Please help me teach myself to use electrical components.
June 22, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Looking for resources that will teach me how to use capacitors, resistors, solar cells and other electrical components.

My local Radio Shack is closing down, so I went in to buy LEDs and walked out with a bag full of tons of different kinds of electrical components. I'm looking for book and website recommendations that would be good for someone who already has basic knowledge of electrical circuits. I know how to wire up a doorbell or a light switch and I know what everything in my bag of components does (theoretically), but I need a better idea of when to use what component.

For example, I now have dozens of different types of resistors and capacitors, so I would like to learn how to pick the right one for a given job. I would also like to know how to wire up a solar cell without destroying it. Information on using transistors and other fun things would also be appreciated.

Wikipedia is great, but I am looking for something with examples and step-by-step instructions for a few basic projects so I can experiment without destroying too many things.

posted by Alison to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In a previous thread concerning my laundry notification system, someone sent me here:

That site is great and provides a wealth of information.
posted by AllesKlar at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2006

You could pick up a used circuit trainer w/ breadboard on ebay. There are quite a few for auction and they are often pretty cheap.
posted by zonkout at 8:19 AM on June 22, 2006

Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest Mims is a classic and will probably get you off to a nice start. Rat Shack used to sell the original version but I think they stopped long ago.
posted by exogenous at 8:41 AM on June 22, 2006

The Mims books are good. Once you're up on the basics, try and get hold of the Circuit Scrapbooks. They've got some interesting projects in them.

Over here in the UK, Starting Electronics seems to be the book that most people start with. It gets you going quickly, but is a bit maths intensive at the beginning.

If you didn't pick up some breadboards, get some. They're a solderless way of building circuits, and will work with most components.

Also, if you haven't got one, get a multimeter. They're cheap, and they make trouble-shooting a lot easier.
posted by veedubya at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2006

Maybe one of these? I had an old version of the 300-in-one a million years ago and learned a lot from it.
posted by The Bellman at 9:18 AM on June 22, 2006

Yeah, get the Mims books. You can also buy the book more directly from him.

The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill is the seminal reference, but it is hard to understand.
posted by plinth at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2006

Second The Art of Electronics, but dissent on the "hard to understand" part.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2006

Thirding the Mims book.

Also want to recommend a friend's book, Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, if you're interested in microcontrollers, and the accompanying website.
posted by hooray at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2006

Oh, and maybe Practical Electronics for Inventors.
posted by hooray at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2006

If the Radio Shack is dumping stuff at a discount, check out this electronics learning lab with manuals by Mim.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:32 AM on June 22, 2006

Oh, and keep in mind that playing with batteries and breadboards is a different thing from playing with house current. See this thread.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:38 AM on June 22, 2006

It is extraordinarily hard to find, but under the topic Reading, the wiki says:
Q: What's a good introduction to electronics?
A: See this thread [1] and the threads listed in this comment [2].
I don't bring up the wiki as a criticism at all. I just think we could all use some encouragement, to keep thinking about, and improving it.
posted by Chuckles at 8:30 PM on June 22, 2006

Okay, it is now under the heading Technology, and the headings accurately reflect AskMe categories.
posted by Chuckles at 9:13 PM on June 22, 2006

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