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Ask HN: How to self-learn electronics?
1681 points by sidyapa on April 6, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 302 comments

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 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.

Good video series (in no particular order):

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




Thanks to this comment, I've now spent this past weekend binging the entire Ben Eater 8-bit computer series this far. Very entertaining, and I certainly learned a few things about computer architecture. I'm very tempted to do the project myself.

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.

+1 for Ben Eater - super solid explanations, really enlightening even right at an early level.

Also AvE.

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.


We have accents up here??? Why did my mother never tell me this?!? I thought you guys had accents!

I love his tone and personality, he's also a neverending stream of stupid puns, at that level, it's gold.

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).

vice: check

AvE is so great! completely changed how i see tools! plus his gift of gab is amazing

Mr. Carlson's Lab is one of my favorites. Long form videos of custom devices, repairs and restorations of old, simple instruments are really interesting. On Patreon he details his designs and provides complete schematics and parts lists.


Mr. Carlson is a brilliant and thorough guy. Despite my lifelong experience with electronics, I always find something new to learn from him.

I would also recommend 8-Bit Guy who dives into electronics in some videos.

If you want to learn how to design circuits in a structured, analytical way (i.e., without heuristics and black magic), I can recommend this course: [1]. Note that this is really a more advanced course.

[1] https://ocw.tudelft.nl/course-lectures/sed-l1-intro/?course_...

There is a fantastic YouTube speed control extension for chrome that also does pitch correction. Perfect for EEVblog. Not joking.


Personally I've been using Video Speed Controller, which seems more popular. One of the things that revolutionizes your viewing experience - learn the default keybindings (s -slower, d - faster, g - toggle fast (1.8x speed)) and never be bored again.


Always nice to know of other options. (The keyboard shortcuts for the extension I linked are + and -, with * being reset to default speed.)

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.

I think these extensions set the standard playbackRate property on the HTML5 video element: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/HTMLMediaEl...

Try setting the property manually using the JavaScript console and see if you get pitch correction. If not, maybe make sure you're on the latest version of Firefox?

I'll give that a shot. Thanks.

> EEV Blog

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.

> Afrotechmods

Nice introductions, but not very deep. "It's not the Volts that kill you, it's the Amps".

+1 for EEVBlog, he's an ex-EE who brings a ton of experience to a bunch of interesting areas.

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.

I don't like most of his device review videos, too whiney. That said, his talk on op amps was very very good.

The Signal Path - https://www.youtube.com/user/TheSignalPathBlog A mix of relatively advanced and relatively simple videos, no rambling all content with great demos. If you have a test gear fetish this is your channel.

tips fedora

Thank you so much for this - SUPER helpful!

Parts are KEY!!!

Crucial Items.

- A real soldering station.

- Solder


- ALL THE WIRES (Solid core is really handy for mocking with breadboards

- A good multimeter

- A good power supply

- Breadboards

- 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.

For those low on cash, or who want to dive in a little before seeing what soldering station, multimeter, power supply, oscilloscope etc. they want...

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.

Digikey can be intimidating. The interface is kind of clunky, and for a beginner (like me!) it's overkill when you just want a couple of 10uF capacitors but get 60,000 hits for every variation of exotic capacitor ever made, and pricing for units of 1000s.

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.

I can't emphasize the following enough:

> A real soldering station > Solder

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.

I've looked around for a good soldering station and the best thing that I could find for the price/performance is the TS100. All the other budget (sub $100) didn't have a direct heating element. In total, I probably spent about $100 to get a stand and other things needed for soldering.

I'd second the TS100. It's ~$40 (given you can find a power supply for free, laptop bricks work fine. I'm using mini photo printer power supply which I found on the street + $1 plug + $3 worth of heat resistant silicone cable).

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?

Honest question: Why does a soldering iron need a firmware? Isn't it just enough to set a temperature? What other features are there?

Apart from reading the buttons that control the device and writing the display, a digital iron needs firmware to control the feedback loop that maintains the temperature. Digital irons generally have PID based temperature regulation, unlike the crappy analog ones that have open loop systems (some analog irons have temperature regulation, e.g. Weller's old magnetic tips, but the crappy $5 irons do not). This requires a controller to supervise, but also means the iron heats up much faster and maintains that temperature while soldering.

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.

Can you say where you can find a TS100 for ~$40? The cheapest I'm seeing is $50-55. Also, are there different versions you need to worry about or are they all the same? I assume you only want a "MINI TS100" vs. some of the other knock off brands.

I use a Weller W61C (80-90€), which is a soldering iron (not station) that regulates its temparature using magnetic tips. Bit of an oddball, but it works fine even for soldering most SMD stuff, and it's just delightfully simple. Just plug it in and start soldering. Takes up basically no space too, since it's just a soldering iron with no station.

