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The Potentiometer Handbook (1975) [pdf] (bourns.com)
78 points by datenwolf 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

Downloading from the link https://www.bourns.com/pdfs/OnlinePotentiometerHandbook.pdf produces a corrupted copy (many pages missing or out of order.) This is a better link: https://www.bourns.com/docs/technical-documents/technical-li...

The pages seem to be sorted in alphabetical order. I saw 198, 199, 20, 200, 201 in there. I wonder how that happened...

Probably the pages were scanned one by one as individual files and then finally all files were combined.

Thanks! Updated.

If any electronics youtubers are reading this:

I would love to see a series: This Is What Electricity Looks Like to Me wherein you go through different components and talk about what the operating parameters are, and what different voltages, amperages, etc etc mean for that component.

Hate to break it to ya, but this isn't really possible.

I mean, you could have a series that explores and details the basics - ie, what is a resistor, capacitor, etc - and what they are used for, how they work, etc.

But what you are terming "operating parameters" are specific for each part per manufacturer. Now - a carbon-film resistor made by just about any manufacturer is going to be about the same from one to the other, as it's a basic technology. Even so, certain parameters might be different (ie - how much does the resistance change with temperature and humidity might vary between manufacturers). Also, none of that applies if we are talking about wire-wound, or some other kind of resistor (and different manufacturers).

Extrapolate this out to any other passive component, and you'll see the same thing (heck, just capacitors would overwhelm the idea). Get into simple actives (transistors, diodes, leds, etc) - and the amount of variation increases a magnitude, maybe more.

Then drop into other components - integrated circuits, electric motors, light bulbs - heck, even simple wire; you couldn't cover it all.

You'd know this, though, if you had any experience with electronics - which I suppose you don't, or you have little of it - otherwise you wouldn't be asking about such a youtube series.

Instead, you should start with the basics - and for that, you're going to need to read some books (the best would be Horowitz's "Art of Electronics" and Grob's "Basic Electronics"). While it might be possible to condense some of those books into a video series, it won't be a small video series (and if you want honest and in-depth explanations - such a series would not be the most exciting to watch).

Not to mention that lots of those parameters only apply to people doing certain things with the component, so that two people who work in different domains with the same part could have very different ideas of what the important parameters are.

I have a couple of videos that talk about individual components and their critical parameters e.g.



but it sounds like you are looking for content that explains line by line what every parameter means for that component. I definitely understand why you'd be curious about that stuff (I definitely was) but after years of working in the field I came to learn that most of the parameters in a datasheet aren't actually useful or relevant to most designs. For example when picking a MOSFET the datasheet might have 40 lines worth of parameters, but only 5 of them are of actual interest to a designer in 99% of cases. So that's why I chose to produce content that directs the viewer's attention to the most important stuff rather than overwhelming them with edge case scenarios.

EEVblog or mikeselectricstuff might have videos like that as far as I remember. I know bigclivedotcom does for sure.


Thank you for this. I bought a lot of old electric devices in an auction and finally figured out what the last one was a few weeks ago. It was a potentionmeter. What confused me was the wood case it came in. The only example I could find was in the radio museum's website. Reddit's what is this thing subreddit identified it for me, but I was looking to learn more about it.

It is a gorgeous piece from the early 1900s and shows the craftsmanship that went into these earlier devices.

I appreciate you sharing this information.

Sure it was a potentiometer?

Usually, potentiometers utilize a carbon-style track for the wiper; a few used a fine "wound wire" on a form for the wiper instead (they tend to handle higher power).

If it is a potentiometer - it will have 3 connections - one to each side of the main resistance element, and a third to the movable wiper. It might be a rotary style, or it might be a linear sliding style.

If it only has two connections - one to the sliding piece, and one to an end of the coil - then in that configuration it would be considered a rheostat (a potentiometer acts as a variable voltage divider, whereas a rheostat acts as a variable resistor/current limiter). If the coil is made of fairly substantial wire - then it was meant for power-controlling usage (if it is a potentiometer or a rheostat - usually a potentiometer can be used like a rheostat, but the opposite isn't possible with modifying the rheostat).

It is also possible it could be a "tunable coil" - similar to what was used in early crystal radio sets; such a device is not a potentiometer or a rheostat, and shouldn't be used or confused as one.

Funny how this is timely for me. I have always had the desire to repair/bend some of my old analog hardware, and one of my recent projects was adding a "tune" feature to the bass drum of my Tr-808. The information on doing this is widely available on the internet, but I didn't realize how difficult it would be to source a 100k log pot. The Pot I did end up finding was Bourns branded. Now that Ive performed the modification, Im ready to dig deeper into it. Ive hired a TR-808 expert to provide me with some guidance through the process. I will not share the information I purchased from him(promised him I would not) but I can refer anyone looking to do the same to him and say this guy is the real deal, and is probably the premier Roland TR analog drum machine expert.

> but I didn't realize how difficult it would be to source a 100k log pot



That was done with a google search of "100k log potentiometer"...

Now - maybe you're in a different country or such where it's more difficult to get parts?

I did that same search(~6 months ago) and there were none in stock or they were 30USD a piece. I ended up going through an electronics supplier and spending the 2-3 bucks it should have cost.

Really amazed that someone found it fit to write a whole book about the humble potentiometer!

It doesn't surprise me at all, but then again I have half a shelf in my office dedicated to potentiometer catalogs.

> One of the most common digital applications of adjustment potentiometers is the control of time delay in an integrated circuit monostable (page 87).

My introduction to the humble potentiometer was when my father (in the mid-1970s) became the first man in our street to have (home-made) variable-speed windscreen wipers in his car. He would have loved this book!

Skip to Chapter 9 for some lovely comic 70s artwork and a how-not-to guide of how to abuse your potentiometers... :D

My first encounter with potentiometers was in the game-paddles of my Apple ][. Of course, I had to replace them by temperature sensitive resistors :) Fun times ...

How appropriate, pots are legal now.

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