Getting Started with Electronics
The short video below talks about what you’ll need to get started in electronics.
For all you readers out there, I had the video transcribed and have included the text below the video for convenience.
HOW TO GET STARTED IN ELECTRONICS
Note: I did not transcribe this myself. Please excuse any spelling, grammar, punctuation errors or omissions.
Hi! I’m Brian Jenkins, electrical engineer; entrepreneur and electronics enthusiast. Feel free to follow me on twitter for news, tips, and resources for electronics hobbyists and enthusiasts. My Twitter handle is @Circuit_Crush.
If you want to get started in electronics, the first thing you should ask yourself is how deep is your interest in electronics: is it just a hobby that you want to do on the side or would you like to make a career out of it? If you’re interested in working in the electronics field, you will likely need college, (especially if you want to be an electrical engineer like I am) or at least some technical school.
Taking up electronics as a hobby is a great way to figure this out if you’re not sure yet and it will also get you acclimated to electronics and all that’s involved in the discipline.
BASIC THINGS YOU’LL NEED TO GET STARTED
Believe it or not you don’t have to run out and buy a $1,000 oscilloscope or a bunch of fancy equipment to get started here. In fact, I’d recommend that you not dump a ton of money into this kind of stuff until you know for sure if you like the hobby.
A GOOD WORK SPACE
This is perhaps the most important thing you’ll need: a workspace and a workbench or desk. You can go out and buy a new bench/desk, or if you want to save some money, shop garage sales in your area or hop on Craigslist to see if there’s anything out there.
A DESKTOP OR LAPTOP PC
I know they aren’t as hip as they used to be thanks to phones and tablets, but you may want to dust off you’re the PC and use it for things like simulations, writing code, programming microcontrollers, researching on the Internet and more. Traditional PCs are way more powerful and easier to use with their keyboards and mice than any phone and most tablets.
BONUS: You probably already have one lying around!
A DIGITAL MULTIMETER
These allow you to measure things like resistance, voltage, current and more depending on the model. You don’t need a top-of-the-line meter to get started. eBay or Amazon are good places to shop for all kinds of equipment if you’re budget conscious. Here is what I recommend as far as the meter’s built in functions:
- You want at a minimum one that measures resistance, voltage, current; both AC and DC. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, because most meters do all these things.
- Having one that also measures capacitance can be helpful.
- Having one that measures transistor hFE or beta is also helpful.
- Measuring frequency in Hertz can also come in handy.
- The Elenco M-1700 does all these things that can be found for less that $50 on eBay especially if you’re shopping for it used.
- Here’s a picture of the Elenco M-1700. This is the meter I use. I’ve had it for like 16 years, it lasts, it works, I’m not getting any kickbacks from the company for recommending it, it’s just the one I’m familiar with and it has a lot of functions.
YOU’LL ALSO NEED A SMALL VARIETY OF HAND TOOLS
- A Phillips and flat blade screw driver (magnetic tips are awesome)
- You’ll want to have a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers; those are the tiny smaller versions of above for working with small screws
- A driver with interchangeable bits for torx, square and other odd shapes can come in handy, too
- You’ll want wire cutters
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire strippers
- And a tool like ”helping hands” or some sort of small bench vise can come in handy
- Optional: an antistatic wrist strap for working with circuits that are sensitive to static discharge, inside computers and other static sensitive devices and equipment
Soldering takes some practice, but it’s not that hard.
Learn by buying a couple of small kits that require assembly and soldering and that way you can get some practice.
I recommend the Weller WES51 soldering station. It’s inexpensive, yet versatile. This is the one I use, it’s a good station — I’ve had it for about seven years and I’m not getting any kind of kick back or commission from the maker, but it is a good soldering iron to start with.
Use it to assemble and test circuits before soldering them together. Here’s a picture of a typical breadboard — these are not that expensive. Here is a picture of a circuit that’s been breadboarded, so you kind of get the idea of what it’s for.
There are few ways to supply power to your projects.
Most likely all your projects will need a DC voltage at some point in the design even if you’re working on something that you intend to plug into your wall.
Here’s a cheap, easy way to do it: get some batteries and a battery holder and wire it up to your breadboard that way. The Cons are: it’s harder to get the exact voltage and the batteries die; you’ll have to change them; you’ll go through batteries.
A better way to do it: buy a DC power supply with a digital readout. You can get one for under $100 like the Mastech HY3005D or similar. This is not the power supply I use, mine is a Mastech but it has more outputs, it’s more expensive, it’s like more than $200. I don’t recommend spending that much money, at least in the beginning, on one of these, but you can see that this is easy to adjust and easy to read so that’s why I’m recommending it.
Or, for a fun first project you could build your own DC power supply. There’s tons of designs in books and on the Internet. This is a great way to get acclimated to electronics, again, learning to solder and learning some basic theory.
You can also take the power supply from an old desktop PC and use it. This can give you +/-5V, +/-12 V and 3.3V depending on the one you use.
WHAT ABOUT OSCILLOSCOPES, WAVEFORM GENERATORS AND OTHER FANCY EQUIPMENT?
First, make sure you enjoy electronics and plan on continuing like we talked about in the beginning of this.
eBay is a great place to buy used equipment, just make sure you read the description.
And there’s a lot of other surplus stores and websites out there where you can probably find the stuff used at a decent price.
That wraps it up for now.
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