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.

why bother with that when you can get a name brand adjustable temp iron for ~$100?

Because there are none. Please show me a name brand direct heating element soldering station for $100. I would like to buy one.

I would actualy argue that the "MINI" TS100 is a name brand. Build Quality is Great. Preformance is on par with Hakko and Weller.

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"

I could not recommend the DSO203 in good conscience, it has almost no isolation of the input channels which makes it downright dangerous.

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.

I have a $99 100w Duratech one and it's perfectly adequate, no different from the $400+ Weller ones I've used in the past.

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.

>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.

As far as I know, many lead free solders produce more toxic smoke than leaded solder because they contain different types of flux. When soldering the leaded stuff, the lead in it doesn't get evaporated anyways. The smoke produced during soldering is mostly evaporated flux.

"don't breathe the smoke" is just generally good advice, and it definitely doesn't become less applicable if you use lead free solder.

I need citation on this idea that flux is just as toxic as lead.

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.

Agreed on not licking either! I haven't been able to find anything conclusive saying how much lead you would get in the air when soldering, but the MSDS you linked says:

> 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.

>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.

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.

I don't think you even need to spend a few hundred. ~100 will pretty much do the trick.

> name brand soldering station

What's a good name brand for soldering irons?

Get either a Hakko FX888D or a Weller WES51. I personally prefer the Hakko, but both are excellent stations that cost under $150 which will serve you for years if you take care of them.

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.

A thing to say in Weller's favour: They stock parts forever. My Weller station is somthing like 35 years old, now, still works perfectly. But someone damaged the sleeve that holds the tips in place. No problem, for a modest cost I could still buy a replacement, even though that particular part no longer fits any contemporary model of iron Weller sells. Kudos to them!

The WES51 as a solid soldering iron. You can get ones with a display readout but it's less useful than you might think. Most of the time you just set the temp and then switch tips if you need more or less heat transfer. Need to solder something large or stubborn? Using a phat chisel tip is better than upping the temp. Too hot and the rosin quickly oxidizes and turns to varnish, which prevents the solder from wetting.

Also tips, get a hooked tip, about 80% of the time it'll do the job.

YiHUA (or other genetic Chinese brand) 936B clones are plenty cheap (less than $30 shipped IIRC) and are actually quite good.

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.

I recommend the TS100 (<$100 budget) and JBC ($300-$500 budget). After getting a decent soldering iron I never looked back. Yes its expensive, but so are the parts you destroy with the crappy $30 irons, or the frustration of soldering big copper pads and the tip cooling down in the middle of the process.

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.

Hakko and Weller are a solid choice, but I purchased a programmable TS100 last year and haven't looked back since. I solder a lot on drones and it's just delightful to work with: so light, quick to heat, it has an OLED screen built in, changeable tips and it's programmable. All that for under $50 there's nothing that I would recommend more.

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!


Weller. Though I have a Aoyue hot air station and it is great.

I have a chinese hakko clone I got for $120 - it's good enough for my use.

Get a small airfilter/fan if you're going to solder a lot.

+1 I was using thicker solder for a while and it was a mess. Getting thinner 60/40 flux code made a HUGE difference in my ability to build boards.

It doesn't have to be super thin but thinner is 100% better than thicker.

buy a weller and use appropriately sized solder for the application (very thin solder sucks really bad if you are doing something like throughhole or larger parts...you will have to apply the heat longer to apply enough solder)

IMHO thin solder is also annoying on larger joints due to less of a flux core.

or get a hakko clone from aliexpress. half the price and just as good in my experience.

> The cheap-o $15 soldering irons all produce horrible results and will shatter your confidence...

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 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.

I tend to disagree, when you're learning is not the time to be fighting your tools.

When learning, I tend to buy something cheap I can destroy, knowing I'll be fighting it. Then I buy something expensive and everything is lovely.

I would add a logic analyzer before oscilloscope. You can get good ones for pretty cheap now. https://www.saleae.com/ It is so nice to be able to see what is actually going on when debugging interfaces.

for learning electronics? why? I'd say an oscilloscope way before a logic analyzer as it allows you to see what circuits are doing. Learning what analog circuits are doing is much more useful for learning than seeing digital signalling.

I think most people getting into electronics won't be doing analog designs. They'll probably be messing around with various sensor devkits (sparkfun, adafruit, etc.) and Arduinos/RaspberryPis/ESP8266. With these you'll be messing around with primarily I2C and SPI which is why a cheap logic analyzer is cool also they are much cheaper than an oscilloscope and some have some analog functionality.

> With these you'll be messing around with primarily I2C and SPI

On the other hand, if you get the right cheap oscilloscope, such as a Rigol 1054z, which goes for $350 [1] 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.

