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