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clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


NOTE: This thread has been around a while now, and I've basically given up trying to maintain it due to a busy personal life and the pretty fast rate new information is added. PM me if you feel anything should be added or changed here.

Also, disregard the tutorials, I must have been really bored when I wrote those...

Introduction

Electronics are what make the modern world turn. They are quite literally everywhere now. You own anywhere from several hundred million to several billion transistors between your computers, cell phones, PDAs, TV sets, stereos, car, game consoles, and appliances. Even your dog probably has an electronic microchip implanted in it. If your grandpa has a pacemaker, than he has electronics keeping him alive.

Unfortunately, despite being so ubiquitous relatively few people know how to build an electronic device from scratch. Even fewer work for the massive industries that quite literally manufacture our modern world. Most people seem content to push a button and watch millions of dollars of R&D do their bidding, with no concept of how it works beyond what they can physically see. The complex patterns seen on circuit boards inside computers are but a piece of abstract art that happens to be functional. But not anymore!

This thread will be about getting started with hobbyist electronics. I'll try and explain some electronics theory and get beginners up to speed on how to put stuff together. Then I can go into more advanced topics as time progresses.

As for my credentials I'm a 3rd year student studying Electrical Engineering. I'm bound to make a few mistakes somewhere along the line, so please correct me when I need correcting. If you have experience with electronics and would like to contribute, please do! I'll post pretty much anything relevant here in the OP. This is learning electronics though, so keep the projects relatively simple.

I've built a collection of guides so far, but they're far from complete and they're kind of drafts right now. I'll clean them up and post them as I finish them. I'm also a terrible graphic artist, so please someone help pick that up.

Helpful Resources
  • Falstad Circuit Simulator - It's written in terrible, icky Java, but it's an awesome program. Newbies absolutely MUST go here. Build simple-ish circuits and see what they can do. It's not as powerful as commercial simulators or really all that accurate, but it's quick and drat fun to play with.
  • Dutchforce Electronics Forum - The best electronics forum on the internet I've found. Lots of discussion on projects from the simple to the complex. The community really knows their stuff too!
  • Lessons in Electric Circuits - Free online textbook on the matter. Excellent resource for people just starting out. Explanations are not super-dry and he gives understandable examples. Some things he's not so good at explaining though, and I'll try to fill in those gaps. Oh yeah, and the book isn't complete either.
  • Analog Dialogue - Articles from Analog Devices on slightly more advanced topics. Lots of articles on uses for Analog's parts, and some great information.
  • Introduction to DC Circuits - Simple introduction to DC circuits. Pretty quick and dirty explanations.
  • Opamps - Primer on Op-amps, the swiss army knife of ICs.

Projects

For Guitar Hero Wannabes

franc0ph0bic posted:

Yes, but only for guitar/bass related stuff. A good place for kits is Build Your Own Clone (http://www.buildyourownclone.com/) which sells a few overpriced kits which are clones of commercial effects. http://runoffgroove.com is a great site for more original schematics, but they do not sell kits. http://www.tonepad.com is another great site like this. The absolute best resource is http://www.diystompboxes.com/ which has the most active and productive effects building forum available.

Thumposaurus posted:

I would like to add these sites too:
http://www.commonsound.com/ mostly guitar/bass related but alot of the projects are able self oscillate and can be used with out either and the Tri-Wave Picogenerator is a great noisemaker.

http://www.generalguitargadgets.com/ kits, layouts, schematics

http://olcircuits.com/ sells kits of RunOffGrooves projects

http://www.home-wrecker.com/ a sister site to RunOffGroove focusing on clones

http://www.geofex.com/ One of the best sites that explain the theory behind what makes effects "tick" schematics, and project ideas too.

http://www.smallbearelec.com/StoreFront.bok electronics supplier dedicated to the parts needed to build effects pedals with carrys some specialized parts that are hard to track down via other sites.

I probably have more I need to sort through my bookmarks.

Where to Buy Components
  • Digikey - Mostly sells massive amounts of components to industry, but they're used to dealing with hobbyists and confused college students too. Excellent service, and they have an amazing catalog of components.
  • Jameco - Hobbyist-geared store. This is what Radio Shack should be! They offer grab bags as well, which is a great way to increase your stock of components quickly for all sorts of little projects.
  • Octopart - Electronics part search engine, kinda like Google Product for electronics. Pretty spiffy. Thanks to BBQ for the link!
  • Allied Electronics - Industry-geared site, but with all sorts of goodies.
  • Mouser Electronics - Yet another industry-geared site. They've been around for a long time though, and are pretty well liked by lots of hobbyists.
  • All Electronics - Tons of surplus components at dirt cheap prices. They have all sorts of fantastic sales, well worth watching.
  • Newark - Another industry-geared site, for when you absolutely positively have to spend your hard earned money. Good selection of components.
  • Analog Devices - Very well-respected IC manufacturer. You can order some of their stuff in small quantities from them. Mostly they make sensors, Digital to Analog Converters, Analog to Digital Converters, DSP chips, and power ICs.
  • Microchip - Maker of the famous PIC chips. They make other ICs too. You can order small quantities from them directly as well.
  • Maxim - Makes good power converters and tons of other ICs. Again, you can order small quantities from them directly.
  • SparkFun Electronics - Tons of fun little gizmos, some quite useful. Generally good prices too.
  • Super-Bright LEDs - High Power LEDs in just about every color.


