Getting Started With Electronics - What Do I Need?
November 30, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

What electronic components / tools would I need to follow along and complete the examples in Forrest Mim's book "Getting Started With Electronics"? I've paged through the book several times, and don't really see any listing of what is required. I'd like to pick everything up in one go if possible. Thanks!
posted by steinwald to Technology (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure about that specific book, but the Maker Shed sells some starter kits to go along with their own very excellent beginner book.

Kit 1.
Kit 2.

I'm sure you could get everything cheaper elsewhere, but this is a good way to get everything at once.
posted by bondcliff at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2011

Mims is fairly active on Twitter. Maybe try asking him if he knows of a parts list.
posted by jedicus at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2011

I haven't read that book, but I've been gradually acquiring electronics components for my own interests. It's taken me a few batches to reach the point of being able to build a good range of designs. I am trying to build synthesizers so my list won't include anything high-frequency or too much digital.

I'm a newbie - some of my suggestions are probably wrong. But it took me some trial and error to arrive at this list, so I thought I would share what I know so far.

  • Breadboard
  • Soldering Iron, solder
  • Wire Strippers
  • 3rd hand (completely worth 10 bucks)
  • Alligator clips
  • Solid wire, 22 AWG ("Hook-Up Wire" - for the breadboard)
  • Braided wire, 20-22 AWG (connections that leave the board, e.g. knobs on a box)
  • Shrink tube, assorted sizes
  • Hair dryer (for shrink tube)
  • Protoboard (if you want to build something permanent)
  • Multimeter
  • Oscilloscope (expensive - check Craigslist)
  • Adjustable power supply (expensive - alternatively, gather some wall-warts of assorted voltages. But they need to be under load to work correctly.)
  • Resistor grab bag
  • Ceramic, Mylar, and Electrolytic capacitor grab bags (small, medium, and high capacitance)
  • Diodes
  • LEDs in colors you like
  • Light-Sensitive Resistors
  • Assorted Transistors (I don't know enough to recommend specific transistor types)
  • Op-Amp IC's (I have LM358s but I don't know if that's a good choice)
  • 555 or 556 timer chips
  • Selection of 74-series logic chips
  • * Make sure to get DIP through-hole chips, not surface-mount! *
  • IC holders that fit your chips
  • Female headphone connectors, if you're into audio
  • Cables, or male connectors to make your own
  • 10k, 100k, and 1 M potentiometers
  • Logarithmic potentiometers
  • SPDT and DPDT switches, momentary and toggle. (Don't bother with single-throw switches. Just leave one side disconnected on a DT.)
  • DIP switches, e.g. for inputting bytes to digital circuits
  • DC Motors if you're into robotics
  • Small speaker if you don't have a stereo with audio input
  • Accelerometer
  • Arduino board if you want to easily include computer programs in your work
I really suggest Futurlec for this stuff. Their prices are super cheep. Unlike many discount shops, their component grab bags are sorted by value. But you have to wait a long time for untrackable shipping from Hong Kong. If you are low on funds, it's worth it.
posted by scose at 2:57 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Although I spent a long time writing that post... it doesn't cover everything in that book. I hope it is still useful, though.
posted by scose at 2:59 PM on November 30, 2011

Futurlec sounds promising, but the site doesn't seem to be responding. I've tried to load it twice over the past couple of hours.

The Maker Kit 1 also looks good, but the reviews seem to indicate it is of questionable quality and might be a bit overpriced.

I did some digging and was able to a very similar kit at Jameco that appears to have the same components, but at $20 less.
posted by steinwald at 6:01 PM on November 30, 2011

Those Maker kits are full of stuff but the price is pretty steep for what you get. (That seems to be the case with most of the Make stuff, really.)

If you want alternatives that aren't (directly, at least) from China:

Sparkfun: Beginner parts kit, Resistor kit.
Adafruit: Starter toolkit.

Between those three kits you should have the basic essentials, at least, for about $150. The most expensive parts are the soldering iron and multimeter, so if you have those already you can skip the toolkit and get the other tools separately.

With regards to power supplies, if you have a spare computer power supply laying around you can use that. Short the power-switch (green) wire on the motherboard connector with ground (black) and it will turn on without being connected to a computer. Voila, several hundred watts of +5V and +12V regulated power on the cheap.
posted by neckro23 at 7:50 PM on November 30, 2011

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