A Beginner’s Guide to Electronics

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Electronics is a science that deals with the control of electrical energy. It’s also concerned with electrical circuits that consist of active electrical components like vacuum tubes, integrated circuits, transistors, diodes and other passive components. If you are a complete beginner, you might want to learn Arduino by taking a course.

Common applications of electronics are information processing, signal processing and telecommunication.

Electronic components

Electronic components are physical entities in electronic systems which are used to influence electrons and their fields to behave in specific ways.

They are broadly classified into two categories; passive and active components.

Passive components include resistors, capacitors, diodes and inductors. Examples of active components are thyristors and transistors.

Electronic circuitry

There are two main types of electronic circuits; analog and digital circuits.

Digital circuits

These are essentially electrical circuits that are based on multiple discrete voltage levels. All modern computers contain digital circuits. In electronics, the terms digital circuit, logic and digital system can be used interchangeably.

Digital circuits primarily use binary-systems that consist of two voltage levels

Computers, programmable logic-controllers (used in controlling industrial processes) and electronic clocks all contain digital circuits.

The primary building blocks of digital circuits are; Logic gates, Multiplexers, Adders, Registers, Flip-flops and Counters.

Analog circuits

Most of the analog electronic appliances are designed with analog circuits which consume a continuous range of current or voltage.

Examples of the above are vacuum tubes, oscillators, transistor amplifiers and operational amplifiers.

Modern versions use microprocessor or digital techniques to enhance their performance.

Nowadays, it’s quite difficult to distinguish between digital and analogue circuits because both are designed with non-linear and linear elements of operation.

For example, a comparator consumes a continuous voltage range but only discharges one-of-two output levels, just like a digital circuit. In the same way, an overstretched transistor amplifier has two output levels, just like a controlled switch.

Methods of construction and connection

Since the invention of electronics, a wide range of methods have been used to connect electrical components. The earliest versions used point-to-point wiring, whereby circuits were constructed by attaching components to wooden breadboards. The use of wire wraps and cordwood construction was also popular.

Modern electronics are designed with printed circuit boards that are made using materials such as Synthetic Resin- Bonded-Paper (SRBP) or FR4.

Thermal management of systems and devices

Heat that is produced by electronic circuitry is usually dissipated so as to enhance long-term reliability and also to prevent immediate failure.

In order to efficiently dissipate heat, modern electronic devices are designed with heat sinks, water cooling systems and fans, which get rid of heat by convection, radiation and/or conduction.

Electronic Design Automation and Computer-Aided-Design (CAD)

Most universities around the world train their electronics engineering students to design electronic circuits using previously manufactured building blocks like power supplies, integrated circuits and semi-conductors.

They’re also trained to use electronic-design automation software such as printed circuit-board design programs and schematic-capture programs.

Some of the prominent companies that are renowned for producing and selling Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software are; NI Multisim, KiCad, Cadence, Geda, EAGLE PCB, Lab Centre Electronics and Altium, among others.

Electronic noise

Electronic noise refers to undesirable disturbances super-posed on useful signals that often obscure information content. It’s quite different from normal signal distortion that is usually caused by circuits.

Electronic noise may be generated either thermally or magnetically. The former can be decreased or eliminated by lowering the circuit’s operating temperature.

Mathematical methods and electronics

Electronics engineering students have to study circuit analysis, i.e. methods of solving liner systems to establish unknown variables like the amount of current flowing through a particular network/ branch or voltage at a specific node.

A SPICE circuit simulator is commonly used when analyzing circuits.

Proficiency in mathematics is therefore important for people who wish to study electronics engineering.

Electronic Circuit Simulation and Electronics Lab

Since electronics theory is complex in nature, laboratory experiments are extremely important in developing electronic devices.

The experiments are vital in testing or verifying an engineer’s design as well as detecting errors. Initially, laboratories consisted of electronic equipment and devices installed in physical locations.

Today, most laboratories are equipped with computers and electronics simulation software, e.g. CircuitLogix, PSpice and Multisim.


Scientific research has established that Raspberry crazy ants and cockroaches are notorious for establishing their nests inside electronic devices, where they eat up electrical wires. They prefer nesting inside DC powered devices and not those powered by Alternating Current.