Types of Parts

General terms
  • Schematic - A basic design of a circuit. Think of it as the electronics equivalent of a blueprint. Components are represented symbolically, and wires are represented as straight lines. For reading schematics, I recommend the following readings:
    How To Read A Schematic - Not very good, I might try to write my own guide later. This will do as a primer for now though.
    Lessons in Electric Circuits: Chapter 9 Reference - Pretty much every symbol you'll encounter in electronics and then some.
  • Printed Circuit Board - Commonly used for housing circuits in a highly organized fashion. Used mostly by large companies when mass producing devices, but can now be sensibly made by hobbyists (not recommended for beginners). Often referred to as PCBs. Most electronic devices you buy at a store are made with these, and indeed your computer motherboard is made using a very large PCB. Many 'kit' projects you buy online will come with one of these you solder the components to.

  • Soldering - Basically a form of light welding, using a mix of tin, silver and lead. Often used to make and repair jewelry, it's been adopted by electrical engineers and is used to hold components together and to printed circuit boards. It is possible to desolder components and salvage them as well. Learning to solder is often a first step for budding hobbyists. If you need to learn or just brush up, may I recommend the following guides:
    How to Solder Directly: A Video Guide - Good guide if you can tolerate the narrator.
  • Integrated Circuit - Collection of components (mostly diodes and transistors) that make up a complete electronic circuit in a very small area, usually on a single silicon die. There are ICs out there that do nearly everything you can do to an electronic signal too.
  • DC/Direct Current - Basically, a circuit that is 'DC' has constant or mostly constant characteristics as it runs (ie Voltages and Currents do not change over time relative to ground). Usually used in simple circuits. Batteries provide DC voltage, which remains pretty constant over time, as do most power supplies.
  • AC/Alternating Current - Useful circuits often have voltages and currents that change dramatically over time. The changing currents and voltages are often refered to as 'AC'. This varying voltage (relative to ground) can follow a sine wave pattern, square wave, or various other mathematically-defined waveforms. AC even describes 'random' signals containing informations (ie sound, video, data, etc)! Basically, if the voltage/current changes, it's AC. Digital signals and square waves are generally not defined as AC signals, but it's a nice gray area to argue and lose friends over.


    NOTE: There's often a good overlap between AC and DC in circuits of any complexity. Transistor radios, for instance, have DC characteristics but obviously the circuit must be AC in nature. Therefore, it's imperative to know the ins and outs of both DC and AC. Thankfully, that's not quite as hard as it sounds most of the time.


Passive Components
  • Resistor - The easiest passive component to understand and probably the most common. Rated in resistance, and a tolerance (usually around 5%). Does nothing more than dissipate power as heat, which means any heating element is technically a resistor. Also used for current limiting, dropping voltage, acting as a load, and tons of other useful things. Very, very useful for hobbyists, but tends to be avoided by paid circuit designers (especially for IC design)
  • Capacitor - Second most common passive component. Stores energy through electrostatic means (which means it stores a voltage). When used, it resists changes in voltages. Used primarily for voltage storage and filtering. Rated in terms of Farads and maximum voltage. Also might be polarized so that it will only work in one direction. If that's the case, connecting it the wrong way can destroy the capacitor. Comes in several types, including but not limited to: Electrolytic (polarized), Tantalum (polarized), ceramic, polyester, and micra.
  • Inductor - Less common than capacitors, stores energy magnetically. Whereas capacitors try to resist changes in voltages, inductors try to resist changes in current. Usually found in switching power supplies. Many circuit components have inductive properties as well. Rated in terms of Henries and maximum current in Amperes. Usually a length of wire wrapped around a solid core, can also be a length of wire in a coil (air core).
  • Transformer - Basically two inductors placed in a way so that they share a magnetic field. This means that for AC signals you can increase the voltage or current of the signal at the expense of the other. Commonly used for impedance matching and voltage conversion. Rated in turns ratio (such as 5:1), frequency response, max. voltage, and max. current.

Grey Area (usually considered active)
  • Diode - Device which lets current flow in one direction but not in the other. Also conveniently has a fixed voltage drop. Used in power circuits and such. As a rule, silicon diodes have a drop of 0.7V.
  • Zener Diodes - When diodes hit their breakdown region in reverse mode (aka hooking it up backwards), they act as a super stable voltage source. Unfortunately they also tend to, well, break down and die very quickly. Zener diodes are designed to take the strain, and act as super stable voltage sources for power regulators. Rated in breakdown voltage (the voltage drop basically), and max. current before they really die.
  • Light Emitting Diode - Same as a diode, but emits light when it's conudcting current. Has a much higher voltage drop than normal diodes, usually around 2V (depending on the color).