[1] https://www.tequipment.net/Rigol/DS1054Z/Digital-Oscilloscop...

[2] https://www.tequipment.net/Rigol/SA-DS1000Z/Options/

maybe, but even with those, unless it's because you really want to look at I2C / SPI, mostly that just works.

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.

True, it's good to see the scope while poking around. Also scopes can do higher voltages than salaes' analyzers. But to their defense, the newer analog + digital analysers are really decent for $200.

Annnd they doubled their prices, oscilloscope it is.

Why not both? I somewhat recently purchased the EspoTek Labrador. It's both and a lot more for roughly $30. Of course it's nowhere near as good as single purpose/professional grade equipment, but for learning it's a great device.

Depends what you're doing, but maybe yeah if it's just digital stuff. 10x faster to trace issues using a logic analyzer than looking at 1 or 2 signals at a time.

The last time I looked into power supplies they were somewhat cost prohibitive for my twice a year hardware project habit. Have things changed? Are there some good bang for your buck supplies that can be had for a couple hundred bucks or so?

I've got dozens of P/S from old computers that put out plenty of 5VDC as well as +/-12VDC. One good bench supply should be enough these days.

I was referring to a bench supply, although maybe I should have looked before asking. The number of DC bench supplies available in the $100 range is huge. This seems like a big price shift over the past couple years.

Add an anti-static mat and wrist strap to that list!

i suggest (as someone who still knows nothing about electronics) that oscilloscopes are a "must have." cathode-ray-tube style from ebay are more affordable.

also, Horowitz and Hill, to echo what i suppose is mentioned elsewhere.

You can pick up good scopes from army surplus. That's how I got my Tek.

I found my set of Engineer PA-09 crimp pliers does a better job than one of the cheap ratcheting crimping tools. Got them to do the smaller JST crimps, but they do Dupont pretty well too.

I essentially started electronics because of Big Clive. I found him entertaining, and his curiosity rubbed off. It's nice to have a simple, practical context for learning the basics, and his channel provides that in spades.

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.

To add to this: Ben Eater [1]!

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.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/user/eaterbc

He also does a podcast with 3Blue1Brown. Though 3B1B isn't electronics, but great for math.

This way of learning resonates a lot with how I learnt to properly cook. I could cook some simple enough dishes fine, but then I got really into watching a few cooking channels on YouTube and (with a bit of practice) noticeably improved.

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.

Can you recommend some channels? I can cook, but I'd like to learn more.

My go-to ones have been:

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 Binging: https://youtu.be/bJUiWdM__Qw Basics: https://youtu.be/Upqp21Dm5vg

Food Wishes 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 https://youtu.be/ifWWRZSWS18

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. Brad: https://youtu.be/UGjCeAbWKPo Claire: https://youtu.be/yxGczEE3NSw

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. Alex: https://youtu.be/HzIdk8UHHUU Kenji: https://youtu.be/argKpeiKFfo

If I think of any others I’ll comment again!

This is very helpful.

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.

Appreciate it!

Fantastic recommendations! This hits my favorites out of my wife's cooking viewing and they've both entertained and improved our cooking and the enjoyment of creating memorable dishes.

How do these compare to Good Eats, besides being more readily available?

+1 for Alex French Guy Cooking (mentioned in sibling comment). I like his method of chopping onions; most of the onions I chop don't need to look particularly pretty, so it's great.

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!)

Her cooking tutorials consists of "How do you prepare Instant Mix XYZ"?

You sure thats the channel you meant?

Thank you.

Eugene Khutoryansky has lots of good animated visualizations. E.g., this one on Maxwell's equations: https://youtu.be/9Tm2c6NJH4Y

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

No, no and no. If I watch even 10 Youtube videos without building anything, I give up.

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.

This is true. I think the key is to find something that you really want to build. This is easier to do as a kid, because a lot more of simple things are exciting.

Thank you for your comment on the "How to Self-Learn Electronics?" Hacker News thread.

"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!

I wish people understood this progression and like learning happened on this curve.

Sorry to not add anything here but I feel its important to emphasise this post. This post is so spot on.

"Shop on Aliexpress (or sometimes Amazon or Ebay)." Buying from potential(probability:good on listed sites) 2nd & rejected lots will torpedo any initial enthusiasm. Go to mouser.com.

Not an advert, nor affiliated, just happy with their products & service.

If you are on a shoestring budget, you can get many things for free/cheap.

Eg ask component manufacturers to send you samples, recycle electronics from things you or others throw away, etc.

Do you think the same intuition can be developed watching videos for things like woodworking?

What about home improvement/construction?

Thoughts/opinions anyone?

