Diodes, transistors, resistors, oh my!
January 26, 2013 4:47 PM   Subscribe

What are the best resources and references for a novice interested in modern electrical engineering?

Lately, I have been increasingly interested in microcontrollers and the universe of possibilities achievable with simple circuits and a little programming. I have had success following online tutorials, and completing (what I think are) some pretty cool little projects.

I would like to build on what I've started, but as components get more expensive, and circuits become more complex, I feel like I'm missing the foundation required to continue with the more complex ideas floating around in my head. Essentially, I'd like to be able to understand circuit/wiring diagrams, basic components and their typical usage, and be able to proceed with confidence that I'm not going to fry my arduino or short a circuit board because the logic is sound.

If you've found a great resource for building a foundation of electrical engineering knowledge, or slightly more advanced reference than your typical online arduino tutorial, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by clearly to Technology (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Have you taken a look at Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest Mims? Great stuff.
posted by jquinby at 4:52 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Practical Electronics for Inventors is really great, and a new edition was just released.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2013

Depending on your level, I quite like the very basic tutorials at tronixstuff.com. He mainly covers Arduino basics including various shields and other bits, while interspersing it with the basics of electronics such as resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, relays, and so on.
posted by Pinback at 6:19 PM on January 26, 2013

The learning curve is a bit steep at first, and its coverage of digital stuff is pretty out of date, but The Art of Electronics is still a really good book for getting a solid foundation of knowledge about electronics.
posted by hattifattener at 6:41 PM on January 26, 2013

+1 to 'The Art of Electronics'. Couldn't have got through my BSEE without it. Whatever resource you choose, these are the topics you'll need to understand the fundamentals (each of these builds on the previous): DC circuits (RLC combination), AC Circuits & the Frequency Domain, electronics (design w/transistors), digital electronics.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2013

Make Presents covers the basic components of electrical engineering. But you'll probably also want to look at the substantially longer MIT Open Courseware Circuits and Electronics, which covers the mathematical relationships between components and basic circuit analysis.
posted by pwnguin at 8:36 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I usually recommend Make Electronics. The information is taught from the "I want to make my Arduino do more" perspective and – my favorite thing about it – it runs you through making mistakes. It has you hook up components wrong so you can see what happens, including destroying them. (Don't worry they only cost a few cents.) There is a companion set of components as well.

For many people learning independently, the EE courses are pretty tough unless you have an exceptionally strong background and/or an EE tutor to help you through.
posted by Ookseer at 9:18 PM on January 26, 2013

Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Handbook may be more than you want, but it's an excellent reference for basic electronics, build techniques, etc. I like it because I'm a radio nut.


Best to have a mentor, though. If you can find a local engineer (friend or family or neighbor), most are glad to share skills, equipment, tricks. Particularly true of ham radio types, where it's a widespread community value to help out. Hams do things kind of earlier than a lot of folks, and had email via packet radio back in the 70's. Arduinos are probably all over the place these days as are Raspberry Pi's, I presume.
posted by FauxScot at 1:05 AM on January 27, 2013

As other commenters have noted, The Art Of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill is very good.
posted by ryanrs at 4:26 AM on January 27, 2013

I found this site to be a good starting point http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/
posted by jmsta at 5:22 AM on January 27, 2013

For free you cannot beat the NEETS material. It presents the concepts at a basic level such that anyone with some high school education can follow it. The Make Electronics book is also quite good and presented similarly. Horowitz and Hill is the bible, really, really good, and very in-depth, but it may be too much depending upon what you seek. I have an engineering degree and find this text can be a bit dense sometimes. If you are building a library though, it is not to be missed.
posted by caddis at 5:24 AM on January 27, 2013

Thank you all for the answers.

I've ordered The Art of Electronics, Getting Started in Electronics, and the MAKE Electronics books, and have bookmarked each of the online resources.

Best to have a mentor, though.

I think this is a really good idea. There is a local maker space that I've been meaning to check out...
posted by clearly at 9:46 PM on January 27, 2013

Sorry, I didn't link this directly earlier because I was on my phone, but Practical Electronics for Inventors is worth a look. That edition doesn't have any reviews so it looks a little shady, but there is an older one. I found out about it in the MAKE Electronics book. It's basically a less intimidating version of Art of Electronics. I am a software person and I have described it as an API reference for the physical world.

Also, be really wary of hobbyist component kits. They are almost exclusively vastly, vastly overpriced.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:13 AM on January 28, 2013

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