Active Components

NOTE: Active Components typically have many ratings, so they have datasheets that describe them in detail. In most cases, you need the datasheet to know how to best use the component (at least at first).

  • BJT Transistor - The first transistor to really come of it's own. It 'basically' works like a diode-controlled gate. The Base and Emitter sides form a diode, and the Collector and Emitter sides form a current source. As the base and emitter 'diode' current increases, the collector to emitter current increases as a multiple of that current. Perfect for amplifiers and other assorted circuitry, and found in every electronic device of the 80s. Now mostly replaced by MOSFETs today, except in specialized applications.
  • MOSFET - The 'modern' transistor. Similar to a BJT, but instead of a diode it has what amounts to a capacitor. As the voltage across the capacitor (formed between gate and source) increases, the current from the drain to the source increases. Has the advantage of needing effectively zero current on the input, and is much more stable than it's BJT cousins. Found in nearly every electronic device manufactured today.
  • IGBT - Relatively new and specialized transistor, meant for handling high power loads. Used as a switch for very large voltages and currents, usually in a power application. I haven't personally messed with them much.
  • Op-Amp - Family of ICs. Useful in that they can do nearly every type of mathematical function in analog. Used in old analog computers, but today are mostly used for amplification. Found on tons of A/V gear.


Tools
  • Wire Stripper - Strips the insulation off wires. It's simple, you don't need much, but it's super useful if you don't have one already.

  • Solder and Iron - For permanently connecting wires and components together and (more importantly) to printed circuit boards. Weller is a good make of iron, and leaded solder is the best kind to work with (although it's not the healthiest, but whatever). Spend money on a good iron if you haven't. Also helps to have a spare iron. A small iron with small tips works well for this, especially if you want to work with tiny surface mount components.


  • Breadboard - Absolute must-buy for beginners and hobbyists. Basically a prototyping board that lets you connect components temporarily. Spend $10 on one from Radioshack. Larger boards can run up to $50, and some even come with plug-in power supplies. Larger boards let you build more complex circuits.

  • Multimeter - This little gadget lets you read current, voltage, and resistance. Good meters also have continuity testers that beep at you when the leads are shorted, perfect for making sure things are wired up like you think they are. Invaluable testing tool for everything electric. Comes in a bench-sized and handheld varieties (both shown below). Bench meters are much more expensive, but much nicer and better suited for electronics projects. Handheld meters are cheap as dirt and can be carried anywhere. Both work fine for a beginner, but make sure you get a meter with a digital readout (both the examples below have them.


  • Power Supply - Not everything in the world is certain. With a bench-top power supply, you can be sure of having the desired voltage you need to work with. Beats the hell out of using batteries for everything, although batteries are indeed much cheaper.

  • Oscilloscope - Powerful tool that measures voltage over time. Most useful electronics don't have a constant voltage, and debugging those devices with a normal multimeter can prove to be an exercise in frustration, since the meter changes over time and makes accurate measurement impossible. Enter the oscilloscope, which plots out exactly what the voltage is doing over almost any time interval you desire. Comes in analog (cheap) and digital (not-so-cheap) varieties, with the digital being superior in most cases (it lets you freeze frame!). It's a very sophisticated tool, and hard to use at first. Takes about two hours in my experience to learn, less if you know what you are doing. Well worth the money if you do electronics seriously though.

  • Frequency Generator - Most useful signals aren't constant over time, so most circuits have to be calibrated to work with non-constant signals. Enter the frequency generator, which basically makes signals that match certain math functions (sine wave, square wave, sawtooth wave, etc). Useful for lots of circuits, especially some digital circuits.

  • SPICE circuit modeler - Family of computer programs that lets you build circuits and test them. Unfortunately, very few of them are free and of those none of them are very good. The best circuit sims are pretty expensive. If you can obtain them, pSpice is the industry standard, albiet a bit hard to use. I've heard good things about Circuit Maker too, but I don't know if they're still around.


Useful Stuff In This Thread

NOTE: This is my first big thread like this, so bear with me. PM me if you see something that needs to be added or changed, or just post it!

clredwolf fucked around with this message at 14:51 on Feb 16, 2009

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clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


Current

Electricity at it's most basic level is the manipulation of electrons. Those of you who took chemistry in high school probably remember those things, the little yellow balls orbiting the big circular thingie in the middle. Err, I mean the particles orbiting the nucleus of the atom. Electrons are one of the two basic particles that actually carries a charge (proton is the other), and despite being the smallest charge was the first to be discovered. The exact charge of the electron has been quantified accurately enough for practical use, and actually getting the drat things to do something useful is easier than you think.

In dealing with electrons, you're also dealing with electromagnetic fields. You already have plenty of experience with those. Light, for one, is an electromagnetic field. So are radio waves, X-rays, and microwaves you cook your Ramen with. You may know you can use things like fiber optic cables to carry light across long distances. Well, light is just an electromagnetic signal at a very, very high frequency. So you can do the same thing with lower frequencies, aka 'normal' electricity. I'll talk more on frequency later. For now, remember that for lower frequencies (up to Gigahertz ranges, just now getting into Terahertz) you can send an electromagnetic field through a wire. If all that frequency talk doesn't make sense, don't worry. It's only important later.