>Do you think the same intuition can be developed watching videos for things like woodworking?

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[0], as well as John Heisz[1], 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[2] 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[3].

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.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/user/Matthiaswandel

[1] https://www.youtube.com/user/jpheisz

[2] https://www.youtube.com/user/mtmwood

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVB5zjTraLk

Thank you I appreciate it a lot.

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?

Thanks again!

I self-learned enough electronics a few years ago to get to 16.5K karma on the Electronics StackExchange.

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.

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.

I took a physics class using the Art of Electronics in my senior year of undergrad (my major was nuclear eng. and my lab partner was another nuclear eng. friend).

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 :-)

> "Art" is not a bad word to describe it at all.

I consider analog electronics to be more akin to "dark magic" than anything else...

Analog wizards say that about RF engineers.

I spent quite a few years as an wide-band RF engineer and I still think it's black magic. If you're not being snobby, you can learn a lot from an experienced bench technician. If you want to get into RF electronics, you need specific features in your spectrum analyzer along with a very good return loss bridge at your target impedance.

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.

Been doing RF/Microwave design for 24 years. It’s not black magic, though that’s what led me into it.

As a "dark magician" I think that about digital electronics.

And it's really not that hard.

Back in '77, op-amps weren't as good as they are now in terms of PSRR and output power. That push-pull output stage is quaint but given that they wrapped it in the feedback loop of the last op-amp, it may have been a necessity at the time.

For sure. The kind of thing that should get picked on is cheaping out and putting an analog section directly on a rippling rail.

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.

> The kind of thing that should get picked on is cheaping out and putting an analog section directly on a rippling rail.

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, ...)

I get the point about the noise being balanced, I just personally wouldn't default to trusting it.

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.

Every time i've tried to use some combination of a Spice program and something like EagleCad I get really lost quickly. It's clearly software written for people who already know what they are doing.

Do you have any good resources on learning such conceptually?

I use CircuitLab, which is very helpful from a testing standpoint. As a coder, one of the things that really stresses me about electronics engineering is how untestable everything else, and CircuitLab gives me the ability to mock up simple unit-test-like circuits and see what the expected values should be, including when a power source fluctuates.

It costs a little, if that's a concern.


(CircuitLab dev here) Thanks for the link. I've also been writing an online electronics textbook with simulations built in https://www.circuitlab.com/textbook/ which should be relevant.

Post a new topic about it as you make updates man! People here would eat that up.

I have a circuit simulator program called EveryCircuit on my ipad (it looks like it's available on Chrome) and it's very simple to use and develop intuitions about basic components.

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.

I took a few stabs at eagle before trying KiCad which I found MUCH easier to learn. The “Getting to Blinky” series on youtube was what i used but there are probably other good tutorials too.

+1 for KiCAD - it's somewhat hotkey-based, but once you get the hang of the key commands it is very easy and intuitive.

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:


Also check out http://librepcb.org/. Probably just a few months left until the first early release. Watch the FOSDEM talk recording for more information.

I'd recommend not linking to that series of posts. The author is a hothead and generally disliked by the entire electronics community.

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.

Fair enough I guess, but I would also hate to deny people the same sort of easy path that allowed me to get interested in the subject and access a complicated topic.

Do you have any alternatives to recommend?

That comment is from the series' author, just doing a bit of his signature trolling for which he is so beloved on Hackaday.

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.


What's he doing with whales?

What's he doing with whales?


Please don't.

Falstadt (iirc) is a great web based one that is pretty easy to use. It's not as accurate as ltspice though but it's good for simple stuff.


It used to be a Java applet, now rewritten in JavaScript. Sadly, the Java version vastly outperforms the JS one, at least on my machine, but Java applets are annoying to run nowadays

The JS one is plenty performant on my machine. I love that simulator. Helps me intuitively understand the circuit when I can see the voltage and current on each connection.

I do love that you can double click on a wire and check the box to show the current/voltage there.

Try my electron wrapper:


yes. Kicad and two video series made by Chris Gammell...



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.

Some fun schematics to "read" are Fender's digital microcontroller adjustable tube amps; basically the modern incarnations of integration of tube technology with solid-state and modern microcontrollers. Last I knew (when I did web dev for them 5-6 years ago), you could download them from their site.

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.

Microcontroller adjustable tube amps are just descendants/knock-offs of the ADA MP-1: what I use. :)

One reason it can be so frustrating (to me) to practice the “read a bunch of schematics” approach is that, unlike code that tends to be filled with inherent textual clues like filenames, function names, and variable names, electronic schematics tend to be very cryptic. Single letter names, only a subtle visual grouping of components to show functional units, no hint of the rationale behind component value choices. If this equalizer were digital, the filter would be a function called StateVariableFilter(), and you wouldn’t have had to intuit that from looking at it.

