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Books On Electronics For the Lay Programmer?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the solder-anything dept.

Education 335

leoboiko writes "I'm a computer scientist and programmer with no training whatsoever in hardware or electronics. Sure, we designed a simple CPU (at a purely logical level) and learned about binary math and whatnot, and I can build a PC and stuff, but lately I've been wanting to, you know, solder something. Make my own cables, understand multimeters, perhaps assemble a simple robot or two. Play with hobbyist-level electronics. How does one go about educating oneself in this topic? I've been browsing Lessons in Electric Circuits online and it's been helpful, together with Misconceptions About 'Electricity' which went a long way in helping me finally to grok what electric charge and power actually are. I've reached the point where I want an actual dead-tree book, though. Any recommendations?"

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The Art of Electronics (5, Informative)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321236)

Pick up the Art of Electronics [] by Horowitz and Hill. The lab manual might also be helpful. The Art of Electronics is basically the electronics Bible for physicists and a popular introductory text for electrical engineers.

For technical electronics work (like soldering or cable assembly) you will probably want to find a specific book (the Navy electronics manuals would be very helpful).

Re:The Art of Electronics (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321262)

Mod parent up during my final year of my Electronic's degree this book was my bible

Not the Art of Electronics! (5, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321294)

I have the Art of Electronics and a wide range of other books. AoE is great for introductory EE, but is overkill for the level you are talking about and does not cover practical stuff.

I would suggest looking at the various hobby robotics books in a good bookshop. Most of these will cover stuff like how to solder, how a transistor/FET work and how to wire up configurations like H bridges etc.

Re:The Art of Electronics (5, Informative)

aero2600-5 (797736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321302)

As a former Electronics Technician in the Navy, I have to agree with the parent. The Navy Electricity & Electronics Training Series (NEETS) is a great series of books that teach the basic of electronics. After studying these manuals, I successfully built a Superheterodyne receiver [] , also known as your basic radio receiver. You can find all of the NEETS modules online here [] in PDF format. I still have them on CD from when I went through the training in 1998.

As for your link to electricity misconceptions [] , all I can say is that I find the information there disagrees with what I was taught by the US Navy. It reminds me of the old electron flow vs hole flow [] arguments. The important part is that electric circuits work the same regardless of what you're philosophy is concerning the movement of electrons.

Best of luck with your search. Just remember that soldering irons are HOT. I've heard good things about the Art of Electronics as well.


Re:The Art of Electronics (5, Interesting)

carnivorouscow (1255116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321466)

The electricity misconceptions site seemed so intent on proving things wrong that it made several errors or needless complicated several topics.

On topic I found "Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics" by Stan Gibilisco to be a very useful book for hobbiest stuff.

Re:The Art of Electronics (1)

GomezAdams (679726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321856)

I was in the third ever class of SONAR techs taught transistors by the Navy. It took me years to unlearn/relearn to the point I could do useful stuff with it. For self paced learning try the Smart Lab Electronics or Snap Electronics kits. The ARRL has some great basic electronics courses too.

Applied Engineering Principles (5, Informative)

AllynM (600515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321950)

As another former Electronics Technician / Reactor Operator in the navy, I can suggest this wonderful reference: []

Chapter 1 covers electrical, chapter 2 covers electronic. The remaining chapters dive into nuclear power field topics (chemistry, mechanics, reactor theory - also very handy for those interested in 'just the facts' for those topics). This reference is about as technical as it gets without venturing into "If I told you I'd have to kill you" territory.

It's awesome that the Naval Academy has an unclassified version out there...

Re:The Art of Electronics (1)

knghtrider (685985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322082)


That's cool to know. I went to BE&E school in 1981, the modules are a little different (there used to be 33 of them back then, IIRC). I was an IC Electrician aboard a Submarine back when. I'm an Implementations Engineer now for a Credit Union Software company, but my background is network GUY.

I concur with Aero--These are good books.

Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (5, Informative)

draxbear (735156) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321308)

I recommend this annoyingly named book, which is an excellent cover-all on this and related subjects. Really did join the dots for me many years ago and it looks like it's now in its 2nd edition. []

(Any grammar nazi's able to show me how to tidy up that link? Or point me at the right place on here to find out please?)

Re:Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321440)

"Any grammar nazi's able to show me how to tidy up that link?"

No, but I'll gladly point out your misuse of the apostrophe.

Re:Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (2, Informative)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321486)

Use the html anchor tag - ie <a href="link_goes_here">Your text here</a> . You don't really need the quotation marks around the URL, but it won't hurt to use them either.

You'd end up with Bebop Boolean Boogie Unconventional Electronics []

Tada! :p

Re:Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (4, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322198)

You don't really need the quotation marks around the URL

While this is true in this specific case, it's only because Slashdot automatically corrects your broken markup. You cannot use slashes in an attribute value without quoting it, and slashes appear in most URLs.

Re:The Art of Electronics (1)

cyberanth (952084) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321312)

The best electronics book there is.

By far the best I've seen (4, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321500)

is the SmileyMicro stuff: [] It is basically a simplified course in a book, covering microcontroller programming, interrupts, interfacing, control etc using 8-bit micros. No special equipment needed beyond a soldering iron + PC (if you buy the kit with the book).

Once you get through that you'll have a reasonable understanding of the field.

Re:The Art of Electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321580)

try looking at
it teaches hardware interfacing... as a programmer, it should be easy for you to relate...

Re:The Art of Electronics (2, Interesting)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321708)

I've worn out one copy of AoE, and still use it regularly - I'd also recommend it, but it's a reference book rather than a gently read. If you want to get your hands dirty and actually build something, try the Robot Builder's Bonanza [] . It's much less technical, but full of good ideas. I've never built any of the projects from the book, but it has inspired lots of my own.