When you send a signal through a wire, there are two components to it, the electric component and the magnetic component. The magnetic component is easier to understand, so I'll start there. Basically, imagine a giant tube in a loop. Or be lazy and let me draw it for you:





Ok, now inside this loop are little balls. These represent electrons.





In reality, those 'balls' would be extremely small. Think of it more as an 'electron sea' inside that tube. It's actually good at this point to talk about liquid as an analogy for electrons, as it holds up pretty well for basic electronics. Everyone has some familiarity with basic plumbing, but not everyone knows what's going on inside their cell phone. So for now, think of a lot of water molecules in a tube, or something.

Now we want to make these balls move. Alright Einstein, how would you make a bunch of liquid move? That's right, a pump.





Your little electron sea is now moving through the loop. This is exactly what happens in a wire when it's attached to a current source. We represent this in electronics as a little circle with an arrow through it. The wire we represent simply with a line.





This is your first taste of a schematic diagram. I promise you'll see a ton more later. This is also the first time you've seen current.

Current is easy. Think of it as a 'density' measurement. It's the number of electrons passing through a point in a given period of time. Current is measured in units of 'Amperes', or amps for short. An amp is the same as 6.24*10^18 electrons passing through a point in a second. That's a lot of electrons too, so you can get a feeling for how crazy some of the measurements in electronics can get. But anyways, you can now tell your current source to pass an amp of current through the wire.





What does this mean for us now? Well, believe it or not, pushing all that current through that little wire makes a magnetic field. Yes, you have now created an electromagnet, at least in theory. I can go into a whole ton of formulas describing this magnetic field around the wire, but that's beyond what we're trying to do. Just remember, amps means magnetics, which is important when we talk about some later components.

It's also possible to do the reverse. You can take a magnetic field and induce a current. This is exactly how generators work. So generators, from the little Honda you have in your toolshed to giants of industry powering entire cities, are basically current sources. You may have heard of alternating current. This is what generators make (or at least good ones). You deal with current in other ways in your life, but we'll talk about those later.

-More to come later-

clredwolf fucked around with this message at 05:58 on Jan 8, 2008

Skycks
Jan 6, 2008


It seems like you are planning on running through the basics of a standard circuits 101 course from most universities. While informative, you might be going a little overboard for a single thread. If there isn't already a resource out there on the interweb that you like for this purpose, it might be better to host a tutorial somewhere and link it here, and keep the thread for questions.

clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


That's kind of the problem. That 'Lessons in Electric Circuits' book is great and all, but it's kind of dry. I definitely tend to have a hobbyist slant to this, but basics are basics.

Wheelchair Stunts
Dec 17, 2005

by Y Kant Ozma Post


clredwolf posted:

That's kind of the problem. That 'Lessons in Electric Circuits' book is great and all, but it's kind of dry. I definitely tend to have a hobbyist slant to this, but basics are basics.

I think his basic idea was that if you want to continue it would probably be better to do everything on a blog, Google Docs, or something like that and linking it in rather than having to edit the OP every time or reply to yourself.

Jailbrekr
Apr 8, 2002
A TOWN LEVELED BY AN EXPLOSION? DOZENS LIKELY KILLED? OH GOD LET ME SEE THAT SWEET VIDEO OH MY GOD I'M CUMMING


I did this a few years ago for a "Science with Swears" thread in GBS. It might make understanding basic electronics a little less "dry":





Let me know if you want the ones I did on vacumn tubes as well (for historical pusposes or whatever faggy things you like to do with them)

Beer4TheBeerGod
Aug 23, 2004

"I'm cisgender heterosexual white American male.

Fuck you for telling me what "my part" is."

- B4TBG on why they can't be criticized by minorities for being wrong because


Exciting Lemon

In no way should you be discouraged from continuing this.

async1ronous
May 23, 2003

I flopped the nuts straight

I wish I could vote this thread a ten, just to encourage Jairbreakr.

Jonny 290
May 5, 2005

[A]sk me about OS/2 WARP


every time I try to understand how an opamp works I have an internal dialogue not unlike one of those cartoons.

dhrusis
Jan 19, 2004
searching...

OP, Please continue, and help us out with some good starter stuff to build/make to pique our collective interest.

What tools do I need to be a badass like yourself?

Jailbrekr
Apr 8, 2002
A TOWN LEVELED BY AN EXPLOSION? DOZENS LIKELY KILLED? OH GOD LET ME SEE THAT SWEET VIDEO OH MY GOD I'M CUMMING


async1ronous posted:

I wish I could vote this thread a ten, just to encourage Jairbreakr.

If the OP wishes, I can try to put down some of what I learned in College (Electronics control at BCIT) into a more obscene format. Its been awhile, but some things you nver forget, like ohms law.

ejstheman
Feb 11, 2004


Doesn't logical current flow in the opposite direction from the actual electrons? It seems like the arrow should flip directions when you change scale from "look electrons" to the abstract, line=wire level.

