Best Electronics Book Ever!

I want to make sure you have a copy of The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill.

This is hands-down, the best electronics book I’ve seen in 25 years. The book is a practical approach to every facet of electronics and taught me more about every aspect of design than I had learned before. Not much math past algebra (pity to waste all my calculus and diffeq) but enough to develop intuition about design.
Chapters:

1. Foundations – Ohm’s law, voltage dividers, Thevenin’s equivalent, capacitors, inductors, transformers, reactance, and diodes

2. Transistors – Switches, amplifier biasing, the Ebers-Moll model, constant current sources, Miller effect, and Early effect
3. FETs – Basic FET circuits, switches, MOSFETs
4. OpAmps – The golden rule of opamps, real-world behavior, single supply operation, feedback, and compensation

5. Active Filters and Oscillators – Active filters, VCVS, state variable, Twin-T, gyrators, switched capacitor, relaxation oscillators, 555, crystal oscillators

6. Voltage Regulators – 723, unregulated supplies, zener diodes, ICs, HV regulators, micropower regulators
7. Precision Circuts and Low Noise Techniques – Precision op amps, amplifier noise, noise measurement, and shielding
8. Digital – TTL, CMOS, Karnaugh maps, sequential logic, one shots, ICs, and pathology
9. Digital Meets Analog – CMOS/TTL interfacing, long wires, A/D and D/A conversion, PLLs. and noise generation

10. Microcomputers – 8086 assembly, I/O, PC bus interfacing, and data communications
11. Microprocessors – 68008 assembly, an analog signal averager design, and support chips

12. Electronic Construction Techniques – Prototyping, PC board fabrication, and housing
13. High-frequency and High-speed Techniques – HF amplifiers, transmission lines, stubs, baluns, AM, SSB, FM, FSK, PWM, and switching

14. Low-Power Design – Batteries, solar cells, micropower regulators, amplifiers, oscillators, and digital design
15. Measurements and Signal Processing – Transducers, standards, bandwidth reduction, and FFTs

The book also contains information on oscilloscopes, math, resistors, schematics, load lines, transistor saturation, LC filters, and some data sheets.

At over 1100 pages this is not light reading, but if you read it, you’ll walk away with more than you would at your average 4 year school. Highly recommended. Nothing else even comes close.

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You can also order the student manual that goes with the book if you want details of the lab exercises.

Who Needs Cases?

One of the hardest things about building prototypes or projects is coming up with a suitable case. The folks at http://www.circuitshell.com think they have the answer.

They sell plastic “shells” in various colors with optional rubber gaskets. You design your board so that the covers screw on and put all the “external” stuff on the edges around the outside of the cover (see picture).

The only downside I see is they seem to come in a one size (a smaller version is forthcoming), so your PCB has to be pretty big to use the shells (about 6″x5″).

More Nonvolatile: MRAM

Freescale, the Austin, Texas-based spin off of Motorola’s semiconductor business, announced their MR2A16A chip, which the company says is the first commercial MRAM, or Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory, device.

MRAM is faster than most other types of computer memory; Freescale’s chip promises to read or write data in 35 nanoseconds. MRAM is also nonvolatile. In MRAM, a tiny magnetic field is created inside a memory cell on a chip. The computer then measures the electrical resistance exhibited by the magnetic field at any given moment to determine whether the cell should be read as a “1” or a “0,” the binary building blocks of data.

Freescale’s MR2A16A chips, however, aren’t inexpensive. The 4-megabit part now shipping costs $25 at wholesale and is available in low volumes only.

Circuit Simulation without Spice

As you may know, I’m a big fan of simulation software including some online freebies and Linear’s LTCSpice which I’ve blogged about before. However, the Qucs project (http://qucs.sourceforge.net) has improved to the point that it is quite usable and really very slick. The program is made to run under Qt on Linux, but it will also run with Cygwin quite nicely.

Features include:

  • Simulation not done by Spice (but support for Spice net lists)
  • Analog and Digital simulation (with support for VHDL and with some wrangling, Verilog)
  • Command line simulator back end for use with other programs (Qucs uses a GUI)
  • S-Parameter, AC, DC, Transient, and noise analysis
  • Very powerful way to create graphs and charts
  • Filter and attenuator synthesis
  • Smith charts

The program is actively developed and more features are planned.

If you want a good idea of what it can do, look at this tutorial.

RF Prototypes with Foil

I’ve built a couple of transmitters using this technique. I bought 36 yards of 3/16″ MasterFoil Plus tape (made by VentureTape) for less than $5. This appears that it will last me for years. Don’t waste your money on the kind with the extra color backing. Get the cheap kind. You can get thinner foil, and I keep hoping to find time to try some with some ICs. The .1 inch lead spacing is too close for 3/16″. Let me know if you have any luck.

The picture, by the way, is a 40m crystal transmitter I built. I’ve also built a regenerative receiver this way, so — in theory — I could run an entire station on a shoebox.