Re:The Art of Electronics (3, Funny)

inflex (123318) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321714)

Totally agree - I keep this book as a permanent fixture in the bathroom... many hours have passed and many things learned with that book in hand.

Re:The Art of Electronics (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321780)

Absolutely! The Art of Electronics is the only electronics book you need. It doesn't have all the details and it is somewhat outdated, but you can get those from Google. In terms of getting an overview of electronics, especially from a software background it is ideal.

The only thing I can think of wrong with it is that the digital electronics is moving to be about FPGAs. I've worked on projects that put a 8051, a couple of peripherals and ram and rom into a FPGA, all synthesized from VHDL. This is a long way from the Lego approach in the Art Of Electronics where you got a bunch of standard chips and built a board with them on.

Now if anyone can direct me to a book that is written in style of the AoE and covers this sort of thing I'd be interested.

Two great books (2, Informative)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321250)

An excellent starter is "The Art of Electronics By Paul Horowitz, Horowitz, Winfield Hill" []

You should also have a look at the classic:
"Foundations of Wireless and Electronics
by M.G. Scroggie " []

Musical Electronics (3, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321592)

For the musically inclined electronics noob I recommend Craig Anderton's Electronic Projects for Musicians [] .

The book goes through all the basics: making and repairing your own cables, soldering, working with metal and plexiglass chassis, various types of boards(breadboards, etching). Projects are of varying difficulty and include a headphone amp, miniamp, fuzz-tone, "ring" modulator and phase shifter(the most difficult). Most projects use battery power and are safe to build and operate(note: unfortunately, none of the projects are synths.)

Maybe not your cup of tea but more fun to reuse than a run of the mill blinkenlighter.

Re:Musical Electronics (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321934)

I need to put a plug in for my other favourite forum; Aron's [] if you want to build any of the classic and some new guitar effects. There is a wealth of infomation and some really helpful people.

education (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321264)

How does one go about educating oneself in this topic?

a job?

Ahhh.... yes.... (5, Funny)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321266)

3 Scary things: A programmer with soldering iron, a manager who codes and a user who gets Ideas

Re:Ahhh.... yes.... (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321296)

3 Scary things: A programmer with soldering iron, a manager who codes and a user who gets Ideas
function int getVoltage(I:int, R:int)
var int smoke=I*R;
return smoke;

function float cashCow(Idea myIdea)
var step1:String=myIdea.text;
var step2:String=null;
var step3:String="Profit!"

return 0.0;

What if I got rid of the off button?!? That would be MUCH SIMPLER!

Re:Ahhh.... yes.... (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321516)

return 0.0;
Hehehe.. I wish zero wasn't standard for 'no errors' now... d'oh! Though you can do faces like that with any number I suppose. Fact that it's a float doesn't help either though, who wants to return floats for all their functions..

Re:Ahhh.... yes.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23322248)


What if I got rid of the off button?!? That would be MUCH SIMPLER!
Actually we did get rid of the off button, and it is simpler just one button now.

Re:Ahhh.... yes.... (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321618)

3 Scary things: A programmer with soldering iron,

I regularly modify or repair the test boxes I use for my work. If I didn't, I'd be wasting time waiting for overloaded techs to do it. Of course, there are a lot of things I have to have the techs do, but at least I know the limits of my soldering and other basic electronic skills.

Re:Ahhh.... yes.... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321734)

It's a (classic) joke.... Laugh. I'm a programmer myself and have done some basic soldering back in the day.

Community college (5, Informative)

SkOink (212592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321272)

I would like to make a plug for your local community college, if you live in a reasonably-sized city. Most community colleges offer a couple of basic-level electronics classes, which teach you basic circuit theory. Books (either eBooks or paper ones) like Misconceptions About 'Electricity' are sort of interesting from a physics perspective, but they don't really offer much insight into electronics. In fact, many of the logical assumptions taught to electrical engineers _aren't_ true, strictly speaking, but are 'true enough' and much easier to understand.

If you're looking for someplace where you can learn about your basic circuit elements (resistors, capacitors, op-amps, etc) a real dyed-in-the-wool intro electronics course might be just what you're craving.

Re:Community college (1)

I don't want to spen (638810) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321314)

If he knew how to make a plug, he would already know some electronics ...

Do they still make those kids' electronics kits that I had when I was a kid (frighteningly long ago)? You can get to know the basics with springy wires instead of soldering and then apply what you learn to larger projects.

Re:Community college (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321530)

apply what you learn to larger projects
"Right, I see the problem here. We're going to need a really big springy wire.."

education (-1, Troll)

alxkit (941262) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321278)

How does one go about educating oneself in this topic?

a job?

Starter for electronics (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321282)

Get yourself an Arduino. []

Re:Starter for electronics (4, Insightful)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321352)

If you want to just tinker with the digital side and you are willing to learn vhdl or verilog, then get a dev board from Xilinx or Altera. Some of them come with lcd screens, so you can have fun sending output to the screen.

It's corny but there's a lot more of a sense of accomplishment when you get your first LED light blinking on and off than when you write your first Hello World program.

Re:Starter for electronics (5, Informative)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321678)

I recently met up with a few people from my alma mater, and they have bought a bunch of Arduino's to teach embedded programming. From what they told me, they seem to be a great educational tool. I've never worked with them personally, but I do have experience with the processor used in the board, the ATMega. It's a nice architecture, clean design, and advisable. Another hint: stay away from PIC, they have severe limitations (like a hard-wired call stack, memory access limitations).

Still, this won't help you with understanding elektronics as such, but will it will make a bridge from your programming world to the electronics world.