Cutty
Jun 9, 2006

checkmeat


I love little projects like installing LEDs in various things, and it's been years since we covered the bit on electricity in physics. Please teach on!

Jailbrekr
Apr 8, 2002
A TOWN LEVELED BY AN EXPLOSION? DOZENS LIKELY KILLED? OH GOD LET ME SEE THAT SWEET VIDEO OH MY GOD I'M CUMMING


ejstheman posted:

Doesn't logical current flow in the opposite direction from the actual electrons? It seems like the arrow should flip directions when you change scale from "look electrons" to the abstract, line=wire level.

Its called hole flow, where you represent the current not as a flow of electrons, but as a flow of holes. That in itself confuses the hell out of people, and I'm not sure if it would help or hinder understanding.

Jailbrekr fucked around with this message at 06:03 on Jan 8, 2008

clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


dhrusis posted:

What tools do I need to be a badass like yourself?

Tools of the trade:

Solder



Stiff Hot Pointy Thing



Breadboard



Pocket Protector



Multimeter



Jairbrekr posted:

If the OP wishes, I can try to put down some of what I learned in College (Electronics control at BCIT) into a more obscene format. Its been awhile, but some things you nver forget, like ohms law.

Yes, electronics needs way more sex.

ejstheman posted:

Doesn't logical current flow in the opposite direction from the actual electrons? It seems like the arrow should flip directions when you change scale from "look electrons" to the abstract, line=wire level.

This is what the industry likes to call a 'gently caress up'. Thanks to that little error some NASA drone just crashed into the side of Pluto unexpectedly. Should be fixed now.

clredwolf fucked around with this message at 06:04 on Jan 8, 2008

Mr.Popadopolis
Oct 9, 2007
Not my real name

Now this is a thread I can get behind. I'd like to put forward Sparkfun Electronics (https://www.sparkfun.com) as another awesome source for electrical stuff. Pre-designed and printed boards for lots of cool things (GPS modules, Accelerometers, Cellphones, LCDs, touch-pads etc etc). They also have a nice tutorial for getting you started with programming micro-controllers (even has a $30 kit you buy to go along with it that includes everything they talk about in the tutorial).


As far as simple but fun poo poo to build that doesn't require much knowledge, make a simple coilgun from a disposable camera (google can find a guide for you Im sure). With an hour or so of work you could probably start shooting small nails at your cat and at the same time learn the basics of resistance/capacitance voltage/current etc. What a deal! That's how I started atleast... now I have a 4 stage 2.5 kilo-joule coilgun in my basement that can put 3" pieces of steel rod into a phone-book...

ValhallaSmith
Aug 16, 2005


If anyone is interested in going beyond the basics you are really going to need more than the above tools. Get an oscilloscope and learn to use it. Scoping out ebay is also useful. Sometimes you can find a decent deal on there buy you have to look frequently. If you want new, you can get a digital 60Mhz tek scope for less than 1K.

Mainly scopes are used for looking at signals/waveforms. When I am troubleshooting something its generally the first tool I grab after making sure everything is getting proper power.

Also, don't cheat yourself and get a super cheap soldering iron. You can get a metcal/OKI now for under 200$ off ebay or even new. They heat up instantly and don't cool down at all while soldering. The only disadvantage is that you need to treat them nice. The handset cable is actually a mini=coax cable. And if you abuse it badly it will break.

Ebay is pretty much the best source for lots of little poo poo you might need like passive components (resistors, caps etc). I usually just get a large set of various axial components for 25$. SMT stuff is even cheaper.

I'm not so much into the anymore but I can probably answer most questions people have. I was an R&D electronics tech at a Magna Donnelly for a few years as well as Invensys. Most of my job was reverse engineering competitors products, prototyping, designing test equipment, and component research. So I'm pretty familiar with most aspects of trying to rig something together with minimal facilities.

Phlegmbot
Jun 4, 2006

"a phlegmatic...and certainly undemonstrative [robot]"

I would say that diodes, including LEDs, are passive semiconductor devices, and not active.

Also, an IC is neither active or passive by definition.

Blackhawk
Nov 15, 2004



drat I can't wait to get home in a few months and start posting updates in this thread. I'm self-taught in my electronics but I've managed to learn enough about micro controllers and general switching circuits to get me where I want to be.

Back in high school (only 4 years ago now) my final year major design project for design and tech was a solar powered robotic lawn mower, I already knew basic electronics at that point but I was determined to make this thing and learn micro controllers and solid state circuits at the same time (big mistake!).

Long story short I made the thing and it worked for about 5 mins before the MOSFETs started to die seemingly at random, I must have gone through about 20 fets before I ran out of time in that project. Turns out I knew dick about driving inductive loads with solid state devices and I had no clamping diodes or anything special to drive the MOSFETs, and so the reverse voltage spikes from the motors were nuking my control circuit. However now that I know better and seeing as I kept all the mechanical stuff from the project I think I'll give it another go, however this time I'm definitely going to do it properly and add in tons of cool functionality that I wouldn't have before (like a wireless link to my computer so I can watch and drive it from my room).