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.

I got a hand me down IBM PC jr in 1988, when I was in elementary school. 5.25" floppy, no hard disk, RAM measured in Kilobytes.

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.

I don't think there is a "fast path" to electronics. I didn't learn it overnight or in a year or even two years, I didn't learn it in a course or lecture, and neither did anybody I know who is a decent circuit designer.

Second the art of electronics. That said, I recommend getting the lab course over the book. It's much better for hands on learning.

Avoid first principles (to start with), instead focus on a domain you're interested in and buy a DIY kit from a vendor in that domain to solve a niche application. Repeat 3-10 times. Start dabbling in other domains. If you have a question, youtube it.

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.

I really like the 3rd edition of The Art of Electronics. The text is a fun read, and the student manual is a great extension of the main text, with a bunch of practical insight and discussion that puts it beyond mere exercises.

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.

> I burn myself when I solder.

There are excellent stock images out there to make your soldering experience even more memorable:



Ouch. You have to hope they weren't plugged in. If they were I don't want to play poker against either of those models.

Same motherboard.

I'm a ham and built all my radio gear, it's perfectly normal to burn yourself when you learn soldering. It's really all a part of the learning curve. Though I still prefer an iron with a gun you're less likely to burn yourself.

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.

On the topic of cheap oscilloscopes, I was looking for a cheap logic analyzer when I found the Saleae Logic. Not an oscilloscope, but if you put an input into analog mode you can visualize the waveform nicely. They have a discount for non-commercial use and startups.


Or you can buy a Chinese clone off aliexpress instead.

Your getting downvoted, but you can do this without advocating actual piracy.

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.

Yes that’s what I was intending. Should have been clear there.

I actually own a genuine Saleae for ref. Although I blew it up :(

It's OK to burn yourself, just wear eye protection when you solder upside-down.

I worked on small prototype electric formula cars for a while and occasionally had to fix something that would take ~6 hours to remove from a very tightly packed battery pack.

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

Best advice here. Totally agree.

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.

> "amplifiers oscillate; oscillators don’t”

Indeed. Also, the purpose of expensive integrated circuits is to protect the delicate fuses in your design.

I understand that both of these things are supposed to be ironic, but I don't quite get them. What are they referring to?

Oscillators are supposed to oscillate but when you want them to, they don’t resulting in debugging.

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.

I remember teaching my kids to solder, they both burnt themselves once before they realised the soldering iron is hot.

You'll only attempt to catch a falling soldering iron once...

The truth of that depends on how much you spent on the flooring.

There are a few recommendations for The Art of Electronics. It's a great reference, but probably hard to approach as a beginner unless you're very motivated and comfortable being confused at points.

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.

These days it is a lot easier to get a good grounding in electronics. I would recommend you get a copy of The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill, and ideally the teacher's manual (which has answers for many of the exercises).

Then get a simple "combo" tool (oscilloscope, signal generator, power supply, digital multimeter) like the OpenScope MZ[1] or the Espotek Labrador[2]. 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[3] 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.

[1] https://store.digilentinc.com/openscope-mz-open-source-all-i...

[2] https://www.crowdsupply.com/espotek/labrador

[3] 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.

FWIW, this is like saying "how do I self-learn programming?" - in that there is some common underlying theory, and then specific branches you travel down. it helps to have a goal or project, so it anchors you down one of those roads.

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.

Build stuff. Modify things. Be stubborn when they don't work. Take things apart and figure out why they do work.

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)

This was also my method, and the way that works best for me for learning things in general (i.e. a new programming language, etc).

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.

Speaking as someone who got a degree in CS / software and then taught myself electronics after I got out of school. I relied heavily on Sparkfun.com to get started. Adafruit.com is also a strong competitor these days. They each have a ton of really great tutorial material for beginners. There are a lot of links here that people are listing that are great content but not for beginners. Along the same lines I would explicitly avoid reading any books on the topic cover to cover. I bought the Art of Electronics because it is billed as a bible for the field. It is, but I never use it.

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 [0], 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.

[0] https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10969

Ditto. Also software wonk who landed in embedded. Followed a lot of the tutorials on Adafruit and Sparkfun. Bought a lot of equipment and parts from both. Have done a lot of fun little digital circuit problems. Halloween is definitely more fun these days.

It sort of depends on what you're interested in. Audio? Radio? Basic robotics? Cool digital sensors? Something that tweets every time you open your refrigerator door? Simplest answer buy an arduino intro kit with breadboard and some pre-made jumper wires.

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.

Have fun.