Other things you need are: a multimeter (a good one costs some money, and a cheap one is probably good enough for a while, but from what I have heared, the problem of the cheap ones is that the calibration drifts after a couple of years). And a breadboard. That's a board with holes where you can plug in electronic components easily without need for a soldering iron. Very handy for experiments. For an example, see this: [] . (No idea if it's interesting, my flash audio doesn't work for some unknown reason :-( ). Later on, you might feel the need for an osciloscope, these things can be quite expensive but you don't need the latest model, just a second-hand model from 10+ years old will be a very handy tool for measuring clocks, signals etc.

A last advice I can give you: read Elektor (a magazine available in many languages), find a simple circuit you find interesting and try to understand it. Read the explanation, calculate the voltages at certain points, build the circuit, measure, etc. This will teach you a lot.

The usefulness of textbooks (5, Insightful)

SkOink (212592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321326)

It might be that I'm not a particularly good student, but I've never really been able to learn from textbooks unless I already had at least some background knowledge about the subject I was studying. I'm a practicing electronics engineer, and I find that textbooks are a great reference. I also enjoy reading textbooks written on areas where I have some knowledge, but not enough.

That being said, learning something like electronics or signal processing completely from a textbook would be really tough for me. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I think the original poster would be much better off taking a class or two than he would be trying to slug his way through something like the Art of Electronics.

Practical Electronics for Inventors (4, Informative)

zobier (585066) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321332)

While I grew up with a soldering iron, inventing stuff and hacking hardware projects; I'm primarily a software guy. I find Practical Electronics for Inventors [] to be an excellent resource for the kind of projects you're looking into. Also you might consider getting yourself either an ATSTK500 [] , the starter-kit for AVR micro-controllers (great tool IMO), OR a LEGO NXT.

Happy hacking!

Re:Practical Electronics for Inventors (2, Informative)

zobier (585066) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321356)

Oh, and there's a F/OSS toolchain for AVR. More info over at AVR Freaks [] .


Re:Practical Electronics for Inventors (1)

JollyRogerX (749524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321686)

I second the choice of AVR microcontrollers. They have some sweet features and are easy to program. Plus, GCC will compile C programs for the AVRs.

Good electronic magazine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321336)

A good magazine, with hands-on projects for both beginner and advanced hobbyists: Silicon Chip

ARRL Handbook (1, Redundant)

SpaceWanderer (1181589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321342)

I"m not sure if my account is banned from posting in here, but I'll try. I read this when I was 12 and it was very easy to follow. The electronics section starts with the basics and builds you up to where you can build radios and other complicated things. The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications (2008 edition) The 2008 ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications uniquely serves both amateur experimenters and industry practitioners, emphasizing connections between basic theory and application. The ARRL Handbook is simply the standard in applied electronics and communications. This 85th edition is both a useful introduction to radio communication and a source for answers to questions about every aspect of the state-of-the-art. Topics include Amateur Radio licensing requirements and operating activities, fundamental and advanced electronics and communications concepts, radio propagation and antenna theory, practical projects, repair techniques, references and much more. The Handbook includes descriptions for new and emerging wireless technologies involving digital signal processing (DSP) innovations, and radio applications utilizing software and the Internet. The book is filled with valuable references, practical examples and projects. The CD-ROM at the back of the book includes all of the fully searchable text and illustrations in the printed book, as well as companion software, PC board templates and other support files.

Re:ARRL Handbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321928)

Do you want some sauce on that delicious pasta, ``SpaceWanderer?'' []

Well... (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321354)

Much as you can't learn to program well without looking at programs more complicated than you'll find in any textbook, you need to study real world circuits.

Whether you want to do digital stuff or analog, it's worth your time learning the analog stuff -- digital systems tend to break as a result of the underlying analog problem of circuit design.

For example, Wikipedia has the internal schematic for a 741 op amp [] along with a decent explanation. Once you understand the function of every one of those transistors, you'll be able to really understand why it has both a gain-bandwidth limit and a slew rate limit, and what the difference is.

The best source of real-world circuits I've found is the application notes and example circuits in data sheets published by manufacturers. Since they need the resultant circuits to work when engineers build them, they don't leave out the random extras that textbooks often do. Does that MOSFET need a gate resistor? A circuit in an app note will probably say, whereas an example diagram might well not.

If your goal is to learn more in general, as opposed to solving a specific problem, I'd pay more attention to the author than exactly what they're writing about. For example, I can't recommend Jim Williams' design notes highly enough -- he's both an excellent engineer and an excellent author. Making Shakespeare [] a citation is the sort of thing that keeps his writing lively and interesting. Or rating circuit complexity in baby bottles [] as a measure of how long it took him to design and debug it. And, of course, he often goes into great detail about the *practical* considerations involved in precise, high-speed analog work -- especially as it relates to working at the lab bench, rather than with professionally printed PCBs and the like.

I'm sure others will have excellent textbook recommendations. They're an important part, but only a part. Add some analysis of real-world circuits that you'll find in application notes, and a bunch of fussing around with actual silicon and a scope, and you'll be well on your way.

Re:Well... (1)

promethean_spark (696560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321438)

Hey, I know Jim! Not surprising that his drawing of an oscilloscope has a round screen in the design note. I'm not sure if the guts of the 741 op-amp is the the right place to start someone out though. OP might adjust best using a standard PIC or FPGA board and expanding it's capabilities. That'd be directly applicable to building a simple robot as was mentioned in the OP.

Re:Well... (2, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321534)

The guts of a 741 is both a good and a bad place to start learning about [bipolar] transistors. You certainly won't digest it all in one sitting. But it has most of the basic arrangements that are important, and they're relatively cleanly separated. It's got an emitter-follower push-pull output stage, a common-emitter gain stage, a long-tailed pair differential input stage, some current mirrors to set up biasing, and a Vbe multiplier to help bias the output stage; it's really not complicated if you take it in parts and don't feel any particular need to understand it in one sitting. That's true of any non-textbook circuit, though, really.