FormulaXFD
Sep 11, 2001



I would like to add to the shopping sources:

https://www.alliedelec.com (allied electronics)
https://www.mouser.com (my personal favorite)

https://www.allelectronics.com for misc. surplus stuffs
https://www.newark.com when you enjoy wasting money

and as a plug, you can buy small quantities from these manufacturers usually for much less than the distributors:

https://www.analog.com
https://www.microchip.com

Additionally if you wish to add to your wisdom, may I plug:
http://www.analog.com/library/analogDialogue/

theparag0n
May 4, 2007

INITIATE STANDING FLIRTATION PROTOCOL beep boop

Grimey Drawer

http://www.avrfreaks.net is a great website for anyone wanting to use an atmel microprocessor.

seconding http://www.mouser.com as a supplier, i buy all the stuff i cant find in the UK from there.

The stuff I can find in the UK, I buy from http://www.rapidonline.com/

Caffeine Wolf
May 12, 2005

Fiddle-dah-dee
Fiddle-dah-day
I am oh-so
So so gay!
- Song of Teh Gay Minstrel -


Phlegmbot posted:

I would say that diodes, including LEDs, are passive semiconductor devices, and not active.

Also, an IC is neither active or passive by definition.

If you want to use anything in an IC you need to power it hence it is active.

PRO TIP: There are two main sources of power: Battery (DC) and Power outlet (AC). Most scenarios or tutorials you will read about are involving DC. AC and DC work quite differently and if you try use AC without knowing exactly what you're doing you will probably break your circuit, set it on fire, short-out the entire street and kill everyone (in that order).

Caffeine Wolf fucked around with this message at 11:52 on Jan 8, 2008

clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


Phlegmbot posted:

I would say that diodes, including LEDs, are passive semiconductor devices, and not active.

Also, an IC is neither active or passive by definition.

It's kind of a fuzzy point for diodes and LEDs, but I've always seen them listed as active devices. Wikipedia sort of tells me the same, if you want to trust it. If not, I've got several electronics textbooks that tell me the exact same thing in slightly more readable paragraphs. Also, ICs almost by definition have to consist of transistors, which are active devices. I think there might be one or two out there that are not active (but I have no idea what those would be, I just know it's possible), but 99% of them are active devices.


Caffeine Wolf posted:

PRO TIP: There are two main sources of power: Battery (DC) and Power outlet (AC). Most scenarios or tutorials you will read about are involving DC. AC and DC work quite differently and if you try use AC without knowing exactly what you're doing you will probably break your circuit, set it on fire, short-out the entire street and kill everyone (in that order).

Oh we'll be getting there. AC by itself is not that scary, but 120/240V AC can get scary. 10,000V AC is ridiculously scary unless you're a goon photographer apparently.

XFDRaven posted:

Links

theparag0n posted:

Links

Added to the OP. If it's not up there yet, give it a few.

clredwolf fucked around with this message at 12:57 on Jan 8, 2008

sonic bed head
Dec 18, 2003

this is naturual, baby!

Holy crap, my A in gen physics has nothing on this thread. I really should go and read up on the basic stuff because I'm loving this.

H0TSauce
Mar 12, 2002



How could this thread have come so far without any mention of the fun-loving Arduino?

I've always been interested in electronics, but recently i woke up and realised that i was a grown-up and could actually afford to get some decent equipment. Then i remembered that as a grown-up, i also had bills, so i went back to scavenging parts from here and there...

Also, speaking of scavenging, here's my new toy:


I'm currently in the process of playing around with a few things involving the Arduino, some C code and a Wiimote.

edit: for links, i've got a few decent ones for beginners.
there's Electornics Projects which has some nice little projects for start-ups and also explains the different components in nice layman terms.
and also the page on play-hookey.com this one

Ooh and what electronics megathread could be complete without a link to MAKE Magazine?

H0TSauce fucked around with this message at 15:03 on Jan 8, 2008

clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


H0TSauce posted:

How could this thread have come so far without any mention of the fun-loving Arduino?

edit: for links, i've got a few decent ones for beginners.
there's Electornics Projects which has some nice little projects for start-ups and also explains the different components in nice layman terms.
and also the page on play-hookey.com this one

Ooh and what electronics megathread could be complete without a link to MAKE Magazine?

Links will be added (when I get some more free time). Also, if you like the Arduino, try out an FPGA-based board sometime. You'll have to use Verilog (for the FPGA) and C (for the included ARM processor), but they're stupidly powerful for something hobbyist.

FPGAs are basically a reprogrammable digital chip. If you've used a PLA before, same idea except you can reprogram it as many times as you want. They're amazingly powerful, and pretty cheap for what they do.