Agreed 100%. This is a great way to get into electronics while also getting some coding experience. The Arduino intro kit has lots of great experiments and corresponding lessons. It comes with a breadboard, special wires that press right in, resistors, LEDs, switches, and more.


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.

Seconded. While Art of Electronics is the classic text, this one is a bit more accessible. It has less depth but more breadth, and is less intimidating because of it.

I would agree, but with the caveat that the math sections of this book should only be skimmed (i.e. just plug numbers into the given formulas). The derivations & explanations are brief enough they will just be more confusing, but that is what art of electronics is better at. Although both books are excellent repositories of building block circuits, but I think for a hobbyist practical electronics for inventors is more approachable and easier to stick with.

One solution would to be to buy this: https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Art-Electronics-Hands-Course...

And this https://www.digikey.com/en/resources/edu/harvard-lab-kit (BOM's with all the components needed by the book)

Here's a really nice entry-level soldering station that's not hundreds of dollars: https://www.amazon.com/Hakko-FX888D-23BY-Digital-Soldering-S...

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 don't have a multimeter even though I desperately need one. I'm always paralyzed by the choices. I just placed an order for this one and I think it will serve me very well considering I mostly need it for mechanical work. Thank you for making a recommendation.

I look forward to falling further down the rabbit hole.

You should consider setting up a referral link :)

Any multimeter is much better than none when debugging. 95% of needs are covered with basic voltage,current,resistance/continouity. Go with something cheap. Make sure both amp meters are fused though, you will have it set to amps and measure a low-impedance source in parallel at some point.

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.

The problem is that cheap meters will give bad readings. For example, reading AC on top of a DC offset voltage can produce incorrect results on a cheap meter. Or it can just be broken.

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.

If debugging anything but plain AC power from the wall, use an oscilloscope. Even an expensive multimeter is a bad tool for such jobs.

Yeah that’s exactly my thinking, I just had analysis paralysis for way too long. I’ll learn what I like and don’t like and what additional features I need then get that in my next meter.

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.

Buy a bunch of cheap battery operated toys (<$10, no remote control), the simpler the better. Take them apart. Try to put them back together, or put just parts of it back together. Start increasing the complexity of the toys you take apart.

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.

I've tried 3 times to teach myself electronics to the point where I can reliably make simple stuff work, and finally got it to start to click about 9 months ago. I'm still very much a newbie, but I am just slightly ahead of where it sounds like you are.

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.

Good luck!

The biggest issue I've found is finding projects to work on that are actually useful. Of course you have to start with the basics, but not many people have a use for a simple blinking LED in their life.

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.

My advice for both Electronics and Programming is to flip it around: find something you'd really like to build and then figure out the tools, skills and a version you can make. Example: My 5-yr-old wanted to build a pinball machine, so we started with using a micro controller to light up an LED and make a noise when a the ball contacted a target. It was a pretty easy intro to the programming, electronics, debouncing a switch (and woodworking!) My 10-yr old wanted to make a computer game about ancient Egypt and twine was a great way for her to get introduced to programming.

I think musical instruments are a good way to get into DIY electronics, for those interested in both of those things.

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 completely agree. In addition, unlike programming, electronics ends up with a lot of physical extras.

I haven't done an electronics project in years and I'm still stuck with all the extra parts in my toolkit and shelf.

Like the "learn scrum by cleaning your apartment" example? Give me a real world example of this working please. If it's worthwhile there must be a case study to build from.

Not sure _useful_ is a good metric, most useful things can be had more easily by buying it. And if its something you really need, then its better to avoid the stress of having to build it right and on time. But go for something _interesting_, something _you want_.

A music instrument maybe? Automate the blinds in your apartment? Track the motion of earth for long-exposure photography? A multicopter for flying FPV?

You can take the MIT sequence of courses on edX (taught by, I believe the CEO of edX, so, in a sense, this is the original flagship edX course) https://www.edx.org/course/circuits-electronics-1-basic-circ... https://www.edx.org/course/circuits-electronics-2-amplificat... https://www.edx.org/course/circuits-electronics-3-applicatio...

A while ago I would have recommended you get The Art of Electronics, and The Student Manual for this, and then some cheap tools and components, and then just work your way through the student manual doing all the experiments and then reading the main book to learn the theory.

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.

Thanks! I love recommendations of small channels, as I already follow all the bigger ones.

I'm a big fan of Adafruit, which is a great place to buy electronic components that all have projects, tutorials, active forums, etc.

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/

Take up amateur radio and you'll be rewarded with a license and a lifetime of fun for the learning investment. Here are some resources:




edit for form

I got my ham license because I loved electronics. I went to a local meeting, got a transceiver, and joined a local net. Then I realized I didn't really have anything to say over the radio to these people.

But the ARRL handbook is definitely a masterpiece.

