Friendly Wire

Discover the joy of electronics

Category: Stories

Getting started with electronics in 2019! What do you need?

We live in a world that becomes more and more dominated by technology. I think this is a good thing, because it tends to improve the quality of our lives. But it is also easier and easier to get lost in the brave new tech world. When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to learn how wires work, and eventually I took my first steps: I connected a battery, a switch, and a lamp, and that was my first circuit.

Fast forward to 2019: Circuits with actual wires become less and less every day. Almost every electronic circuit is now artfully etched into a PCB, and the electronic components are becoming smaller by the day. This is great, but it makes it more difficult to understand what is going on. Children in high school, nowadays, grow up with smartphones and tablet computers that were not even dreamed of twenty years ago.

When personal computers were new in the early 1980s, it was possible for a single person to read the entire manual and understand the entire product, start to finish. If there was a problem, you could read the schematic and fix it. This has become impossible nowadays: the circuits are just too complex.

But now we can decide: do we want to accept the status quo, or do we want to break with the routine and do something about it? I strongly recommend the second route 🙂 It is never too late to learn something about the world that surrounds us.

Okay, so let’s say we decided to learn electronics in 2019. Now what? There is an approximately infinite number of tutorials, videos, books, e-courses, and electronics kits out there, just waiting for you to discover them. Really, one might say that it is a saturated market. Ironically, that makes it worse for the absolute beginner. How should I know which steps to follow when I want to learn electronics in 2019? There are just too many options!

It is easy if you have a concrete question: how does an OPAMP work? How can I program a PIC microntroller in-circuit? How do I calulate the optimal value of this buffering capacitor? But when you are new, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to know which question to ask. After all, knowing which question to ask is the most difficult part of any problem, I find.

So what to do?

Roughly, electronics can be divided into a few subcategories:

  • digital electronics with discrete logic ICs (the electronics of the 1970’s and 1980’s)
  • digital electronics with embedded microcontrollers (a.k.a. the electronics of today)
  • analog electronics (for example: audio electronics, amplifiers, measuring devices, …)

Instead of trying to understand everything at once I always recommend to start small. Pick one thing that you would like to understand, and get your hands dirty as soon as possible. No procrastination along the lines of “Hmmm, I wonder which book I should read. Let’s read the reviews instead!” but, rather, a simple-enough project that sparks some joy.

Friendly Wire

This is the title of this blog, because I really believe it. Wires are friendly. What do I mean by that? Over the next couple of months I want to present here a few simple electronics projects that will get you started in 2019. Projects you can follow at home, with an absolute minimum of special tools or equipment. Projects that are fun, that will hopefully make you want to learn more, that inspire you, and that give you a sense of understanding!

It is not the goal to explain everything there is to know about electronics on this blog. Others have done this way better than I could ever imagine to do. Instead, I want to pick you up in your everyday life, and shove an interesting circuit in your face 🙂

We can do it! Let’s build it and figure out what it does! And in the end, we will have an interesting new piece of electronics that we build ourselves! That you built, because you can do it! With wires! And LEDs! And switches! Oh, and a battery maybe.

This is a picture of a so-called breadboard. These are nice because you can stick any electronic component in there with minimal effort. Then you can use wires to connect the components. In the above picture you can see LEDs, capacitors, resistors, a potentiometer is hiding at the bottom right, and in the top right you can see a battery clip for a 9V battery.

It is my goal for 2019 to present on this blog a variety of nice breadboard-based circuits. You can build them at home, you don’t even need a screwdriver. The most important detail: I will explain every thing along the way!

This is where I feel many tutorials are lacking, when it comes to beginners: they always assume some prior knowledge. But what if you don’t have time to read up on all of this on your own time? What if you have a job, a family to take care of, and you just have one hour on the weekend?

My goal is to create short, self-contained tutorials that have all the information you need to finish the project, start to finish, with no hidden tricks and without any strings attached.

Let me know in the comments if you are interested, and if you have a particular field of electronics you would like to know more about. It’ll take me a while to get this all figured out, but I already have a few ideas. Stay tuned.

If you want to stay in touch, consider signing up for our newsletter on the right side. I try to post once a week, and the electronics content will steadily increase.

And remember: you can do it! See you around!

5 things I wish I knew when I started learning electronics

You want to get started in electronics, and there are so many things to keep track of. When I got into the field many years ago, I had to try and figure out what works. In the following list I am trying to compile the five most important facts that I wish I had known back then, so you don’t have to go through the same trouble that I did. I hope you find it helpful!