Jailbrekr
Apr 8, 2002
A TOWN LEVELED BY AN EXPLOSION? DOZENS LIKELY KILLED? OH GOD LET ME SEE THAT SWEET VIDEO OH MY GOD I'M CUMMING


BEfore I go to work, here is more than you'll ever need to know about a vacumn tube diode. Unless you're an audiophile, this is strictly historical and kinda gives you an idea of the era we evolved from.

I'll get to work on something new tonight after work, work which is, coincidentially, for a fabless chip manufacturer.

Only registered members can see post attachments!

ValhallaSmith
Aug 16, 2005


Power is a good point that was brought up. This should probably be one of your first projects once you get a few tools for your bench. You can make a pretty decent from a few op amps and assorted passives. Or you can make one from an ATX power supply. It would be limited to +/-12 +/-5 +3.3 though. And the ATX power supplies can be finicky sometimes. Putting together a power supply is a pretty useful first project though.

diis
Feb 28, 2001


This thread is fantastic. I'm looking forward to more lessons from Electronics 101 since the last class I took on this stuff was in high school, and all I did was electrolysis. Making hydrogen and copper plating stuff is cool and all, but isn't very useful.

Hillridge
Aug 3, 2004

WWheeeeeee!

I approve of this thread!

I currently work as an R&D Electrical Engineer, so I'm sure I'll be following this thread.

It can not be overemphasized how much of a difference a quality soldering iron makes when working on stuff. That $20 radioshack iron will probably solder two wires together, but there is no way you're going to solder fine pitch surface mount parts with it. If you do a lot of work with surface mount components then having a hot air gun also works well.

Also, get a little squirt bottle full of flux and apply it liberally to things you wish to solder. Do that and use leaded solder (the lead free stuff sucks) and things will go much easier.

Mill Town
Apr 17, 2006



Hillridge posted:

I approve of this thread!

I currently work as an R&D Electrical Engineer, so I'm sure I'll be following this thread.

It can not be overemphasized how much of a difference a quality soldering iron makes when working on stuff. That $20 radioshack iron will probably solder two wires together, but there is no way you're going to solder fine pitch surface mount parts with it. If you do a lot of work with surface mount components then having a hot air gun also works well.

Also, get a little squirt bottle full of flux and apply it liberally to things you wish to solder. Do that and use leaded solder (the lead free stuff sucks) and things will go much easier.

Thanks for the info. I'm getting tired of buying new tips and irons every few months. I'm also interested in what other tools are needed for a good hobbyist setup. Heat gun and a big old pile of heatshrink tubing are definitely on my list of things to get. Should I look for anything in particular in a heat gun? Are temperature/CFM/BTUs/etc important or will whatever's in stock at the local industrial electronics store be fine?

I'm also interested in getting a vacuum rework station. How cheaply can I find a good one, and what brands should I look for?

Last question, when I started tinkering with things as a kid, my dad instilled a fear of flux in me, because ZOMG ACID. As a result, I've never used it, to this day. How bad is flux really? Will it eat my skin if I spill it on myself or just hurt a bit? What safety precautions should I take?

For other people who don't have tools yet, here are some of the things I find indispensable:
- Jeweler's screwdrivers . These are tiny little screwdrivers. Don't get the crap ones from Radio Shack, they suck and will fall apart or even be defective out of the box. I once got one where the tip hadn't been stamped or ground or whatever they do to form them, so it was just a rounded cone instead of a Phillips.
- Needlenose pliers. Obvious, probably.
- "Helping Hands." Those things with a weighted stand, a magnifying glass and two alligator clips on adjustable arms, for holding tiny stuff you're working on. They have a tendency to tip over if you even look at them funny, so fasten them to your workbench somehow.
- A jar of soldering iron tinner. This is an incredible time and frustration saver compared to tinning by hand. Everyone should have one (that reminds me, I need more). Sometimes if stuff won't fir in the helping hands for whatever reason, I just tape things to the board or my workbench while I solder them.
- 3-claw part retriever. A little round thingy with a plunger on one end and a springy metal claw on the other. You push the plunger and the claw opens up, let go and it springs back. Great for retrieving fiddly bits that you dropped into the case of whatever you're working on.

MooglyGuy
Jun 14, 2006

Angry Hudson characters make me happy

Where can I find a decent program for drawing up schematics and (bread)board layouts? I'm in the process of designing my own Z80-based computer, but using Adobe Illustrator is too slow and using a pen and paper is difficult to iterate on. A program that will prevent me from doing something loving stupid like attempting to connect Vcc to GND would be even better.

Cyril Sneer
Aug 8, 2004

Life would be simple in the forest except for Cyril Sneer. And his life would be simple except for The Raccoons.

I know it can be expensive, but anyone interested in this stuff should really try to get ahold of an oscilliscope and a function generator. It greatly enhances everything you might want to do.

Oh, and all this piddly digital/LED/microncontroller stuff is boring. You guys need to try some real electronics:

https://www.pupman.com

Although, fair enough, perhaps that's not exactly for someone just learning electronics...

scopes
Jun 5, 2004


MooglyGuy posted:

Where can I find a decent program for drawing up schematics and (bread)board layouts? I'm in the process of designing my own Z80-based computer, but using Adobe Illustrator is too slow and using a pen and paper is difficult to iterate on. A program that will prevent me from doing something loving stupid like attempting to connect Vcc to GND would be even better.