Relationship between electronics and mecha-tronics

Electronics is quite different from mecha-tronics. The former involves electrical circuits consisting of active electrical components like vacuum tubes, integrated circuits, transistors, diodes and other passive components.

On the other hand, mecha-tronics is concerned with generating, distributing, switching, storing and converting electrical energy into other forms of energy using wires, resistors, motors, transformers, generators, switches and batteries.

How To: Electronic Signature Capture Methods

A signature written on paper with a pen.

While there are many ways of capturing an electronic signature (uploaded image, handwritten signature, and typed signature), the method you might be most familiar with is to write on a pad or tablet specifically designed for signature capture.  You may have seen this before in a bank or another location where a signature is required.  Signature pads typically plug into a USB port in a computer or tablet, although they can also be wireless. This idea has been around for a while, which means that the cost of the technology is decreasing, although a signature pad can still cost up to 500 dollars, depending on the specific model and included features.  For corporate use, signature pads are typically bought in a large number, so they become less costly per unit. Topaz systems offers many different models.


Signature pads can have features such as a monochrome LCD screen, fingerprint reader (which counts as a signature), and an attached stylus pen. There are many models made for a variety of settings.  The design of the signature pad will be dependent on whether it is being used in a corporate setting.  For example, a signature pad used in a bank will be fastened to the desk, and made for high traffic use.  Because of this, it will be built with hard plastic to withstand scratches. A thinner and lighter model exists to be aesthetically pleasing with the same functionality. This model won’t be able to withstand the high traffic of the signature pad built for corporate use, but the trade-offs might be worth it for staff who carry it around a lot (ex. package delivery staff).  This model will include a cordless and battery free pen as well.


The standard electronic signature pad only shows the signature on the computer screen while a more advanced signature pad will also show the signature on the signature pad.  A large LCD screen will be beneficial in a point of sale environment because customers find them easier to sign on.  Most signature pads come with the necessary software to be installed on your computer. Electronic signature pads can work using different technology to register the signature.  These can include resistive technology, advanced biometric ID technology,  pressure sensors, or electromagnetic resonance.  Resistive technology, and pressure sensing technology are typically less expensive than biometric readers and electromagnetic resonance because they are older technology.  As technology becomes older, its market price decreases.


Alternatives to a signature pad

Although you can buy a signature pad or a tablet, there are also other signature capture methods that you can try, including using your mouse to sign, uploading an image from your computer, and typing your signature. These methods require a tablet or computer, and are a newer alternative to the signature capture pad hardware.  A good electronic signature application will provide multiple signing methods as a way to make their signature service user friendly.  The added bonus to these methods is that the document can be sent to the recipient via email.  This makes it a lot easier for the recipient to sign when they are ready as opposed to having to sign on the spot.  It is good for companies to have both options, because signing on the spot is better in some situations than signing through an email invitation.


A lot of people are concerned with the legality of electronic signatures, but these are all legally binding methods as long as they use digital signature technology to seal your signature to your document.  This involves evidence to prove that the signature is yours, such as a time stamp, date stamp, IP address etc. With digital signature technology, security and trust are created through signer authentication (proof of who signed the document), document integrity (proof that the document has not been changed since signing), and non-repudiation (the signer of the document is not able to deny signing the document).  As long as the electronic signature method incorporates these three aspects, it can be enforced legally.  PIPEDA specifies the legality of electronic signature in Canada. In the United States, a different governing body has this task.


Using your mouse to sign in an electronic signature application is legally binding as long as it is used with digital signature technology.  This method also allows your signature to look like a traditional pen on paper signature.  This is opposed to a signature method such as typing your signature, which does not resemble your signature on paper, but can still be legally binding using digital signature technology.  You can upload an image to use as your signature.  Some people prefer this method because it means that their signature will always look the same, although this isn’t necessary to be legally binding.  In this method, the signature that is used also looks like the “typical signature”. These signature capture methods only require a computer or mobile device. A mobile device with a touch screen can function in a similar way to the electronic signature pad, only with a finger in place of a stylus pen.  Many people prefer this method because it is user friendly.  It is typically the younger generations who feel most comfortable with electronic signatures in place of signatures with paper and pen.