PICs are a great way to do interesting things, but if you really want to know why your PIC works quite well except when the moon is waxing gibbous, you're probably going to have to learn some analog stuff. You can go a long way without paying attention to the analog side, just as you can do an awful lot of programming without ever looking at compiler output -- but in either case, you're holding yourself back compared to what you could be doing.

Oh, and Jim's scope drawing is probably round because I believe he still uses that scope. Then again, his definition of a computer [] (page 12) is probably not the same as the poster's ;)

Forrest M. Mims III (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321366)

(I'm a physics professor teaching electronics to undergraduates this term.)

I'll second Horowitz and Hill.

But if you want a gentler sunday school introduction before you pick up the Bible, get "Getting Started in Electronics" by Forrest M. Mims III. This is the book I taught myself with, bought it from Radio Shack when I was twelve. Text-and-drawings done "lab notebook" style, very basic approach.

You'll need Horowitz and Hill to get the math, but for basic concepts Mims can't be beat.

Re:Forrest M. Mims III (1)

autenil (1285476) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321720)

Wow, this sounds like my story. I'd totally recommend the books at Radio Shack by Forrest M. Mims III. He got me into electronics at a young age and I had a blast building stuff. Now to go dig out my old schematics and books and reminisce...

Re:Forrest M. Mims III (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321746)

Um, I taught myself to solder with Forest M. Mims III book. I have an autographed copy. "Mims Can't be beat." Genau=eactly. I went on to use "Electronic Projects for Musicians" by Craig Anderton, but its way out of print now.

( Mod parent + informitive )

Re:Forrest M. Mims III (3, Interesting)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322094)

Let me second this one by saying that I started with it when I was seven. It was the "intro" book they were selling at Radio Shack back before radio shack changed their logo from "You've got questions, we've got answers" to "You've got questions, we've got blank stares" - i.e., when they were still employing electricians.

It looks a bit different [] than it did when I read it.

Note that what you'll be able to do when you understand the stuff in this book is very little. You'll be able to make tone generators, and blinking lights.

What good is that? Well, given a basic microcontroller, you'll probably learn enough basic electronics sense to not burn out any of your components, and you'll probably learn enough to be able to read other people's circuit schematics.

That may be all you need of the electronics part to start you down into the exciting world of digital signal processing without a computer, which I have always thought of as the exciting part.

Also check out MIT OCW (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321372)

Not a book, but course materials and video lectures.

for dummies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321374)

Electronics for Dummies? I'm sure it exists.

Re:for dummies (1)

DeBaas (470886) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322056)

You were just one google away from providing real information: []

I actually read it and it is an easy read and imo a good introduction. Designing robots etc are not really part of the book, but information from the real basics up to and including designing boards, experimenting with bread boards etc. are in there

Sounds more like OP wants digital - TTL databook (2, Insightful)

promethean_spark (696560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321376)

Analog stuff gets pretty deep, pretty quickly. For what you want to do it sounds like you'd be best off learning the bare basics about LRCs and view transistors as digital devices, then cobble stuff together out of TTL components. As a software guy, you'd probably get a blast out of using a PIC or FPGA board since you write firmware, but get to do some hardware stuff too.

I'd also recommend (2, Interesting)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321378)

Re:I'd also recommend (1)

JollyRogerX (749524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321634)

Spice is nice...

But there is no substitution for building things.

If you have no idea how circuits work, it is unlikely that you will get any usable results from a simulation program. You really need some practical knowledge first.

A slightly more advanced book for later (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321390)

Electronic Circuits --- Handbook for Design and Applications
Tietze, U., Schenk, Ch.

For an overview, see the official homepage at [] .

I don't recommend this as your first book about electronics, but once you feel at home in the field it will become a very valuable guide to designing your circuitry.
Overall, I recommend "Electronic Circuits" for ambitious hobbyists and most engineering practice. It is a bit too advanced for complete newbies, and for cutting edge development you might want something that covers the theory in more depth. But for everything in between it is great.

Educated evil (1)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321402)

Did anyone else expect that "Misconceptions About Electricity" page to suddenly tell you that you are EDUCATED EVIL?

Still, it was an interesting read. :P

Not serious, but... ? (2, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321424)

There are No Electrons: Electronics for Idiots [] is extremely basic, but its entertainment value is inestimable and it's really quite profound on the basics. You'll never feel like you understand the fundamentals better.

Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the... (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321426)

I recommend Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers [] by Tom Igoe and Dan O'Sullivan. The title of the book itself doesn't sound all that appealing, but this is the book you want. It will teach you all the little tricks that seasoned practitioners know, but that most books won't even tell you about. Other guides I have found useful are the old Radio Shack notebooks. I'm not sure how they're called, or where you'd get them legally. I haven't seen them at Radio Shack and I do not know if they're still in print.

And last, I have to plug this TechShop [] establishment since they offer classes [] at very reasonable rates and they were kind enough to host our Ruby Hackfest [] in their awesome space last month.

Art of Electronics. But... (1)

redblue (943665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321462)

I was in the same boat as you are. As others have mentioned "Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill (with its companion Lab manual) is the classic text for people like us. But to get the most out of the book, you will eventually have to invest in some basic electronics equipment, especially an oscilloscope. The bottom line is that you need to invest at least $1,000 for all kinds of parts, small and large, and devour information on the www like many do pr0n on this site. You would also get the most bang for the buck by playing around with microcontroller projects.

Re:Art of Electronics. But... (2, Interesting)

JollyRogerX (749524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321622)

$1000 is a huge overkill. Hopefully you can find a good electronics surplus store near you.

I've bought fully functional top of the line '80s scopes (Tek 7000 series) for $20 at surplus stores. You should be able to find a decent used scope for under $100.