I just found this a few minutes ago and it seems a pretty handy free program bundle, both a schematic designer and a PCB layout designer. Looks to be free because you can order PCBs through the program I believe.

http://www.expresspcb.com/index.htm

nchernyy
Aug 13, 2004

RAWR


Great thread and a great new forum!

clredwolf posted:

This is what the industry likes to call a 'gently caress up'. Thanks to that little error some NASA drone just crashed into the side of Pluto unexpectedly. Should be fixed now.

I think the confusion comes from defining electrical current before the discovery of the electron. People knew that there was charge flowing, they just didn't know it was made up of discrete particles that were negative.

As for learning the basics, see Troubleshooting Analog Circuits by Bob Pease (http://books.google.com/books?id=3kY4-HYLqh0C) for the passives (and for the breadboard picture from clredwolf) and the Handbook of Operational Amplifier Applications from TI (http://focus.ti.com/lit/an/sboa092a/sboa092a.pdf) for active, analog devices.

I am a graduate student doing some mixed signal design and will be happy to answer questions.

clredwolf
Aug 12, 2006


Ugh, I made a big update and the power went out before I could submit it. I'll try to redo it now.

edit: Alright, well it seems like the thread is slightly more serious now. I'll try to tone the 'humor' down and get some projects together for everyone. I can do some more of the '101' stuff later. Jailbrekr can still make sex jokes about holes and poo poo though.

scopes posted:

I just found this a few minutes ago and it seems a pretty handy free program bundle, both a schematic designer and a PCB layout designer. Looks to be free because you can order PCBs through the program I believe.

http://www.expresspcb.com/index.htm

It's a great little program actually, but it does no simulation and it does not automatically lay traces (which is half the reason to use a PCB making program). The free version of Eagle is a bit harder to use, but can automatically figure out the best way to connect everything together and lay traces for you.

Just remembered to add this cool Java Circuit Simulator to the OP. It's a fun program to use, and an absolute must for newbies to play with. Basically it's a nice quick-and-dirty circuit simulator. Get a good feel for messing with schematics here.

clredwolf fucked around with this message at 01:11 on Jan 9, 2008

Powdered Toast Man
Jan 25, 2005

TOAST-A-RIFIC!!!

Jairbrekr, I love you. clredwolf, that breadboard picture has me in stitches and remembering the good old days of TWO MILLION PROJECTS IN ONE electronics labs from Radio Shack!

For an excellent and humorous explanation of electricity and electronics, I recommend There Are No Electrons by Kenn Amdahl. Hell, for that matter his other books are a hoot, too.

The absolute best beginner's reference by far, however, is unfortunately no longer in print, because Radio Shack betrayed us all and turned into a loving computer and cell phone store, the bastards. I'll never forgive them. It was called Getting Started in Electronics, and I still have my copy from when I was a kid that I treasure. The whole thing is hand-drawn, hand-written explanations of circuits and components. It was only available at Radio Shack, and even had it's own PART NUMBER like everything else they sold.

Fake edit: HOLY poo poo YOU CAN GET IT FROM AMAZON ALONG WITH HIS OTHER BOOKS!!!

I should really start building BEAM bots again...

scopes
Jun 5, 2004


Powdered Toast Man posted:

I should really start building BEAM bots again...

This is what I've been into lately and this forum popped up not long after I finished some as Christmas presents. Wish I had taken pictures.

ValhallaSmith
Aug 16, 2005


Circumcision Hater posted:

Last question, when I started tinkering with things as a kid, my dad instilled a fear of flux in me, because ZOMG ACID. As a result, I've never used it, to this day. How bad is flux really? Will it eat my skin if I spill it on myself or just hurt a bit? What safety precautions should I take?

You don't use acid flux on electronics ever. What you want is rosin flux, Its pretty much inert, you could probably wipe your face with it with no ill effects.

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Locker Room Zubaz
Aug 8, 2006


~*~THE SECRET OF THE MAGICAL CRYSTALS IS THAT I'M FUCKING TERRIBLE~*~




3rd year ECE just wanting to say this thread is looking great. I am actually in the market for a nice oscilloscope now so I can work on some designs. I am really interested in a USB based solution since they seem to give a ton of the features of high end scopes while still being relatively cheap.

And if you are going to be soldering lots of surface mount parts you might want to look into getting an air solder station instead of a iron based one. They use a solder paste instead of solder wire and a really fine nozeled hot air gun and by god do they make soldering .22" pitch parts easy. They really complement a nice soldering iron more than replace it since you are going to need the iron for larger parts, you can't really use paste to solder wires together, or for through hole parts.

And for those of you who want to get into building your own PCB's we used http://www.4pcb.com/ in one of my classes and they offered pretty good rates. You provide them with a Layout file and they will make a pretty nice PCB. The instructors said we've ordered over 2000 boards from them and only 1 has had an error, and that was because two traces were too close together.

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