Introduction to Electronics

Introduction to the new series on electronics

With this post I want to start a new series on Electronics.

It’s one field I’m very passionate about, and I believe it’s like programming. We transform inputs into outputs and create useful systems by combining simple components into more complex structures.

It is just what we do in programming software, except it’s more practical and we can take a pause from the screen to work on a craft that lets us create actual real-world projects. And when you add programmable boards like an Arduino, it’s actual embedded, low level programming.

I talked about electronics a bit in the past, but not a lot.

In particular I talked about Arduino in An introduction to Arduino and I wrote an introduction to the Arduino Programming Language.

Then I introduced 3 popular boards:

and I compared Arduino to the Raspberry Pi, another very popular device (but a very different one!).

That’s the extent of my electronics coverage on this blog.

It’s all very high level. Arduino is a development board that’s very simple to use, but under the hood it’s also abstracting a lot of the tiny details and provides a lot of built-in facilities.

Arduino is a very fun starting point for all things electronics.

But there’s a long way to go from following a “light a LED” tutorial to know what you’re doing.

What I want to do with this series is to provide a much deeper coverage of electronics. With a different spin from what you usually read in books. I want to be highly practical, and avoid the theory and math behind it all.

Abstracting the tiny details, but apply the concepts in practice.

Why am I starting to talk about electronics? Well, because I like talking about it, reading about it, watching videos, and also because I like creating things with electronic devices and electronic components.

There’s an entire world that will unlock once you have a basic understanding of electronics and electricity.

In the past 10 years we’ve gone from a society where computers were something that were installed upon desks to everyone having a super powerful internet connected device in their pockets.

I believe in the future we’ll be fully immersed into much more electronics than today, with the adoption of 5g, cheap mobile networking and the continuous advancement of renewable energies and understanding how all that works is a highly valuable skill.

It’s a skill that can pay you a high salary, but it’s also a skill that can give you a lot of satisfaction in DIY and craftsmanship.

Building your own devices and tools and watching them actually work, in the real world, is something that can make you very proud of yourself.

You will not learn how to build the next iPhone, perhaps, but maybe you will learn how to create a simplified version of a computer. Or how to build circuits to do cool stuff.

And jumping on it is quite cheap compared to other more expensive hobbies.

I am a computer programmer and an engineer, I studied electronics in high school and at the university, but with this series I want to re-learn it, starting from the basics, along with you.

First we’ll dive into Analog Electronics.

We’ll talk about the basics first:

We’ll then dive into electronic components:

  • Resistors
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
  • Diodes
  • Buttons
  • Potentiometers
  • Capacitors
  • Inductors
  • Relays
  • Transformers
  • Transistors
  • Thyristors
  • 7-segment displays
  • LED displays
  • Switches
  • Liquid crystal displays
  • Photodiodes
  • Buzzers and Speakers

Then we’ll explore the wonderful world of sensors, that let us interface and get data from the outer world, including:

  • Thermistors
  • Thermocouples
  • Tilt sensors
  • Accellerometers
  • Force sensors
  • Vibration sensors
  • Humidity sensors
  • Sound sensors
  • Photoresistors
  • Phototyristors
  • Phototransistors
  • Magnetic sensors
  • Proximity sensors
  • Microphones
  • Keyboards

and we’ll learn how to use them and do cool stuff using the Arduino boards:

We’ll then look at animating objects with motors:

  • Servo Motors
  • Step Motors

Then we’ll dive into Digital Electronics.

We’ll learn:

  • Binary Arithmetics
  • Boolean Algebra
  • Logic Gates
  • Combinatory Logic
  • Working with Integrated Circuits
  • Multiplexers and Demultiplexers
  • Encoders
  • Flip flops
  • Arithmetic Logic Units
  • Clock generators
  • Counters
  • Registers
  • Memories

We’ll learn how to interface the digital world with the analog world with converters.

In the meantime we’ll work on simple projects first, with increasing complexity and fun as time passes:

/arduino-webserver/

The real fun starts when we add programmable devices in the mix, in particular we’ll talk a lot about Arduino.

We’ll see how to program Arduino going from beginner to advanced, with the Arduino Language (C++) but also with other languages, for example using CircuitPython and Johnny Five, and we’ll work on very cool projects using it.

This is just the start, of course, and maybe there will be more.

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