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Best Electronics Kits For Adults?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the resistance-is-futile dept.

Toys 376

An anonymous reader writes "I'm an adult looking to learn how electronics work and have some fun building projects. But all the kits I've found online are for kids 8-10 years old, and they don't really explain the principles — they just color-code where to place components on boards. Are there any kits aimed at adults? I know if anyone has got the answer, it's this community."

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LOL (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872835)

I know if anyone has got the answer, it's this community.

Overload (1, Flamebait)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872837)

Too...many...jokes...*keels over and dies*

(Are the editors just trying to bait us now?)

Re:Overload (5, Funny)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873121)


Glad I'm not the only one who looked at the title and thougt "W00T! FEMBOTS!"

Of course, the rest of it was kind of a letdown. Ah well. I guess learning electronics and circuit soldering is it's own reward.
Even if there is no sweet sweet robot girl loving involved.


Re:Overload (5, Informative)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873407)

Looks like this is a good place for kits these days. []

Going back 40 years, HeathKit [] and to a lesser degree Radio Shack were the big names in home electronics kits. Projects ranged from simple amplifiers and AM radios to electronic organs and TV's.

Going back about 35 years with the dawn of the microcomputers, IMASI and ALTAIR were branded kits. I was very surprised to see that IMSAI is still around: [] For that matter, you can still build an Altair 8800 using NOS (new old stock) []

Moving into the early 80's, the Timex Sinclair made a 4 chip z80 set. Believe it or not, you can still buy that one too. []

About that time we also tried out an OKI Semiconductor evaluation kit for a digital PCM encoder (think digital answering machines, voice recorders). You can check the various semiconductors manufacturers who publish evaluation kits, sometimes with sample projects for a slightly more advanced challenge.

heathkit (4, Informative)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872839) [] i remember my father made a bunch of things many years ago, like an oscilliscope and such.

Re:old heathkits, like oscilliscopes (5, Informative)

rpervinking (1090995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873003)

The old HeathKits, like oscilliscopes and ham radios, were of value as exercises in assembly and part identification. Beyond getting a general sense of what the circuitry was about, I never learned anything about electronics from building such stuff.

Re:heathkit (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873489)

Try Ramsey Electronics. You can download their manuals and see what the kits are about. I recently built their FM30B FM radio transmitter kit to broadcast my mp3s around my house and yard. Besides getting to build something, you can also get something really useful out of the deal.

The FM30 is digitally tuned and digitally controlled and the circuit description and how it all works is very good. Kit difficulty is good for first timers if they are careful and follow the directions.

The final product sounds great too. I have my Linux box serving up the music and have my transmitter Y'ed into the line out with the speakers.

The FM30B is $200, but they also have other transmitters for around $140, and $60 if you want a less complicated and less expensive setup.

Aimed at adults? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872865)

In some soon-to-be-forbidden in the UK movies I have seen these sets of electrodes, if you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge.

Maybe a book? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872879)

A good place to start might be to just browse the electronics/tech section at your bookstore. I think this has a better chance of explaining the fundamentals of circuit design. Maybe use this in conjunction with a kid designed for kids?

Re:Maybe a book? (5, Informative)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873065)

Most book stores I've been in have a poor selection of such material. Look for Getting Started in Electronics by Forest Mims and then look for Practical Electronics for Inventors. For components, just kit yourself out as needed from online supplies (Mouser, Digikey, Jameco, Newark, etc).

Kits (4, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872881)

It's been a long time since I built a Heathkit, do they still make them? My two favorites were my sixty watt guitar amplifier and my ham radio reciever; this was in the last '60s when I was a teenager.

But you're not really going to learn about electronics by building stuff from kits. Read books; when you have the theory then you can get the kits and will understand what's going on with them.

The library is your friend. It's often better than Google and Wikipedia combined.

Re:Kits (5, Funny)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872959)

The library is your friend. It's often better than Google and Wikipedia combined.
That sounds *amazing*! So what's the URL for this "library" site?

Re:Kits (4, Funny)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873089)

So what's the URL for this "library" site?

123 Fake Street


Re:Kits (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873179)

If you want electronics theory behind a project then you are unlikely to find Kits. Your best bet would be to find an electronics handbook for projects. Start with simple schematic projects that you can understand and work your way up from there. This is basically how they train you in Electrical Engineering anyhow. Go buy a breadboard project kit and seperate manuals for your biggest variety.

You will begin to understand the basic principles involved. Understanding how to turn a schematic into a reality by laying it out. Understanding what the electricity is doing. And then understanding what the circuit is doing.

Also, you'll find yourself in two forms. You'll have analog circuits (Ohms Law) and then youll have Digital Circuits (Logic, more IC's and more cost usually).

Try NEETS book series online (5, Informative)

unixan (800014) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873383)

The entire US Navy Electricity & Electronics Training Series (NEETS) is online in PDF book format here: []

This explains virtually every part of electronics you could possibly want.

