A Beginner’s Guide to Electronics

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Overview

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.

Degradation

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.