Get an analog scope for your first one. They are dirt cheap used and will give you more insight into how oscilloscopes work.

Because most of todays new parts are surface mount, you will eventually want to get a quality soldering iron. Trying to solder SOT-23s with a 1/4" tip is a royal pain. I recommend Metcal RF heated irons. It has excellent temperature regulation (maybe the best?) and heats up in less than 10 seconds. You should be able to pick up a used one for less than $100 off of ebay.

Practical Electronics for Inventors (2, Interesting)

jonastullus (530101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321470)

"Practical Electronics for Inventors" is a fabulous book despite its rather dumb title. It gives a very hands-on approach while not shying away from the advanced topics

"The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz is definitely the standard for electronics, but for me it delved too much into the theory. It is extremely thorough, but maybe not geared towards people just wanting to build their own first small circuits.

Re:Practical Electronics for Inventors (2, Informative)

JollyRogerX (749524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321666)

The good thing about "The Art of Electronics" is that the authors assume a background knowledge of only basic algebra. You can actually choose how much theory you want because the really important bits are distilled into a few rules of thumb.

For the first time tinkerer, it may be a little much. Eventually, however, the tinkerer will want to actually design something from scratch and find "The Art of Electronics" indispensable.

The best cure (0, Offtopic)

jandersen (462034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321484)

- is probably to go and lie down in dark room until the feeling passes. And here is an effective cure for toothache, which I learned from my mother: Fill your mouth with cold water and sit on a hot stove. When the water boils, the toothache will be gone. Works every time.

Seriously, though, what do you want to achive with your tinkering? If you go to a well stocked electronics shop, they'll have a lot of books about the theory and some about how to learn the right, practical skills: how to solder etc. I have approached the subject several times over the years, but the problem in my view is that the things one can easilty build are not all that interesting - to me, that is. It is easy to make USB thingies, for example, or things like amplifiers, programmable robots and so on, I think one of the things you will realize sooner or later is that electronics theory has amazingly little to do with practice - which is why you can use components with 10% or even 20% tolerance. You basically just slap things together sort of the right way and then adjust things with a couple of potentiometers if you really feel you must.

Basic book needed (1)

Front Line Assembly (255726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321494)

I too was interested in learning electronics basics and picked up AoE. The book seems comprehensive and good, but for getting a basic understanding and feel for building circuits it's not so good.
Is there any book that describes how you actually design your own circuits? I mean starting with basic stuff like getting a diode to blink (using just transistors etc, not any timing circuits eg.)? I mean how to pick the needed resistors and figuring out their values and what components you'll need etc. I know the math for this and all about kirchovs laws etc but these don't help much when you just have a blank piece of circuitboard and an idea...

Re:Basic book needed (1)

JollyRogerX (749524) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321702)

Get" The Art of Electronics"

Many hobbyist books out there just provide cookie cutter circuits that you assemble without having any real idea what is going on. On the other end of the spectrum, many college textbooks provide pure theory with no application (a very dangerous thing in Engineering).

"The Art of Electronics" shows you how to actually design something, which is a different skill that being able to understand how something works.

Re:Basic book needed (1)

Front Line Assembly (255726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321732)

As I said I already have that book, but it didn't in my opinion describe how to start designing stuff. It just describes how everything works (very thoroughly).
For example: where would you start designing the circuit I mentioned above (a simple blinking LED) using stuff from this book? I don't mean searching for ready circuits online or something like that, but doing this yourself with stuff you learned from the book.

Americocentric learning...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321520)

Looking at the references, I was struck by the fact that B Franklin is continually mentioned.

There is nothing about the giants of the field - Volta, Faraday, Maxwell, etc. Just bits explaining where Franklin was wrong.

For the record, Franklin was a poor scientist who contributed nothing to Man's basic understanding of the physical universe. If your educational system spends its time trying to push the idea that Americans are responsible for fundamental scientific advances, then I am not surprised you end up needing to ask Slashdot for help!

My reading of scientific history suggest to me that, in general, American society breeds very poor theoretical scientists. Such advances as are made in the US tend to be done by first-generation immigrants. A classic instance would be Einstein, who did all his work in Europe, then was tempted over to the US by money, where he did nothing of value ever again....

Re:Americocentric learning...? (1)

MobyTurbo (537363) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321598)

I don't think it was the money, he was Jewish and there was this little thing in Germany called the Nazi party...

Bridge the gap between HW and SW (4, Interesting)

sankyuu (847178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321550)

You have to bridge the gap between bits and voltages. I don't remember the titles of my books, so I will include keywords (You're probably past steps 1&2? Working backwards from #4 would also work).

1. Break down assembly language even further and look into OP codes as well as the FDOES (Fetch-Decode-Operands-Execute-Store) cycle. Think clocks and busses. [microprocessor architecture, bus architecture, instruction set, instruction architecture]

2. Move further into details of how ALU and memory are implemented: how flip-flops are used to store state, and how ALU's adder circuits, etc. can be implemented using NAND gates. Know what a 7401 is. [digital circuit design, half adder, full adder, flip-flop, register]

3. Then at a lower level, study how NAND gates themselves are implemented using transistors. Know about BJTs and FETs. [transistor electronics, electronic circuit analysis and design, BJT, FET]

4. You can be happy at the transistor level, but to solder things that actually work (and at the same time, know what you're doing), you have to study electric circuits and power electronics [electrical engineering, power electronics, ohm's law, thevenin, kirchoff's circuit laws]. Know how to read the color bands on resistors and appreciate the cheeky mnemonics for BBROYGBVGW :)

5. If you want to grind your own sand to make your chips and transistors, you may want to look up material science

*Be careful not to inhale the lead fumes, lest you suffer brain damage :)

Now if someone could recommend books for each stage...