1. You don’t need an expensive, dedicated power supply to get up and running. Use batteries instead!

The simplest thing is to just use batteries! Either use a 9V block battery (useful for most LED circuits) or three AA batteries in series for 4.5V which will work for most microcontroller circuits. The advantages of using batteries are that the power is very clean: there are no voltage spikes that can influence logic gates and circuits. Also, the power is limited. If you short your circuit (which most likely will happen at some point) the total power is limited, and usually nothing bad happens if you discover your mistake soon enough. With a dedicated power supply the short circuit current may be a lot larger, particularly when the supply is not short circuit protected. Sure, a disadvantage is that you need to keep buying batteries, but you can easily switch to rechargeable batteries instead. It will be a nice investment.

Note: this only makes sense if you are experimenting with circuits, of course. As soon as you want to build a permanent circuit it makes sense to acquire a dedicated power supply.

2. If you get a power supply, get a good one!

If you get decide to buy a power supply, get a good one. For the reasons listed above, a cheap power supply may not be a good option for you: if it does not come with short circuit protection, you may end up damaging not only the power supply itself but also your circuit in the event of a short. Is it really worth it? This comes down to personal preferences, in the end, but I recommend to buy a power supply that has several regulated fixed voltage output (5V and 12V are enough to begin with) with a built-in short circuit protection.

3. Soldering is not dangerous!

A soldering iron is a good investment as well. Sure, in the beginning you can get away with not using any soldering at all, but consider spending a few dollars on a cheap iron and it will help you along your first steps. Also, it will come in handy later down the road, even if you decide not to pursue electronics: whenever some wire needs to be reattached (it happens!) you will be well-equipped. So maybe don’t buy the most expensive soldering iron you can find, but get one that you feel works for you. Also, don’t be afraid of the soldering iron! It gets very hot, up to 450C, but how many times have you used a lighter to light a candle without burning yourself? Probably many times. If you are careful, nothing will happen and you will not injure yourself with a soldering iron. I have used soldering irons for more than ten years, and only almost slightly singed my pinkie, once. If these odds are favorable to you, go ahead!

4. You are not alone. Find some friends!

Find a local community of makers. I hesitated for a long time because I did not know these communities exist. But they do! Especially in cities with universities or technical colleges there typically are rather sizeable maker communities. And the best part: people are friendly! At first I was quite intimidated to get in touch, but then I finally thought “Oh well, let’s just give it a try!” And I am glad that I did! I was surprised by the friendliness of other electronics enthusiasts. Give it a try!

5. Datasheets are your friend!

Believe it or not, but datasheets can be your friend! Especially for simple applications, many datasheets contain sample circuits that you can copy and build in real life without any modifications.

But what do you think?

Let me know in the comments below, or sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on new posts! If you have a particular question you are interested in, let me know and I will try to answer it in an upcoming post! See you around!

Hello world!

Yet another blog sees the light of day! But why?

In today’s overly saturated online world, full of electronic gimmicks and gadgets, is it really necessary to have yet another blog? I think yes!

I feel that it becomes harder and harder to understand the pieces of electronics that surround us, and this is only partly due to the increasing level of technological achievement. Mostly, it seems by design: it is a lot easier if you cannot fix your own radio when it breaks. Then you have to buy a new one when it breaks, don’t you?

I like to fix things. I like to understand things. And I feel that people living in this world deserve to make a choice whether they want to understand or not. Not everybody has the time or the energy or the interest. But if you do, you have come to the right place!

The world of electronics is fascinating! But the first steps can be difficult. I have more than a decade of experience in designing and building circuits. I will provide you with necessary resources to get started on this fascinating journey!

I decided to call this blog Friendly Wire because one of my fondest childhood memories is playing with an old radio and fiddling with the wires. Later, during high school, I built my first circuits and handwired everything. Perhaps I just have a close relationship to wires! But on a more serious note, you can also think about it in a metaphorical way: wires guide electrons to do our bidding, to help us in our everyday life. Wires friendly. Wires are not mysterious or dangerous, they need to be respected and understood. Who understands where to connect the wires can build astonishing things!

Follow me on this journey! If you are interested in good resources on electronics that do not break your bank but offer a great value in the form of satisfaction and understanding, consider signing up for my newsletter.

See you around!

© 2019 Friendly Wire

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