(Bonus: as it was produced by the US government, there is no copyright; download, read, print, copy, etc. as much as you'd like.)

Nerd (4, Informative)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872883)

If you want to know about digital electronics and microprogramming, try a Nerdkit [] .

Re:Nerd (0, Redundant)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873195)

Nice. Site is slashdotted in 20 minutes just from a rank-3 *comment*.

Re:Nerd (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873283)

You might try starting with a microcontroller board like the ones from Or if your into linux something like the Linuxstamp ( These boards won't teach you the fundamentals like V=IR, but you can use it to create your own projects.

Heathkit isn't right it is a different company... (2, Informative)

barfy (256323) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872885)

Wow, in one.... Guessing is your friend. []

forget kits (2, Interesting)

Tobenisstinky (853306) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872893)

Re:forget kits (3, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873023)

I was going to say that. Start off with a breadboard, wires, LEDs, and some logic gates, then move up from there. Kits often have the problem of not having something crucial, and making it hard to incorporate things that aren't included with the kit.

Re:forget kits (4, Informative)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873377)

Yeah I agree. I did the same when starting out and that's half the fun. A basic kit you buy will almost always contain a bread board, a power supply, some wire, and some basic elements like LEDs. All of these can be found in one trip to radio shack with little effort.

For instance here could be a basic kit:

- Bread board

- 6V-12V power supply. I prefer the ones that allow you to choose amperage

- pack of LEDS. Blue LEDS are purdy

- Wire. Radio shack and others sell wire "kits"of different lengths or a spool.

- Basic multimeter. Great for when things don't work

- pack of components. Transistors, resistors, capacitors, etc. And of course the whole reason I do this - some nice 8 bit chips.

Again, all of this stuff can be bought in a quick trip to radio shack. Once you get the basics you can dig into the real online "part bins" like or

make (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872897)

pretty basic kit, but for the price you get alot of stuff that will help you on your way to doing better stuff. Decent documentation too.

Forrest Mims kits from Radio Shack (5, Informative)

viper21 (16860) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872903)

Electronics Learning Lab [] Designed by Forrest Mims and sold by radio shack.

You could also do with picking up his Getting Started in Electronics [] book. It is like a field journal for electrical theory, very fun read.

Hope that points you in the right direction.


Re:Forrest Mims kits from Radio Shack (3, Informative)

boristdog (133725) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873161)

The Mims books and kits are very good.

And Ratshack also has an excellent microcontroller kit/book/CD called "What's a microcontroller".

Everything you need for learning and experiments (except the 9V battery). I've got one on my desk right now.

Re:Forrest Mims kits from Radio Shack (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873343)

Parallax makes the kit and several others for their basic stamp and Javalin stamps. Radioshack adds quite a hefty mark-up.

Re:Forrest Mims kits from Radio Shack (1)

king0lag (1243544) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873369)

I also enjoyed those radioshack books, but got a little bored. I picked up a book by the name of "JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels" [] and it resparked my interest in electronics :)

Re:Forrest Mims kits from Radio Shack (1)

squidfood (149212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873417)

Electronics Learning Lab

Those kits are great (if it still has the instructions it used to, allows one to progress quickly through the basics even easier than a breadboard, with the circuit laid out more neatly. Adding a breadboard for support, as a teenager (not into "kid" learning) I used one of the kits to play with an analog sound chip ( This [] looks like a modern equivalent maybe) changing the frequencies of those weird sounds with the kit's pots taught me more intuitively about RC oscillations than a scope could have.

Heathkit (1)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872905)

Think they went out of business at one time, but it looks like they are back [] .

Make Controller Kit (1)

bannerman (60282) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872923)

This isn't exactly what you are looking for but it's along the same lines, and lots of fun. Costs $109 and you can find lots of nifty howto guides for building gadgets with it on their forums and whatnot. They sell all sorts of servos, stepper motors, buttons, etc to go along with it. []

Even better: Arduino (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873561)

I have the Make board and like it because it gives my students experience with an ARM processor.

For someone wanting to learn a bit of electronics, I like the Arduino better. The web site has great tutorials on how to connect peripherals to the board. The board is designed to be a multimedia controller and it is designed to be used by artists. It is very easy to program but it is also easy to insert a bit of assembly code if you want things to run faster.

Electronics these days is usually a matter of hooking 'stuff' up to a micro-controller. ie. cpu + dsp + lcd + keypad + radio = cell phone I tell my students that if we were to try building a cell phone out of raw transistors, the result would fill up the room. Trying to do electronics the 'old way' is interesting but maybe not that useful.

back in the day (1)

non_linear (41967) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872925)

radio shack would have been a convenient stop. The out of print book by Forest Mims... wait, this is the intarweb... []

there ya go!

Easy to find (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872927)

Find any fluorescent light fixture and just open her up. You can spend hour playing around with the wires, seeing which ones zap you and which ones don't.

AdaFruit (4, Informative)

jenkin sear (28765) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872945)

I've been having fun buying and building the various kits available from [] . You need to solder to do them, but that's really really easy.

The Arduino projects are particularly cool (the ethernet and the WAV shields are cheap and fun) so you can do electronics as well as program microprocessors.

Velleman has a bunch of kits too; many are for little kids, but I built an interesting USB breakout kit (USB control of a bunch of output and input lines).

Re:AdaFruit (3, Funny)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873319)

Vellemann had a kit for a wireless telephone transmitter. What I liked most about it is that it had a legal warning.

If it doesn't have political overtones, it's not worth doing.

Chip Amp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872953)

If you are into audio at all, there are tons of kits around for building amps and preamps and stuff.

There are Chipamp kits around for just about all difficulty levels.

Now, they usually don't include the kind of instructions that actually explains whats going on, but if you start with simple things you can figure it out.

Ladyada (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23872955)

She has some fun projects, like the TVBgone. Useful too! []

What about DIY audio ? (2, Interesting)

The Sith Lord (111494) | more than 6 years ago | (#23872995)

If you're looking at electronic kits for "adults", then why not consider building your own amplifier ?

A quick search for DIY audio will reveal a magnitude of kits and projects, many of which are definitely NOT for novices.
What you'll get in the end would most likely be an awesome sounding amp, that would possibly be better than something costing 10x that in retail :)

Oh, and if your hardcore, why not build a tube amp ? Working with over 300V ... definitely not for kiddies !

comic book monthly science kit? (2, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873005)

Decades ago when I was a kid I subscribed to a "science kit of the month" advertised on the back of comic books. They kind of built on top each other - one month an amplifier, then a telegraph, then a radio, etc. The subscription was like an outrageous $5 a month - about a third of my paper-route profits. My parents then used to complain about me stinking up the basement with the soldering gun. My guess is that someone declared this dangerous and it went off the market pretty much like chemistry kits have also been emasculated. Then I suppose if it was these days I'd be hacking computers then. (3, Informative)

half_d (314945) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873015)

Funnely enough I saw this in someones SIG in another story, just after I read your question. It looks very good, with lots of projects and videos. Their own description:

A NerdKit is a combination of electronic parts and wisdom, which together will teach you about digital electronics, embedded systems, and how to bridge computers with the "real world". The electronics world has changed dramatically in the past few decades. We want to make sure that it's still easy to get involved with modern technology, and to experience a challenging and rewarding hobby! A NerdKit is appropriate for software hackers looking to branch out into electronics, and has educational material to allow even middle-schoolers and high-schoolers (ages 12+) looking for a fun challenge to learn by doing, especially with the help of a techie parent! A microcontroller is a small computer on a single chip, including processing, memory, and inputs and outputs -- see the Wikipedia page for more information.
Although I could imagine you wanted more of the basics? This is (it seems) mainly built around a microcontroller and real-world/computer interaction. Good hunting

"What is a Microcontroller" Kit from Radio Shack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873019)

Parallax STAMP kit with book and software, available at Radio Shack or online.

Really nice little kit that's fun. Great support forums on the web.

Pinball machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873027)

I started out with a digital and analog multimeter, soldering pen and iron, some forceps, radio shack reference on electronics, and a pinball machine.

Still not a great whiz at electronics, but can troubleshoot and repair pinball machines and video games.

Check Out the Arrl Handbook (1)

kwrxxx (1038350) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873031)

It has electronic theory as well as a number of kits you can buy or build from scratch.

Make Magazine Kits Rock! (4, Informative)

slewfo0t (679988) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873051)

Great projects that encompass all types of electronics. My favorite place to find kits! [] Enjoy! Slewfoot

DIY Electronics web sites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873081)

Although not all kit-based, there's a plethora of DIY electronics resources on the web that give schematics, tutorials, and places to buy components. Here's a good starting place:

Don't do a kit (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873095)

If you want to learn, use the manufacturer's application notes [] and start from there. Usually they have sample circuits with equations. Buy your parts from Digikey [] .

Design Ideas (1)

karstdiver (541054) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873113)

EDN magazine has electronic design ideas with instructions (not "kits" however): [] Here is the website's summary: "EDN's Design Ideas, contributed by practicing electronics engineers, deliver practical, innovative circuit designs in a concise format complete with circuit schematic diagrams, application details, and even software code. Design Ideas focus on topics/applications including analog functions, filters, power management, display drivers, FPGAs, microcontrollers, sensors, and much more."

Lessons In Electric Circuits (4, Interesting)

Skylinux (942824) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873117)

Here you go, not a kit but plenty to read and learn. This is where I would start and once you understand it, pick a project and build it from scratch. []

Once you have the understanding, you can create printed circuit boards with Eagle (free for non-commercial use) []

and have Sparkfun order your PCBs via BatchPCB []

This is how I got into building my own robots, not the ones from kits but scratch build by ordering the parts and doing my own designs.

Clarification... (0, Troll)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873125)

For foreign readers... attaching "adult" to any description in the Excited States means that it is sexual in nature...

Which is why the jokes are flying under this topic

You can always start with software... (1)

appleguru (1030562) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873127)

Start by learning about logic circuits and building some yourself using a software simulator like Logisim. Once you get the basics down, you can build some really complex circuits (logisim lets you "package" entire circuits in ICs, just like you would if you built a real chip. []

Crossplatform too ;)

Try and build an LCD controller ;-) Once you get circuit logic down you'll really have a good understanding of how electronics work on a fundamental level. Then you can start to move to hardware, perhaps by getting a reprogrammable FPGA setup and building projects with that.

Here's a book, at least... (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873129)

Skip the kids' kits and get yourself a solderless breadboard and ordinary bare components. You're a big boy, you can be trusted not to eat the resistors.

Here's a good book: "Getting Started in Electronics", by Forrest M. Mims III.

Radio Shack used to be the place for this kind of thing: you could get assortments of resistors and capacitors, and lots of basic semiconductors. These days, not many RS's have this stuff, and it's overpriced, but it might still be your best bet. and are good sources for EVERYTHING, but it's all a la carte, and you want the buffet.

There Are no Electrons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873131)

The book There are no Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings by Kenn Amdahl is excellent for learning theory, it is a very creative approach, that is almost impossible to not understand.

Also, anything by Richard P. Feyman are also excellent to read.

Count Radio shack stores out (3, Interesting)

RaigetheFury (1000827) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873139)

Just an FYI, Radioshack Stores are moving away from being the parts store we all loved. They are now trying to be more competitive in Cell Phones and Satellite dishes. You can thank their CEO for this. It's not very easy to find a Radioshack that still has a lot of parts in stock, let alone kits.

It's best to order it online as most stores won't have what you're looking for. Also another idea is to call up your local colleges who offer courses. They often sell kits or can tell you where their students buy kits. Those places ALWAYS have additional info.

The project lists can range from simple circuits to digital electronics. Learning how to build your own Amplifier for your stereo you quickly realize what massive profit margins these companies have, and you start to wonder why medical equipment that performs simple functions costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Re:Count Radio shack stores out (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873587)

Every radio shack I've seen that wasn't in a mall has the Archer components in a modular shelf with nicely labeled color-coded drawers. Lo and behold they're full of resistors, caps, transistors, and so forth -- more selection than I remember from before. Radio Shack was never a very good place for getting components, they were always more like the 7-11 of electronics: a good place to pick up a can of Chef Boyardee, but you still need to head to A.G. Ferrari to get your fresh proscuitto-stuffed tortelloni.

Now I'm hungry, dammit.

The Era of Electronic Kits is Gone (3, Interesting)

Junior Samples (550792) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873149)

In the Good Old Days, we had Heathkit, Eico Kits, and Knight Kits (Allied Radio). The last kit that I built was a Heath AR1500 AM/FM Stereo receiver that I purchased in 1972. It's still running today.

Today, there's not much out there. The local hobby store sells simple kits from Velleman [] but these don't compare to the kits of the 60s & 70s.

I guess that's it's a lot cheaper to buy the product assembled and tested from China than it is to build your own.

The ARRL handbook is a good source of do it yourself electronic projects geared toward Amateur Radio.

Make something you love (3, Insightful)

bigHairyDog (686475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873155)

Learning electronics is easier with a project that means something to you. I'm into photography, so I learned by building a sound trigger for my camera for high speed photography.

You can get kits containing the components you need here: []

And use them to make pictures like this: []

The kit comes with instructions and a circuit diagram. All else you need is a book like Starting Electronics by Keith Brindley to help you interpret the diagram.

Parallax HomeWork Board (1)

yellowdragon (795049) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873163)

Since Heathkit is long dead, I'd suggest the Parallax learning kit. It is more focused into the Parallax microcontroller but it has basic electronics and formulae explained in the experiments. My local RatShack wants $80 per complete kit (board, book, servo, semiconductors, jumper wires) but I was able to buy one for $35 on eBay...

School? (1)

brunokummel (664267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873173)

Have you consider attending a basic eletronics course? or maybe a tech school ...

It may sound a little too much for a hobby, but I think it's nice to get some basic knowledge in order to start on the right tracks.. I mean, after a good course, you can buy the components yourself, search the projects on google and build it without those pre-built kits.. I think it's way cooler ...

Your community college electronics classes (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873175)

Find out what they use. Buy their lab manuals and buy parts a la carte.

Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873177)

No question - microcontrollers to make complex stuff easy, basic electronics to interface with it. Love it!

Science Fair Many-In-1 Kits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873203)

The old Radio Shack Science Fair 150-IN-1 electronic kits were quite good for learning analog electronics. They seemed to be aimed at teenagers and young adults, so the materials were a lot more useful than some of the other kits aimed at little kids. The accompanying book went to a lot of effort to explain how each project worked, and in language that was reasonably easy for normal people to understand. I imagine these kits have been out of production for ages, but plenty of them are still available on the used market (eBay for example). If you contemplate a used one for sale, make sure it comes with the book.

Funway and Short Circuits (1)

femto (459605) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873211)

Try the Funway into Electronics [] series from Dick Smith or the Short Circuit Series [] from Jaycar. They are written to be simple enough for kids but are actually soundly based and suitable as a first step for adults. Each project aims to demonstrate a principle, includes explanation and builds on previous projects to form a short course. The books are the most important thing. The mentioned shops sell accompanying kits but the components are all generic and can be picked up at any electronics store around the world.

Funway was my first exposure to electronics and today I am a professional electrical engineer (with a few intervening steps required).

Go to the source (2, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873217)

You are an adult, and can buy your own parts, so have no need for kits.

All you need to get started is this book - it is basically the de-facto standard for learning electronics.

"Getting Started in Electronics" - Forest M Mims III []

This book is basically the bible for newcomers to electronics. Buy it, you will not be disappointed. He starts off with the simple, progresses to the relatively complex, and explains all the principles along the way. Every project comes with a complete parts listing, and lots of diagrams and illistrations to help along the way. Also there is some great reference pages included that I STILL refer to occasionally.

You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873233)

Seriously. The kits have nice big, brightly coloured bits which are physically large and easy to handle. They are also relatively hard to break. You don't really need those featues. Instead, get a good beginners book, for instance by Forest M. Mimms III, a solderless breadbroad, and then buy the components mentioned in the book. You can then start assembling them on the breadboard.

For what it's worth, I'd duggest the following:

Several reels of 100 metal film resistors, 100OHm, 1K, 10K, 100K and 1M.

A bag of brestripped, tinned and finished wires of various lengths for breadboard prototyping.

A reel of single core wire (for when the premade ones won't quite stretch).

Several bags of capacitors (100p 1n 10n 100n ceramic, polyester, mica or mylar and 1u 100u and 1000u in electrolytic). You want maybe 20 of the smaller ones and 10 of the larger ones.

A nice big bag of cheap transistors. These are a little trickier, but all of the low priced ones will be similar. You probably want something like 20 small ones like BC108 (NPN, low power) a corresponding PNP one and 5 medium power ones like BFY51.

10 cheap LEDs

1 Buzzer

1 loudspeaker

A good powersupply. You won't need more than 1Amp, but you probably want 0--15V variable, and 2 outputs if you can manage it. This is the mist expensive part, but you could just get a 9V wall wart if this is a problem. Batteries get annoying quite fast.

This will set you up way better than a kit.

You can also add to it later. You can buy a rail of 741 op amps (indestructible, and still popular even though they're 20 years obsoloete) and 555 oscillator chips. Later still you can get some logic ICs.

Plase, slashdotters weigh in, because I've missed something here.

Re:You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (3, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873523)

Please, slashdotters weigh in, because I've missed something here.
You've got most of the key things (I'd go for more of the intermediate resistors and capacitors too, but that' personal taste). Add a multimeter to that selection, and you've got a reasonable mix. Better would be an oscilloscope, but that's a much bigger outlay. Also, it's probably a good idea to get some cheap switches (both toggle and push-to-make) and a few variable resistors. And if you're going to experiment with building a radio, definitely get a variable capacitor and a diode. (If not, don't bother.)

Re:You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (1)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873529)

This is exactly what I was thinking. You are essentially setting yourself up with the equipment of a Freshmen EE lab (excluding AC equipment, power resistors and other high amperage stuff).

You will also need a decent volt/ohmmeter and maybe an AC/DC clamp-on ammeter (not required).

Re:You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873557)

You will need a power supply to build and test circuits, but I built my own power supply and had a great time doing it. Learned a lot too. I am sure a quick google search would yield schematics. You can purchase simple adjustable voltage regulators really cheaply. I think I used the LM317/337 line, but it has been a while. You can get most of the parts you need from RadioShack, but I would go to Digikey.

Re:You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (1)

The Wookie (31006) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873577)

A multimeter might be a good idea

I'm not too good with hardware, so most of the stuff I do is digital. There are some nice microcontroller development boards from places like and with a breadboard area and a serial or USB connection to program the controller.

Again for digital, maybe a grab-bag of ICs, which will mostly be logic gates. I also use a lot of shift registers and 3-to-8 decoders.

For a power supply, I bought a powered breadboard with a 5v supply and a variable supply, I think either from jameco or digikey.

O'Reilly put out a book on embedded programming a few years ago that has some basics for digital interfacing.

Re:You're an adult now, you don't need a kit. (1)

CodeMunch (95290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873625)

Plase, slashdotters weigh in, because I've missed something here.

Would you like to buy a vowel? An 'e'?

I'll post something useful later when I get home to dig through my electronics box/books. I have some "From the ground up" stuff - theory and then some simple projects (burglar alarm, strobe light, colour organ)

For some adult projects try this book: Build Your Own Laser, Phaser, Ion Ray Gun & Other Working Space-Age Projects []

The author also has other books [] and if you search for them on Amazon as well it'll likely have other book recomendations.

Goodwill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873239)

Personally I suggest that you pick up some cheap electronics at goodwill, and disect them. That, along with wikipedia is how i learned about how stuff works. I've never been much of one for tech books, i just zone off when reading them.

200-in-one kits (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873265)

I begged my parents for the Radio Trash-marketed 160-in-one and 200-in-one kits and had lots of fun with those. The instruction books explained the concepts and even touched on a little theory.

Re:200-in-one kits (1)

Paisley Phrog (685921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873525)

The 200-in-One kits I had was pretty impressive, I agree, and very well organized. All the components were labeled by their actual names and values, with schematic diagram equivalents next to them. The spring terminals for connections also worked pretty well. About the only thing that really made it "kid" was the guide in the book (which I still have, it's a good electronics primer) which took the form of a talking 200-in-one kit.

XGS (1)

bigpistol (1311191) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873285)

What about one of Andre LaMothes console kits? They are more oriented to making your own gaming console but get right into electronic basics, you have to build the XGS yourself so you get practical experience and comes with a book (I think its called Black Art of console design). Check it out: [] P

MAKE Kits (1)

robotoperasinger (707047) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873307)

MAKE Magazine has a number of different kits available for an adult. There is this kit [] which has basic components (LEDs, resistors, capacitors, etc.) There are also programmable controller board kits available if you wish to tackle something more challenging. If you are looking to read up on the subject, a classic book would be The Art of Electronics. Even though it is becoming dated, a lot of the principles of electronics design are clearly laid out.

The Art of Electronics (1)

tjwhaynes (114792) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873355)

If you really want to understand Electronics, then this book really deserves your attention. Not only does it clearly explain many of the concepts, it also stretches your understanding by showing you examples of circuits that do not work. It is an essential text if you want deep knowledge on this subject.

On the other hand, if you are only interested in making shortwave radios, this book is overkill.

Toby Haynes

Weblink to some decent layman's theory (1)

incognito_wimp_3D (1311197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873325)

In the process of explaining why so many textbooks about electronics are full of misconception, William Beaty gives easy to understand layman explanations of electrical theory. Without an understanding of electrical theory, electronics is just voodoo plugging of components to make a 'recipe'. The best part? It's free as in beer []

Ham Radio, Transistor Clock (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873329)

I totally sympathize with you. I'm always looking for stuff to build but there really isn't much complex out there. I would love a little 16 bit computer or something. Something like the replica 1 [] only more complicated.

Of what I've built, there is one and only one answer. The ultimate kit, the best out there, the Elecraft K2 [] . I've built that, the KPA100 power amplifier, the KAT100 tuner, and a few little modules for it. It took me weeks to build it all. It was amazing.

Kit building is why I got into Ham Radio. The only problem is... I don't seem to care about the rest of ham radio. I haven't operated much. I keep meaning to do more to see if I like it better, but I don't seem to care enough to get around to it. I'm thinking of selling my K2 since it's just sitting around.

Other than that there are a few kits out there. A Nixie tube clock, while not too complicated, looks interesting. I ran across an all transistor clock [] kit the other day. It looks quite neat.

Navy electronics manual online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873345)

haven't run through these myself, but i keep finding them referenced on instructables, and various sites. This plus your local parts source might do the trick:

Not Cool, But Worked For Me (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873357)

OK, this is totally not the cool answer, but I started with this one: []

It comes with two books, one on digital and one on analog circuits. I outgrew it quickly, but it got me far enough along to step up to a breadboard and raw parts. The circuits cover extreme beginner to, say, apprentice - so it's not going to last long if it appeals to you. But that was great for me as it completely evaporated any fear I had of the complexity. I like to be a tough guy as much as anyone else, but sometimes it's nice not to be in over your head.

The next step I took was "The Art of Electronics" (brilliant book) and a breadboard. That was a bit of a leap, but very good for analog circuits. On the digial side, check out Lady Ada and Evil Mad Scientist: [] []

DIY Headphone amps (1)

cfrey (821922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873379)

On the there are a number of headphone amp projects that vary in skill level. I've made several, lots of fun. []

What area? Lots of choices. (2, Interesting)

KC1P (907742) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873429)

You didn't say what *kind* of electronics you want to learn about. Ramsey Electronics has some general-interest kits, as do Jameco and JDR. TenTec has simple ham radio kits (with excellent support), so do Vectronics (part of MFJ Enterprises) and Small Wonder Labs. Elecraft has fancier ham radio kits (multiband stuff more in line with the old high-end Heathkits). And PAiA has audio kits. (All of these companies have obvious website URLs.)

If you want a stepping stone to building your own digital stuff, most of the IC companies put out really wonderful evaluation boards to show off their parts. They're not kits themselves but they're very much intended to get your juices flowing (the IC vendors want corporate customers to choose their parts to use in products so easy prototyping is vital) so they're easy to get to the "hello world" stage (or the lights-and-switches equivalent) and there's plenty of provision for adding your own stuff to it and then transplanting the whole thing to a free-standing design once you have your rat's nest prototype debugged. Prices vary wildly but some of them are really good deals.

I'm a huge fan of Microchip PIC CPUs because you don't need to buy *anything*, the programming protocol is simple and well-documented (none of that convoluted JTAG stuff) so you can build your own burner for a few dollars (I use the old "COM84" circuit available on the net, modified to work with the low voltages put out by current COM ports) and free burner software (or you can write your own, it's easy).

PAiA (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873431)

Try if you want to play with audio electronics.Amps,Effects,Synths,Vocoders and much more.They even have a nice Theremin.

I use a kit from Parallax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873455) has a kit that is also available from Radio Shake.

It allows you to program an IC with your computer and build the electronic components around it that interact with the IC.

They have different kits that use different language but for basic "process control" I like the Basic Stamp

You can see their stuff at

Learn to solder first! (4, Insightful)

TheGreatOrangePeel (618581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873465)

To save yourself frustration and headaches later, DON'T START SOLDERLESS! Learn how to solder first! Flow solder down a long wire. Strip parts out of a circuit board and put them back in without damaging them, without burning the board and checking with a magnifying glass that you don't have any solder tips that cross over onto the neighboring point. Get comfortable removing whole chips using both solder wick and a solder-sucker. Learn the components of solder so you're not wondering why you're leaving "tan stuff" (resin) on the board. Cut several parallel 'wires' on a circuit board and then fix it with solder and a single strand of copper wire ... if you learn how to solder first you'll save yourself the frustration of knowing how to fix a problem but lacking the actual skill to do so.

I'd look around for kits aimed at high school students. My senior year of high school I took an electronics course where we had to put together a radio from a kit. The good thing about a radio is that there's a lot of cans that need tweaking and points that need to be seen on an oscilloscope to get everything properly calibrated. In fact, this is the kit [] I used (note that I'm not endorsing the seller. I just happened across the product is all).

I'd go ahead and pick up an electronics text book geared toward college students as well.

...and start memorizing that v=i*r starting now.

dideltron (1)

dideltron (1311201) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873471)

If you're also a musician, there's "Electronics Projects for Musicians" by Craig Anderton. As it is from the 70's, it's probably on of the most basic things you could find that's for adults.

Mims and the hydraulic analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873485)

Here's another vote for Forrest Mims books and solderless breadboards. Also, this is helpful:

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873505)

...memories, all alone posting on Slashdot...

My dad built a HeathKit tube stereo amplifier some time before he and my mom got married and it was what we used well into the 80's, when he went out and bought a solid state piece of junk with a cardboard bottom. Being 15, I promptly disassembled the tube amp and utterly destroyed it. I wish I had it now to run the output of my little Ubuntu media server through...

Make your own (3, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873511)

Seriously - make your own kit.

You need:
- Plug in solderless breadboard. Get something reasonably big.
- An assortment of resistors, capacitors, and inductors. Many suppliers sell bags of common values for these.
- Some transistors: get some NPN and PNP small signal bipolar transistors. Get some N and P channel small signal MOSFETs.
- A few 555 timer ICs.
- A handful of 74-series logic ICs (typical quad gates, flip flops, shift registers).

And of course a whole heap of LEDs. You need some blinkenlights when learning.

With this you can look at the 'net - for example, while reading 'Lessons in Electric Circuits' [] you can devise circuits to expand your knowledge on what you've just read.

You also need at least a reasonable multimeter. As you start getting into stuff that oscillates at more than a few hertz, and if you are enjoying what you're doing, it's worth looking on ebay for a reasonable 2nd hand oscilloscope.

As you get more advanced, you can get microcontrollers, for example, get some Atmel AVR 8 bit microcontrollers - they are supported by GCC and you can make your own parallel programmer with an old printer lead and 4 resistors. Or build a proper computer with external memory - the Z80 microprocessor is still made, and is cheap, and is great for tinkering because it is a 'static' design and run at sub 1Hz clock frequencies where you can see what's happening by putting LEDs on the data and address bus.

