actual details are a lot more complex. The good news is that electronics is a lot simpler than moving your finger. The trick is to learn the simpler ideas that allow you do actual things without getting lost in the details.
Another problem is that once someone understands an area of learning they tend to want to teach it from a top down perspective. In the case of electronics it's "well here's Maxwell's equations and it's all you really need". But people tend to learn better working from the bottom up. Understanding various simple things and building up the abstract structure as they go.
So here's my recommendation for a hierarchy of learning for electronics. Understand that at each step you're never getting "the complete truth" but also you're not getting actual lies.
First electronics is divided into to types of things. Passive components and active components. A resistor is a type of passive component and a transistor is a type of active component.
It's best to get solid foundation in passive components before moving on to active components even though "proper electronics" is about active components. That's because most of the time active components are actually thought of as a kind of combination of passive components.
So start with a battery and a resistor and the equation V=IR. While this seems way too simple it's actually the idea that used in a lot of electronics so it's good to understand it pretty well. And it's conceptually pretty clear.
Once you feel you have a good solid, unshakeable under standing of one resistor and a voltage supply move on to two resistors in series and then two resistors in parallel. Calculate the voltage and current for each one.
Next keep adding resistors in arbitrary combinations up to say a dozen resistors and become confident that you can calculate the voltage and current regardless of any combination that is given to you.
At this point it's very helpful to think of current in terms of water flow and voltage in terms of water pressure. (The resistor is analogous to the size of the pipe that the water is flowing through) This analogy, with some refinements, goes a long way in electronics so it's good to start thinking like this.
The next step is to take a look at a circuit of a resistor and a capacitor in series. This is the classic RC circuit that is used a lot. A capacitor can store energy and so its characteristics can be quite different than those of resistors. However, with a little mathematical sleight of hand capacitors can be treated "just as if they were resistors" in many circumstances and this makes calculations (and thought processes) quite a lot easier.
Learn the mathematical techniques of analyzing circuits made of resistors and capacitors driven by both an AC voltage and a DC voltage for some very simple circuits. One resistor and one capacitor is plenty for starting.
Note that these circuits have both a 'transient phase' and a 'steady state' phase. You can think of this in terms of picking a ball up from the floor and then dropping it. The time during which the ball is bouncing is the 'transient' stage and after the ball stops bouncing that's the 'steady state' phase. For the most part electronics concerns itself with the 'steady state' phase. However, a circuit driven by a steady AC (sinusoidal) voltage (or current) and be analyzed in a steady state manner even though the values are varying with time.
The other standard passive component is the inductor. Don't worry about it until you get quite confident in your understanding of capacitors since inductors are intuitively harder to figure out and mathematically both components are treated very similarly.
While there are quite a few 'semiconductor' based active components simplify by studying the three main types first. These are diodes, bipolar transistors(npn, pnp) and field effect transistors (FET's). The theory of how these devices actually work is very complicated and not really worth effort. The diodes are quite simple to understand so start with those.
The transistors are trickier. They operate in two modes, non-liner and linear. Non-linear is messy and best left to later. The linear regime is where these are mostly used and is conceptually not too difficult. In fact they operate in a manner not much different than the knob that controls water flow (there's that metaphor again) in your shower. A transistor had three terminals one of the terminals is used to change the resistance value between the other two terminals.
In the case of bipolar transistors the controlling input is a current. With FET transistors the controlling input is a voltage.
And that's it really. There are more complicated things like phase locked loops and more niche type devices like SCR's but these are the basics.
Once you start to actually put circuits together do yourself the favor of learning to solder and wirewrap rather than using bread boards. For a tiny bit of extra effort you'll likely save yourself hours of frustration because your circuit connections will be much more reliable.