Agreed on the Handbook. The Operating Manual and Antenna (handbook?) are also really good.

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

Agree with the sentiment, but amateur radio isn't the only game in town. I think the key is to pick something that appeals. These days robotics is a good way to get going. Also audio gear is a good choice for the serious listener, or effects/performance electronics for the musician.

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.

Good one. I've tried studying electronics for years. But 4 months after completing my amateur radio exams I am actually building my first mobile transceiver rig. I have a 12V SLAB coming and my antenna, transceiver, and other little parts arrived today. I'm confident enough with the theory that I'm ready to dive in and build a little mobile station inside a toolbox. It also helps to be a part of a community where this is just normal stuff, and people will check in on me to ask how things went. Good pressure.

I started with EEVBlog, especially "Fundamentals Friday" and the series where he designs things. Next, I turned to the textbook at AllAboutCircuits.

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 [0]. Also, while it's very simple and not suitable for complex or precise work, Falstad's circuit simulator was very helpful for experimenting [1].

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.

[0]: https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/55513/can-a-...

[1]: http://www.falstad.com/circuit/

So I'm not really the right person to answer this question however.....

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.

Another vote for Arduino, especially if you're coming from the world of software.

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.

I'm channeling Einstein's (aprocryphal) statement of adopting a child's mindset when learning things for the first time.

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.

I wish I was half as good with a breadboard as I am with a soldering iron.

Sparkfun.com is a great spot to buy and learn. They have several YouTube channels, one in particular "According To Pete" is a great set of videos to learn the ins and outs https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9EF3C374FD903ACE

I can't say enough about how much I like according to Pete! Came here hoping someone mentioned him.

I highly recommend checking out the Make: Electronics series. You can also buy kits for each book on Amazon if you don't feel like going out and finding all the parts yourself at RadioShack.

This is what I've started with, too. Make: Electronics, Make: More Electronics, and the 3-volume Encyclopedia of electronic components by Charles Platt are really great.

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.

This is what I'm working through and I like it. I've read a ton but nothing clicked until I started actually "doing". And the components are all available in kits. (Make: Electronics Components Pack 1, etc). You can get the stuff cheaper, but this puts it all together in one place for you.

This and youtube is what I did. Later on, you can get "The Art of Electronics"

It will very much depend on your background, available funds and whether you are interested as a hobbyist only or you have some more serious plans for it.

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 live in an apartment but I rent a garage from a friend. it really is liberating to have a dedicated space for projects instead of trying to make it work in a 20 x 30 box.

I learned electronics 35 years ago. After dabbling in high school, I took a college course that was part of the physics major curriculum. Beyond that point I'm self taught.

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.

my community college electronics professor was probably the best professor i had. Some of the text books were actually good too (unlike the ones the university used).

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.

Electronics is a big broad subject. So yeah, take it slow and take it easy on yourself as you're learning. It's more akin to asking, "How to self-learn programming?". There are many methods, resources and STRONG opinions, mine included. Here's my usual suggestions:

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...

I'm sure all the information sources I know about have already been mentioned. I will instead share a few simple things I wish somebody had told me:

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.

Oh there is one YouTube channel I like that is not listed yet: w2aew. Here is very skilled at designing circuits and using the oscilloscope to demonstrate fundamental (not exclusively beginner) ideas.

w2aew (Alan Wolke) is one of the few youtubers who produces videos with substance and quality. Definitely agree.

I learned electronics outside of school, but as part of a job (which has turned into a 20 year career of hardware design). I remember learning by needing to decipher schematics and repair broken circuits, which is what I was first asked to do, before I knew electronics. I would read the datasheets of the devices and try to understand. I would research what I didnt understand until I did to get to the next step.

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.

To get started, here is what I'd recommend:

- bench power supply

- multimeter

- oscilloscope

- soldering iron

- wireless breadboard and jumper wire kit

- protoboard

- 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 - [1]

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.

[1][pdf] - https://theeshadow.com/files/Forrest%20M.%20Mims%20III%20-%2...

It's such a wide topic.

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.

I'm studying Electronics Engineering and have found this course to be a good summary of the theory essentials: https://www.edx.org/course/circuits-electronics-1-basic-circ...

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.

“Practical electronics for inventors” is a great book for getting started - and most importantly : nobody builds from scratch anymore - it usually a waste if time - there’s bound to be a platform/devkit out there that does more or less what you want it to

Buy "The art of electronics" and work through it.

Buy a PCB board some components and start putting things together. Supplement with youtube, blogs.

This. "The art of electronics" is the best text book I ever had the chance to read.

I'm trying to learn right now. I'm probably doing this backwards but:

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.