(It's hard to recommend self-learning hardware, because I was taught hardware and am self-learning Computer Science.)

Go ahead and solder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321556)

I wonder if it might not be just as well to go ahead and build a project. There are many designs on the web, and also kits. A kit would be a good place to start, it's not unlikely that you'll have to learn some debugging techniques.

As to theory, I find the "Scots guide to electronics" a good resource.

Horowitz and Hill should probably be on your bookshelf if you get serious. But you don't have to read it before getting started.

I'm a radio ham. One thing you could build for less than 30 $ would be a software defined shortwave receiver. Check out the 'softrock40' yahoo group if this sounds interesting.

Get some old/broken stereo equipment (4, Informative)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321590)

The better the quality, the simpler and easier the circuit.

Get a receiver or amp that has a problem and mess with it. A receiver in "protect mode" is a good one since that pretty much means that you have a DC offset on the output. A bi-polar amp will drive you nuts, since *any* bad component will throw DC onto the output, but you'll learn a ton going through it. A mosfet amp is much simpler since they are more like tube amps in topology. Hell, for that matter, try to get ahold of an old tube amp. They are very simple and are a good way to get yer feet wet.

Or an old cassette deck, like an old Nakamichi. Nobody wants them anymore (and they shouldn't, either), but they have a lot of cool control/motor circuitry in them. Especially if you get a hold of one that's discrete -- ie, all the logic and control is done with transistors.

and get the service manual -- it'll have schematics and sometimes theory of operation.

Oh yeah, the advice for the Navy Manuals is right on. Those are the clearest and most comprehensive books on the subject.

mr c

Re:Get some old/broken stereo equipment (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321924)


They might be simple but the run on a very high voltage and you don't wanna start messing with them until you have experience with other safer circuits.

I you want very, very simple circuits, try guitar pedals or an old AM radio.

You can find lots of schematics online and many of them will have pictures of how to build them.

CoE (1)

wozzinator (1079319) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321624)

You should probably consider Computer Engineering instead then. That way you get the best of both worlds!

Microelectronics for beginner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321626)

I would suggest these websites:

There's a lot of educational projects (with the books included) and I find them very useful in situation like yours.

Arduino? (3, Informative)

HFShadow (530449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321712)

I'm in similar situation... I just picked up an Arduino. [] It's an open source micro controller that you code in C and it gives you access to ~10 digital IO pins and 6 analog ones. They sell add-on packs to do things like ethernet (built in web server) or wireless. Find something around your house and automate it :p

Re:Arduino? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321770)

If you're in Europe, Velleman sell something similar: the k8055. It's a USB board with Linux drivers available that has a handful of digital outputs/inputs as well as a analog/PWM output/input. You can have four boards on the same USB bus and address them individually and they also have onboard indicators/test switches so you can see how it works and run some demo programs before you plug anything into it.

In the UK, you can pick them up pre-assembled for £25 each from Maplin Electronics, or you can build them yourself for a little cheaper. Velleman are Belgian, so they distribute to most of Europe.

Another option... (2, Informative)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321726)

I'm not sure how available some of the books listed above are. Hopefully you'll find them, and find them useful.

Some other books to look at are over on the website. Their primary focus of course is radio electronics, but they also have books on basic circuit boarding, robotics, and a few other electronic projects, as well as a few kits if you are interested in them.

Hope that's of some help. Have fun.

Make Magazine (4, Informative)

Ghost-in-the-shell (103736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321738)

Google Make Magazine! It is great for the DIY in you.

Practical experience! (4, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321768)

*Nothing* beats practical experience. Others have mentioned the Art of Electronics (which I have, and recommend as well). But practical experience is what really is the fun bits and what cemented it for me. I started from your position, and what I did was this:

1. Solderless breadboard, and an assortment of transistors, resistors, capacitors, inductors, 555 timers, op-amps etc. Do some simple circuits with them - make logic gates with BJTs and resistors, then do the same with mosfets (construct some CMOS gates out of discrete transistors for instance). Experiment with power supplies - buck converters to step DC voltages down, boost converters to step voltages up. Make sure you have several of each, because you'll probably let the magic smoke out of some of them.

2. Decide on a simple practical project. I chose to make a solar power system for my garden - an 80 watt pv panel sourced from ebay. The first project was to turn on lights at night from the battery that had been charged by the panel in the day. This consisted of a voltage comparator to detect when the solar panel voltage had fallen below a certain level. The output is connected to a power transistor that turns on the lights.

3. More complex stuff. Get a heap of 74 series or 4000 series logic ICs and make something with it. This will teach you how the real world has a nasty habit of creeping into your digital designs: glitches, why we need decoupling capacitors, synchronizing clocks, that kind of thing. I built an RS232 nixie tube display. It had no microcontroller - the UART was entirely implemented in 4000 series logic. I built it on tri-pad proto board. This required me to learn how to build several things: a simple switch mode power supply to boost 12v to 170vdc for the tubes, as well as the UART.

4. It is your fate to home brew a computer. My next project was a Z80 based single board computer on 160x100mm (Eurocard). It has a CTC, PIO, real time clock, paged memory, 512k of flash memory and 32k of RAM, and an expansion connector. The flash was initially programmed by a similar circuit to the nixie tube UART, but with a simple address generator circuit added. Once the initial program was written, the Z80 system could write its own flash.

