Electronics is relevant to our modern lives like almost no other field of science. On the one hand, we have the physical world, with objects and phenomena that we touch, see, and interact with. On the other, we increasingly spend time with the digital world, where we log data in spreadsheets or apps, solve complex problems with the help of computers, or rely on various devices to make our lives easier.
Sitting in between these two worlds and bridging the divide is electronics. Without it, there would be no microprocessors, no grids of tiny transistors to switch on and off and do our bidding millions of times per second. No way to power our homes or gadgets, or even manufacture many of the non-technical goods we take for granted. It has truly revolutionized every facet of our existence. Much emphasis today is placed on programming and application development, but it is important to remember that these things are abstractions sitting on top of a physical and electrical foundation.
In case all of this talk of revolution has you fired up, we’ve collected some of the best books to help you learn electronics. Whether you’re a total beginner or advanced engineer, check out the resources below to find a learning guide that’s right for you.
In a previous post, we covered online IDEs for embedded software development. In order to run embedded programs you need to, well, embed them in something, so we also included a paragraph on Upverter, a tool for collaboratively editing and sharing circuit schematics. Hardware design is an area that’s still relatively untouched by the web application revolution, and we always love to see new innovation.
More recently, we ran across CircuitLab, an alternative schematic tool with some unique features. On the surface, the site seems extremely similar to Upverter: fire up an online editor, create your circuit in the browser, then save it to your account. At any point in this process, you can share a link to your circuit to let others view it and collaborate.
Recently we’ve seen a few options for compiling and programming your processor of choice in the cloud. Online IDEs offer a lot of convenience, as you don’t have to worry about OS idiosyncrasies or implementation details on your specific machine. You simply put in source code and get compiled files out. Power users may want alternatives with more features, but just like other app categories, we’re guessing online development environments will get more polished as time goes on. Most online environments are limited to standard desktop languages, but lately some online options have popped up in the microprocessor arena.
Printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing is a black art among the DIY community. If you’re putting together a prototype circuit, the process is very well established: get an Arduino or your microcontroller of choice, pick out some components, get a breadboard and wires, and then string everything together. Easy, low cost, and accessible.
However, what if your project becomes more complex? You can extend breadboard or perf-board work to a point, but the likelihood of making an error grows exponentially with project complexity. Nobody wants to end up with a circuit that looks like this: