Mizugori

what are some simple beginner's electronic projects? to get starte

29 posts in this topic

I have always wanted to do some DIY electronics stuff (which can certainly be related to hacking in a lot of ways) but the plans I found online were too confusing/complicated to me as a total beginner... at one point I wanted to make my own remote for my PC's volume, but I was intimidated by the plans I found online.

does anyone know of some easy starter projects i could do, that would help me to get started and get comfortable with the complicated process of assembling electronic components?

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Read books or sites on electronics before trying to do anything. If you can't read schematics, you won't be able to use plans that make use of standard diagrams and icons. Building electronics is more than just putting things together, you have to understand how to put them together so you don't end up blowing things up or burning things unintentionally. You need to understand electronics before you can do anything else.

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They use to have these little books at Radio Shack that would explain the basics of electronics.

But I don't know if Radio Shack carries them anymore.

One place that still sells small project kits is.

http://www.allelectronics.com/

These sites have some good info.

http://www.uoguelph.ca/~antoon/circ/circuits.htm

http://www.ffldusoe.edu/Faculty/Denenberg/...ounds/Index.htm

Let me just add this.

One really cool project to build is one of those tiny FM Transmitters that go on a 9 volt battery and have a one mile range.

I had some much fun with mine and it's great experience with soldering and winding the tiny coils and tuning it.

Good Luck

Edited by carwash
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i'm trying to find a wifi card or usb adaptor that will allow me to connect an antenna to it... how can you tell which ones do and which ones don't? i have a netgear card that does not appear to have any place to attach an antenna

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how about a DIY wifi antenna for starters. check out hack a day too.

That doesn't really have anything to do with electronics, and antenna design is tricky stuff.

Any soldermonkey can solder components to a PCB. If you don't understand them (at least a little) then you're missing out on a lot. Knowing the interactions, knowing the basic constructs, and knowing what the components are used for helps you read schematics too. If you don't know anything about electronics, it's all just a jumble of lines, squiggles and cryptic numbers.

First read some. You can start with Lessons in Electric Circuits. You need to understand what's going on, or else you're just a soldermonkey and if something goes wrong, you're just stuck.

Then get some basic components. Get a breadboard (a good one is worth the money, with power terminals and plenty of space) and an assortment of components. You'll resistors of all values, you can get them in a pack. Some caps of various values and makes. Some switches, some LEDs, some diodes and transistors. Oh, and of course you'll need a multimeter, you just can't live without that.

Play with some resistor networks, take readings with your multimeter. Light up some LEDs. Play with a transistor or two, see how all these function at their most basic level. Electronics is about building upward, you won't understand any more complex circuits without first experimenting with the individual components. Read a lot, but play and explore just as much.

At that point, you can start doing something more interesting. Get a schematic for a flip-flop or something not so trivial. Get some ICs (555's are the classic starting point here) and hook them up as described in their manuals. Change some resistor values, hook up LEDs to some parts to get a better idea of what's going on. Don't stray too far, taking large leaps won't teach you much (but it can be fun).

Order some kits, put stuff together. You can do that at any time really, you don't have to understand them to get a working device (but it won't teach you much). Practice your soldering, that's important too. Messy soldering can result in some confusing bugs.

Remember to build upward. Electronics is definitely a bottom-up kind of thing! Play with something, understand it, move upward. You don't need projects as much as you need to play, explore, poke, prod, futz, fiddle, probe and measure. Just have fun with it, take your time, don't skimp on the reading and it's not hard!

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As Ohm stated, antenna design has zero to do with electronics let alone how to build electronics and their components. Now testing that antenna does have to do with electronics and would involve things far beyond the OP's skillset and probably anyone else's here.

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ohm, (or others) could you recommend a good multimeter and soldering iron to me?

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Did you even click the links I posted? Three kits, three solder irons for low, middle, and high budgets. A multimeter with continuity testing for under ten bucks on there too. I've got an M89G, and would recommend going for the MAS830L or that, or better. She kind of went from low priced to really high on the soldering irons, and if you wanted to go "better than the better" but not pay as much as the best, you could look at the weller w60p which is what I have. It's a closed loop Weller, which means it's really good. :D

In the spirt of no such thing as to much good advice, I would like to get a gun soon. A propane one would be the way I want to go. Anyone have one they like? Moved to Hardware Hacking, since the thread is pretty quality info wise, and hardware related. You'll get a better turnout from experienced hardware hackers there.

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ok i have a breadboard in front of me, with no power terminals bc i am on a budget, and i have an led i am trying to light up...

i have several AA batteries, wiring, a pack of assorted resistors, a pack of assorted capacitors, a push button switch, a diode, and a transistor.

i tried plugging the led into the breadboard and connecting an AA battery to the breadboard along the same line but it didnt light up. i found some talk of a resistor being used online, but no diagrams or anything; how can i make the damn thing light up??

and also, with the parts i have, what are some other cool things i could do to practice/learn?

thanks!!

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An LED needs a current-limiting resistor or else it'll burn itself out. Also an LED is indeed a diode, it needs to be in the right direction.

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what kind of resistor should i use, given that its a 5mm 2.1v 25mA 6.3mcd green LED ? i'm trying to use one AA battery at the moment, could use more if i have to thought. i bought a multipack of resistors, they are all 1/4 watt and a bunch of dif types but the color chart on the back of the packaging confuses the shit out of me...

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and also, with the parts i have, what are some other cool things i could do to practice/learn?

Not much. Those components are a good start, once you start reading you'll want to do some experimentation with your multimeter (that should be your next purchase). Since they're all passive components (except the transistor), none of them really do anything interesting. They're like the support components, active components (like transistors) and abstracted components (like ICs) need them to function.

The entire field of electronics is based on abstractions. Build a circuit, put in a box and define an interface. In programming, these abstractions are functions, classes, etc. In electronics, these abstractions are ICs. So if ICs are functions, then the passive components are the function parameters. To get to the good stuff (ICs), learn the passive components first. It's not interesting, there is no immediate reward, but it's fundamental.

Remember to balance reading and experimentation. They reinforce each other, too much of one without the other and your progress will slow.

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Moving back, I got yelled at. j/k :P

Like I said, I thought moving it in there would allow more hardware hackers to see the thread. Others mentioned that I didn't think about the aspect of NHQ being a safe place to ask questions with zero chance of flamage, and they were right. I wasn't thinking about it that way. Leaving a link to the thread from Ham/Hardware is pretty much the best of both worlds.

A 1k ohm resistor would work for you, it's almost always a safe bet. Like Ohm said, start reading the Lessons he posted, they are good, and have a few experiments toward the end I think you could already try, while reffering back to earlier ones for reference.

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what kind of resistor should i use, given that its a 5mm 2.1v 25mA 6.3mcd green LED ? i'm trying to use one AA battery at the moment, could use more if i have to thought. i bought a multipack of resistors, they are all 1/4 watt and a bunch of dif types but the color chart on the back of the packaging confuses the shit out of me...

The resistor color codes are not hard. There are 3 major stripes, two digits and a multiplier. Take brown-black-red for example. Brown is 1, black is 0. That's 10 ohms to start with. The red multiplier is 100 ohms, so 10 ohms x 100 ohms is 1000 ohms, or 1k ohm.

I'd start with a larger resistor. The opposite of resistance is conductance (which is measured in mhos). The more resistance there is, the less conductance and the less current. If you start with a resistor that's very low resistance (very high conductance), the circuit will have a higher current. High currents can kill LEDs, it'll overheat and melt after a short flash. Start with a higher resistance (lower conductance, lower current) resistor, don't blow up your LED.

There are exact formulae for determining the resistances for LEDs, but I've never used them. They're only really useful for people who want to get maximum output from their LEDs (for using LEDs for lighting like in a flashlight, for example). If it's just an indicator light, something resistant enough to prevent it from blowing, and conductive enough to light it nice and bright is fine.

Edited by Ohm
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It is fun to install mod chips into all your game consoles.

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what kind of resistor should i use, given that its a 5mm 2.1v 25mA 6.3mcd green LED ? i'm trying to use one AA battery at the moment, could use more if i have to thought. i bought a multipack of resistors, they are all 1/4 watt and a bunch of dif types but the color chart on the back of the packaging confuses the shit out of me...

Just like Rightcoast said: Ohm is the law.

Ohm's law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohm's_law) dictates:

I=V/R

Where I is current which in this case is .025A - This signifies how much juice is drawn from the battery which depending on the manufacture is anywhere from .5-1A/hr

Voltage is of course V which for this problem is 2.1v.

Now don't mix up Voltage with Amperage.

The easy analogy is to think of electricity like a river or pipe. Amperage is how much water flows while Voltage defines how pressurized the flow is. Both are intertwined and cannot be singled out. Hence why it's a LAW and not a theory.

Resistance factors into this equasion as R measured in ohms. This in the water analogy is the force that plays between city water mains and your house or dams/debris/rocks-n-shit in the river that slow the current down. There is no electrical flow without some form of resistance as it's inherent to the path that electricity travels.

So for your equasion you're wanting to solve for R.

R=V/I

R=1.5v/.025A

Answer is 60 ohms

http://www.mcsquared.com/ohmframe.htm

edit: I forget my decimal places.. :-)

Edited by jfalcon
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When you go after a multimeter just get ya something that works for now... later on you can dream about those Flukes... but get an extra set of test leads for whatever meter you get that can 'clip' onto wires. You're life will be a bit easier.

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One note, you should increase the voltage by putting two batteries in series. The max voltage for the LED is 2.7 volts and you're only getting 1.5volts... that will make it a rather dim LED. If you follow the Laws and suggestions posted here, you'll be fine without blowing out a component. :)

http://www.partsonsale.com/learnwiring.htm - Simple guide on series/parallel battery usage. The same terminology applies to circuits and resistance also but crawl before you walk...

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I don't recommend soldering until you understand what it is you are soldering and have the ability to test everything without the need to desolder left and right. It's rather easy to make a mistake and there are horror stories galore or people bricking their favourite game console because they shouldn't have been the one attempting to solder in a modchip - which they also ruined in the process.

Circuit design and learning electronics in general is made easier with the right virtual breadboard software, whether it be it free, a limited time demo or purchased with a discounted student license. Get the theory down in a set of software with no outside variables like bad parts or faulty contacts and wiring to get in your way before you learn to trouble shoot those obstacles as well.

Once you get into PCB design layouts and pcb printers things start to get expensive but it can certainly yield more professional results.

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I'd recommend against SPICE/Circuit Simulation software until you understand the components and can design circuits to do applications. You have a simple breadboard, and some cheap components. That's much better than learning software.

Many times I find that software is way lacking in components and having to punch in my own chips is a pain in the ass. I'd rather find chips and circuits with published specifications and use that information to build my circuit on a breadboard.

Once you understand how to read a schematic, it's pretty simple to copy the intended circuit into a PCB creation program and let it route the circuit for you based on the value you give for size. Etching however is another subject all together.

If you did buy a soldering iron, go back to the store and get some solder wick (looks like a braid of copper or aluminum) then take apart old hardware (clock radios, XT computers, etc..) and start building a parts collection by desoldering hardware. Make sure you identify everything and label everything into a detailed system... For longevity in this work, I'd definately get a magnifying lamp so you can see everything better without going myoptic.

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Ohm, I've always learned that conductance is measured in Siemens. Are they the same thing as Mhos?

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Take a look at a parallax development board or if you want to go a little more advanced one of the rabbit boards. It will give you some hardware to work with (cpu, memory, other components) and give you a break board that you can start building hardware on. It will let you learn more about programming and building integrated systems. Or just invest in a few cheap break boards are start playing around building things. There are plenty of projects in make and all over the internet for learning.

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Ohm, I've always learned that conductance is measured in Siemens. Are they the same thing as Mhos?

Yes, they are the same. 1/ohm = mho, that was a clever naming. Units are named after their creators/discoverers/definers though, just like Centigrade became Celcius. Same difference, but mho is easier to type and has delicious cleverness.

Edited by Ohm
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Take a look at a parallax development board or if you want to go a little more advanced one of the rabbit boards. It will give you some hardware to work with (cpu, memory, other components) and give you a break board that you can start building hardware on. It will let you learn more about programming and building integrated systems. Or just invest in a few cheap break boards are start playing around building things. There are plenty of projects in make and all over the internet for learning.

Talk about thinking 150 steps into the future..

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