I'm now up to the stage where I'm doing more challenging designs, such as an ethernet card for an 8 bit system, implemented almost entirely surface mount components, the glue logic being in a programmable logic chip called a CPLD (the little brother of the FPGA). There are even more real world considerations that mess with digital design here: how to avoid ground bounce, PCB layout considerations to make the board work at all, and also a good bit of real fun programming: writing a driver for it in assembly language :-)

There's a great deal you can do as an electronics hobbyist: for example, you can make your own PCBs for fine pitch surface mount components if you have access to a laser printer: I've made my own PCBs for chips with 0.4mm pin pitch (that's 0.2mm traces and 0.2mm spacing) using nothing but gEDA PCB (which is GPL'd PCB layout software), a laser printer, a clothes iron, copper clad board and etchant. Sparkfun Electronics have some great tutorials on hand soldering surface mount components, by the way. As you progress, you'll want to be able to do this because there are a lot of interesting ICs that are only available in some sort of surface mount package.

Re:Practical experience! (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321930)

I agree with almost everything you said. First, let me toss out a few part numbers. I know it can be annoying to try to figure out which silicon component to buy when they all look the same but are obviously slightly different.

Digikey [] is your friend. If they don't stock it, find a replacement they do stock. Buy a hundred each 2N3904 and 2N3906 for your bipolar transistors. At a couple cents each, you don't need to worry about letting the magic smoke out occasionally. 2N2222 makes a great slightly higher current NPN switch. At $0.36 each, the venerable 741 makes an excellent op amp to experiment with; by the time you can figure out what to do with a better op amp, you'll know what to look for. Buy a big assortment pack of 1/4W carbon film resistors; they're cheap, and not having the right value is annoying. For caps, you'll want a big stack of cheap 0.1uF ceramics for local power supply decoupling, some modest size (10-33uF) electrolytics, and some larger electrolytics (100-330uF) (I suggest the Panasonic FM series as inexpensive high quality caps, but there are lots of choices). Grab a few poly film caps in the 1nF - 0.1uF range; that should cover most other uses of caps for experimenting. You'll want some 1N4148 signal diodes, along with some 1N4004 rectifier diodes. Might as well add a few 1N5818 schottky diodes for power supply work. And, of course, the 555 timer you suggested. I don't happen to have part numbers to recommend for CMOS discretes. Add some random indicator LEDs and buttons, and a couple variable resistors. 7805 / 7812 make good fixed voltage regulators, and the LM317 should handle your adjustable needs. Anyway, if you can't build it with those parts, it's probably not a good early project. Eventually you'll get around to the 7400 / 4000 series logic chips.

If you're doing real analog work, get a real power supply. Failing that (they're expensive; no, the one from that old computer is not an acceptable substitute) get a cheap wall wart that just has a transformer and a bridge rectifier and a cap in it, and add a regulator. If you're doing it that way, get several -- you'll want multiple voltages around.

I have to disagree about making your own PCBs. It's educational, but it's also a pain. When you need an actual PCB, buy it from ExpressPCB [] . If you only need to work with surface mount parts, Digikey sells a number of handy prototyping boards that will convert surface mount things into through-hole things, and optionally have space for a couple surface mount passives to go next to them.

Re:Practical experience! (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322008)

Actually, I'd agree that making your own PCBs is time consuming and can be a pain, but on the other hand, I can lay out small PCB such as a breakout board or a reasonably straightforwad circuit in the morning in gEDA PCB - and by the afternoon, I have the thing assembled and in use. You're going to be waiting a lot longer for a PCB fab to turn around a design.

But there are a lot of PCB fabricators who do one offs these days - lots of competition on price and features! My most recent design is a 4 layer board and I sent that off (especially since I wanted multiple copies).

Re:Practical experience! (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322054)

ExpressPCB has a truly excellent MiniBoard service: 3 boards for $51 (aka $60 with shipping), 3.8"x2.5" (a convenient small-board size, really). They ship air mail the next business day. Other sizes get a little more expensive (<$100 in qty 2 until it gets large) as do features like 4-layer boards (though they only do internal power / ground planes, not traces) and solder mask / silk screen (either can be done for <$200). CNC-drilled mounting holes to match your box and line up the switches and LEDs and correct placement on things like heat sink posts adds a lot, and the plated-through holes and vias are a plus.

(No affiliation, but I've used their services many times, both as a hobbyist and professionally.)

a simpler start than Horowitz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321798)

can be found with Mastering Electronics, by John Watson. Though Horowitz & Hill is definitely the nutz for a great overview.

HAM Radio (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23321850)

As recommended elsewhere, The Art Of Elelctronics is a great book.

However, nothing beats a group of peers to teach you. In addition to TAOE, I recommend getting involved with your local HAM Radio club and hopefully find a handful of really good old-school analog electronics guys.

You can search for a local club here:

Nilsson and Riedel: Electric Circuits (2, Interesting)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321874)

Electric Circuits 7th Edition, by Nilsson and Riedel, ISBN 0-13-146592-9 was the introductory text used at my university (UC Santa Barbara).

I didn't really go to class much, so most of my learning was straight out of this book. It is very easy to understand, and everything is covered from a basic level. It covers what all of the basic circuit elements are, how to analyze circuits, opamps, and circuits with reactive components, i.e. inductors and capacitors. It does not cover too many other topics, but it is an excellent reference on basic circuit analysis techniques which I still refer to today when I need to refresh my memory on basic circuit techniques. It will help you learn basic techniques very effectively which online resources do not often include, especially not all in one place. I find that it's style of writing and layout is much easier to understand than Horowitz and Hill's The Art of Electronics, which is frequently recommended as a self-study book, but the scope of that book is much different from this one.

For finding out what basic circuits you will find useful, I would honestly just recommend using google, it will help you find much of what you need to know. Find any of the myriad sites that have a list of basic circuits, and just look through them.