Ramsey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873513)

Ramsey Electronics []

Great radio projects - one of the best ones for aviation! Other stuff too and they explain the circuits and how to modify them if you want.

Virtual breadboard (5, Informative)

saburai (515221) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873527)

I don't know if this has come up already, but there's a handy online circuit simulator here:

You can create circuits from scratch or load and play with a large library of existing circuits. I used it a lot in grad school when I had to build something electronic for the lab, just to make sure it was going to do what I expected.

Learning Resources for Electronics (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873553)

Here's a list of sites that have helped me over the years. Also, I agree with an earlier poster that kits won't really teach you much about electronics (though you'll get good soldering experience from them). - This site has a series of excellent (and free) electronics books that start with the basics and move on from there. - While these kits are a bit costly, they have some of the best learning materials for working with micro-controllers (outside of audio, micro-controllers dominate the electronics industry these days). I highly recommend, "What's a Microcontroller" as a starting kit (it has everything you need). Also, the Propeller chip is just cool. - Next to Parallax, the Arduino community offers a much cheaper, and comparable, alternative. Everything here is open source (from the hardware to the software). You might consider downloading the freely available books from Parallax, and translate the code to Arduino as a learning exercise. - Andre has some great (and fun) kits for game development and electronics. I sometimes find Andre's writing difficult to read, but ymmv. I have his CPLD kit, and it's great. - Lots of electronics here.

And finally, a short selection of tutorials, blogs and project pages:

There's a ton more that I've come across over the years (remember google is your friend). Just do a search for "learning basic electronics", and you'll have a lifetime of reading (a good percentage will suck, but it's there =).


Not sure if this is what you were looking for (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873571)

but I'd say that it depends on what you are wanting to learn. Learning about radio and building a simple radio to help learn is one thing. It can be accomplished without having to learn digital electronics, using discrete analog parts; these are the basic building components of electronics. When I first learned electronics that is how I started.

If you buy a kit, it is likely that there will be digital parts included. They tend to complicate matters of comprehension.

If you have a good understanding of basic electronics and want to learn more about the digital side of things, many here have made good suggestions. You can Google for basic circuit and kits. You could start out with something simple like an alarm clock or Christmas tree light sequencer.

If money isn't the main problem, many micro-controller manufacturers have trainer or development kits. Some fully contained, some not. Again, you can Google for these like so: [] and there is a link to Jameco which has several kits that might be of interest.

You might still find a few good books in 1/2 price books or similar. I'd also recommend trying yahoo groups or similar and joining a discussion group that is concerned with people like yourself that are concerned with learning electronics.

Additional fun might be had by joining an offline group such as a hobby robotics group. If you are in the states, Dallas (DPRG), Seattle (SRS) both have active discussion groups. Robotics if for generalists who want and try to learn about all aspects of electronics, from basics to laser guidance systems. They also tend to explain things to one another in a helpful way :)

Have fun, hope that helps

FPGAs for digital electronics (1)

_bulbgiver_ (884187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873623)

Field programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs [] ) are increasingly being used in the classrooms for teaching digital electronics. You can get a good starter board with 500K gates for around 150 bucks and the design software is free from the FPGA vendors.

Heres a couple of links to FPGA based development boards:

Evaluation boards for microcontrollers (1)

dissipative_struct (312023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873629)

If you're looking to include embedded programming in your projects I recommend picking up the "evaluation" or "starter" kits that all controller vendors sell to support their projects. They come with all the hardware you need to get started with embedded programming and they're easy to interface to your kit circuits. What they often don't include are the software development tools, although sometimes the software tools are bundled with the kit.

My personal favorite is TIs "Experimenter's Board" for their MSP430 micros:

That one's fairly advanced and costs $100 (not including the programming cable), if you use a simpler controller like a PIC you can find a cheaper alternative.

Yay radio shack! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23873633)

I had an old Radio Shack kit from the early 90's that came with a big thick instruction manual that explaned all the theories and principals...I really liked it.

too bad later on I used the kit as a spare parts bin. Now its missing too much stuff to be useful.

Ramsey Electornics (1)

Dynotrick (947014) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873655)

Try Ramsey Electornics, they sell some nice kits. []

Good books... (1)

zzqzzq_zzq (883263) | more than 6 years ago | (#23873663)

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the "Art of Electronics" books.....

The Art of Electronics (Hardcover)
by Paul Horowitz (Author), Winfield Hill (Author)

They (might) be becoming slightly dated at this point, but (AFAIK) they're the books used by one of the MIT electronics courses. []

You'd want the lab manual as well... []

I found both books at the local Barnes and Nobles. (And I don't recall paying quite so much for them a year ago.)

Read the sections your interested in, and just "do it".


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