I don't think they're very popular today, but when I was a kid, I had a Radio Shack Electronic Project Kit [1], and I learned so much from it. Looks like you can still buy them though. [2]

[1] https://www.flickr.com/photos/samwibatt/773052449

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Maxitronix-200-in-One-Electronic-Proj...

If starting from scratch, first decide -what kind- of electronics you want to learn (analog, digital, audio, radio...) Maybe get a book of simple circuits you can build on a breadboard to help you decide what might be useful.

-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.

If you can find them, Forrest Mims electronics books (once sold at RadioShack).

There are a variety of project subject areas in the series of Engineer's Mini-Notebooks, and some of them are quite advanced:


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:


I had a million of those when I was a kid, and they were fun, but I can't say I learned much from them. They're great for "follow these simple instructions and you can build a device that does X", but I couldn't tell you why he picked a PNP or NPN transistor if my life depended on it.

The mini engineer notebooks is probably what you're thinking of; and you're right on your assessment.

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.

Videos are great. Also, modular synthesizer software. Get a copy of VCV and play. Listening to the behavior of circuit interactions will teach you a lot. Get one of those electronics in a box or breadboard kits.

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.

I got into electronics because I was too poor to afford the guitar effects pedals I wanted, so I set out to build my own. My intro book was Craig Anderton's "Electronics Projects for Musicians".

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.

For guitar and musician's hobbyist efforts when you're ready to move up to the higher voltages of vacuum tubes there's AX84:


Read their high voltage warning.

Remember at one time almost everything was high voltage compared to today.

I can't recommend the Every Circuit app enough (http://everycircuit.com). It's an interactive, real time circuit simulator. I've been using it for the past couple of years to teach myself electronics. I'd read about how, for example, opamps worked, but it wasn't until I could play around with them and try them in virtual circuits that I really understood how to use them. Honestly, for learning, it the best resource I've come across.

If you're interested in Digital Logic / FPGA / VHDL then I'd recommend this book [1] and this collection of Youtube videos [2]

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Logic-Circuits-Design-VH... [2]: http://www.montana.edu/blameres/book_content_vhdl.html

Step 1: Start with simple circuits. And implement them on bread boards. Don't go for the printed circuit boards yet. There are many circuits out there for beginners. Choose one and implement it. Vary the elements in the circuit. For example if the circuit asks you to use 10k ohm resister use a 100 ohm resister and see what happens. In this case there might be drop in voltage(I believe, my memory is quite vague). To measure this you use multimeter. Learn how to do that. It is fundamental for any one wanting to play with electronics stuff. (P.S: If you are from India there is a magazine named "Electronics for you". If you have the money buy it. It is quite amazing. I haven't read it 6 years though so I don't know if the quality is still good)

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.

Are you more interested in digital or analog? Do you want to build computers or audio amplifiers? Although the underlying physics is identical, you need to build stuff (as others have pointed out) and you can arguably build more successful stuff that encourages you to keep going if you start with digital. Analog is more difficult until you have a good grasp of the theory. After that, they're both easy (until you get into RF, and then it all becomes black magic again).

I grew up with Electronics Magazine, Radio Shack (the Source).

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.

It's times like these that I'd like to be able to bookmark HN conversations.

update: TIL, favorites.

I find the best way to learn anything is to come up with a thing I want to make or do, start searching for similar things, and copy/modify/analyze until I can do it. But for hands on skills you should go find an in person class about it, stuff like how to solder I mean.

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.

Bit late to the party, a lot of great answers already and I can't add much more but this list of resources I maintain will probably be useful to you, especially the learning and video section.


This book influenced me the most: Bebop to the Boolean Boogie


Think of a project that you would like to complete. Something simple to start with. Now search the web for pages, videos, how tos, related to it.

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.

First I would ask why you want to learn. Electronics is a broad field. Is there a certain area you have interest in?

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.

I got into amateur radio recently and felt that my fundamental knowledge of electronics was lacking, so I picked up the Handbook for Radio Communications textbook and read through the first few chapters to solidify my understanding. Learning electronics without context for me is quite boring, and it's better to have something more concrete that you can use the electronics for that will motivate you to want to push yourself to learn more as the applicability of your understanding shows some real results.

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.

Check out Adafruit: https://www.learn.adafruit.com/ they have fantastic projects and learning material. I recommend just picking something that looks cool and build it! You'll learn by doing. And every part you buy from Adafruit has tutorials with it.

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)

There's a really good, single page webpage called "Concise electronics for geeks": http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/electronics/

It's a good read if you're trying to learn the fundamentals.

It will be hard without solid high school physics, which looks to be the case with most US secondaries.

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.

I somehow did so for a few monthes.

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).

Gibilisco's Teach Yourself electricity and electronics is pretty decent:


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