You indicated an interest in robotics, and usually most of the work goes into the physical construction, and programming a microcontroller. My books in this area are unfortunately not at my current residence, but you should buy a book on robotics specifically, make sure it covers the physical design and construction. You will also need to choose a microcontroller platform, the two most popular for hobbyists are Atmel and Microchip. The former is IMHO a better solution as it is more flexible and uses an open toolchain. Microchip is easier to get started with, but you are limited because you need to use their proprietary toolchain (or a third party toolchain that may not support all chips properly), and free compilers are usually only shareware, otherwise you have to write in assembly (which is not a bad idea).

For a hobbyist you will want an nice array of parts, you should get a resistor kit with a bunch of values, get a capacitor kit but it doesn't need to be big if you also buy a bunch of 0.1uF ceramic and 10uF electrolytic capacitors which you will probably use a lot of, get some 2N3904/6 transistors (basic NPN and PNP transistors), some MOSFETs that can handle some decent current, a breadboard with wires, and some basic chips like the 555 timer, a decade counter, maybe some logic gates, and some opamps (I'd recommend the LM358 since it can operate with a single power supply voltage).

"All About Circuits" (2, Informative)

Enleth (947766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321880) []

It's still a work in progress, but it's mostly done by now and really well-written as an introductory guide. has got what you need. (2, Informative)

kaens (639772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321958)

Lessons in Electric Circuts []

Seriously. In conjunction with Socratic Electronics [] , it should give you a great start.

Great Resources (1)

Salgat (1098063) | more than 6 years ago | (#23321968) [] Great site, use it all the time as a reference. Also I suggest, if you are actually serious about learning electronics, visiting several electronics based forums and just reading up on the latest posts. You pick up random information that helps build up the diversity of your knowledge. [] [] [] There's more, but that is the main ones for me (not including AVRFreaks hehe).

Same question (1)

shokora (1285026) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322016)

Nice entry, I have been asking myself the same question for a while right now. Maybe Computer Scientists are just destined to use somebody else's circuits, but looking to all these cool links, I don't think so :D

Self-Education in Electronics --Become a Ham! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23322024)

Ham Radio provides all of the pieces the op seeks, and while I came into it during the age of analogue electronics, today's higher-class licensees do learn about digital processing. Our friend's programming skills will allow him (or her in the case of a female radio novice) to customize the digital signal processing which now abounds even in small homebrew equipment.

See for information on becoming a ham. Local classes are held almost everywhere, and license exams are very cheap (take-away pizza level).

As for me, I am rarely found using voice. I get plenty of digital satisfaction from my linux-box. I'm mostly found on cw (Continuous Wave, modulated as a binary state known as Morse Code!). Ironically, there's something more personal about a conversation carried on in beeps.

For our FOSS friends, Ubuntu's Synaptic and Sourceforge provide a wealth of amateur radio oriented software.

73 (Best wishes)

de (from) KD1QR

After the book... (1)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322060)

One word: VELLEMAN

textbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23322140)

Another good textbook you could use apart from Art of Electronics is Tietze and Schenk: Electronic Circuits (translation of a classic German textbook).

Start with a Heathkit--then make your own (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322144)

When I was much younger, I built a lot of Heathkit electronics. Then, I started building my own circuit boards with these blanks you could buy from Radio Shack. You draw your connections on the board's copper with a dark marker. Then, you put it in the acid bath and it burned away all the coppper you did not cover. It was a blast wiring up an op amp and other stuff. Just start reading, dude.

Forrest Mimms guides. (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322146)

Radio shack. Forrest M. Mimms, III wrote a series of books (pamphlets really) describing lots of electronic circuits. They're very clear, and the intro book (an actual book) "Getting Started in Electronics" tells how to solder, how to use breadboards and wire-wraps, etc, and has a bunch of example circuits to build. It also describes the operation and use of most basic electronic components. Get this book and start building things. Once you have the hang of basic circuits, then get into the more advanced theory (Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill, mentioned above.)

Fascinating stuff (1)

Kamamura (235695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322176)

Hello, I am an arctic explorer with great deal of experience. I traveled to both poles, survived multiple blizzards, wrestled a polar bear to death, lived among the Eskimos for five years, and found the meaning life. But recently, I suddenly realized: What do I know about snow? Those tiny flakes, with intricate design, each one original and yet all similar, those shiny abundant miracles silently dropping from the sky. What do we know about them? I put aside a half-eaten steak of raw seal meat, put my ski on, and decided: I have to know! Any recommendations where to start?

Evil Genius Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23322230)

Electronics for the Evil Genius
Mechatronics for the Evil Genius
etc etc the whole series is good for beginners and have good ideas to take further.

These are the things you need (1)

ninevoltz (910404) | more than 6 years ago | (#23322242)

I was an Aviation Electronics tech in the Navy, and I still work in electronics design and repair. Here are my recommendations. First, find yourself a copy of CircuitMaker 2000, I don't care how you get it, it is invaluable because you don't need to breadboard anything or buy any components or equipment until you really know what you are doing. It is discontinued, but I bet you can find it in the dark corners of the 'net. The Art of Electronics is good, but is a bit too terse. It doesn't get into a lot of the practical use of electronics. The Navy's NEETS modules are fantastic, I would recommend those above anything else. Get a subscription to Popular Electronics, or whatever it is called now. And if you want to go embedded, buy an STK500 and a NGW100 from And for a soldering iron, get a Weller soldering station, you'll be glad you did.

Simulation tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23322252)

Reading books is fine for getting the basics, but you'll never really understand electronics until you start doing practical work. A good low cost (free) way of starting is to download a spice simulator and have a go a designing some simple circuits (e.g. audio amplifier, filter etc). once you're happy with the simulation, buy some parts and try it for real. play with circuit parameters to see what they do.

the one I've been using for years (because its powereful yet easy to use, with a nice GUI) is SIMetrix. This is great for professionals like me and hobbyists. The intro version is free, but node limited (nodes being the number of connections in a circuit). You register for free and download it. Their website is here
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