When I was one of the editors at Make: Books, one of the projects I was proudest to have helped conceive of and edit was Charles Platt’s Make: Electronics (which has now been a best-seller for years). Growing up being absurdly visual and suffering from mild dyslexia, I found it incredibly difficult to learn electronics using the books of the day. They were usually very poorly written, with bad editing, dark and dreary photos, and crude diagrams. Forrest Mims’ 1983 Getting Started in Electronics, beautifully hand-drawn on graph paper, with succinct and clear text and playful examples, was a revelation to me.
For Make: Electronics we wanted to create a Getting Started for the early 21st century – well-written, beautifully photographed and illustrated, and in high-quality, full-color. Charles Platt and Make: delivered on that promise, in spades, with Make: Electronics and its follow-up volume, Make: More Electronics. And Charles continues to knock it out of the park with Encyclopedia of Electronic Components, currently in two volumes, with a third on the way. Volume 1 covers batteries, power supplies, motors, resistors, capacitors, inductors, switches, encoders, relays, diodes, transistors, and more. Each entry describes what it does, how it works, variants on the component, how to use it, and what can go wrong with it. Each entry is illustrated with well-shot photos (the components are shot on a graph paper background, so you can get some idea of their size), charts and graphs, and cut-away diagrams. The writing is very approachable while not shying away from technical rigor. These are fun books for picking up and scanning a component listing to learn more about the component, its variants, applications, and how it might fail. And, the books are an invaluable reference if you’re working on a project and want to gain a deeper understanding of the specific components you’re working with.
Volume 2, subtitled Signal Processing, covers LEDs, LCDs, audio, amplification, digital logic, and more. The two books together cover a lot of the common components you encounter in most basic-to-intermediate electronics work. Volume 3 (available now for pre-order) will fill in the one major missing component class – all manner of sensors.
I cannot imagine what it’s like to be growing up today with an interest in electronics and DIY high-technology. Smartly written, visual, and well-produced books like the Make: Electronics series and these Encyclopedia of Electronic Components volumes open up the world of electrical engineering and high-tech tinkering to a wider audience than ever before. – Gareth Branwyn
[Video Link] Amanda Wozniak hosts the latest Circuit Playground video, which is about the diode, a common and useful electronic component.
Circuit Playground is a cute and informative video series created to teach kids (and everyone else) about electronics. The videos are based on the A-Z coloring book that Adafruit Industries published last year. So far, they've released 3 episodes: A is for Ampere, B is for Battery, and the latest, C is for Capacitor. I learned quite a bit by watching them.
Joshua Lifton is one of the founders of Crowd Supply, a company that crowdfunds around products. They take a very different approach to preparation, funding, and follow-up than Kickstarter. Kickstarter just announced that it had crossed $1bn in pledges in its five-year lifetime. Of that, it's disbursed nearly $850m. It's on track to facilitate perhaps half a billion in 2014 alone.The name Kickstarter may be used interchangeably with the term crowdfunding, and it is the 800 lb. gorilla in the space. (Watch out for the shipping charges on that gorilla, especially internationally.) But in its wake, hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised from all sorts of other sites which fill in important aspects of ecosystem, and Crowd Supply is one of them.
This episode is sponsored by:
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Mailchimp helps more than five million people and businesses around the world use MailChimp to send email newsletters. They sent 70 billion messages on their behalf in 2013! They also have hats for cats and small dogs.
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Phil Torrone from Adafruit sez, "Collin's Lab: Multimeters! The multimeter is your greatest ally when working with electronics. Learn how to measure voltage, resistance, current, & continuity - as well as which meter works best for specific tasks. Here are the previous episodes."
Joel Murphy (co-creator of the nifty PulseSensor, an Arduino sensor that detects pulse) teamed up with Conor Russomanno to create the OpenBCI, a Bluetooth-enabled, Arduino-compatible, 8-channel EEG platform that gives you access to high-quality, raw EEG data. What can you do with it? Biofeedback, DIY sleep research, creating art, controlling systems, and more.
Huawei, the Chinese electronics giant that was accused of being "a security risk" in a paper by the House Intelligence Committee (its chair, Mike Rogers [R-MI], said "find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers' privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America") has come out swinging in a new cybersecurity paper.
In the paper's foreword, the company's deputy chair Ken Hu writes:
[Huawei] never received any instructions or requests from any government or their agencies to change our positions, policies, procedures, hardware, software or employment practices or anything else, other than suggestions to improve our end-to-end cyber security capability.
“We can confirm that we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any Government, or their agencies."
Unlike the companies that were on the target of the NSA and GCHQ's BULLRUN/EDGEHILL programs, which spent $250,000,000 a year to subvert security standards, and to convince western electronics companies to sabotage their own security.
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Autodesk Partners with Circuits.io to Create Free Electronics Design Tool
Autodesk today expanded its suite of free 3D tools by partnering with Circuits.io to launch an electronics design tool: 123D Circuits.
The program allows users to create virtual breadboard-based designs to build and experiment with circuits. A virtual Arduino board can be added to the design, and the code can be edited in a browser window and simulated. The code can also be edited collaboratively (“a Google Doc for electronics” Autodesk claims).
The program also provides hooks that allow users to have the virtual boards professionally manufactured.
MIT is rightfully proud of alumna Limor Fried, the superhero hardware hacker behind AdaFruit Industries, creators of fantastic DIY, open source electronics components and kits. We're proud of Limor too! From MIT News:
Apart from selling kits, original devices and providing hundreds of guides online, Adafruit works around the world with schools, teachers, libraries and hackerspaces — community technology labs — to promote STEM education, designing curricula in circuitry and electronics, among other initiatives."Meet the maker"
The company has released an online children’s show called “A is for Ampere.” On a weekly Saturday night program, “Ask an Engineer,” anyone can ask Fried questions online or show off their original devices.
One of Fried’s favorite stories, from a young viewer of “Ask an Engineer,” illuminates what she sees as the growing diversity of engineering. “A parent emailed us after watching the show with his daughter,” she says. “I had another engineer on the show with me — my friend Amanda — and this parent’s daughter asked, ‘Dad, are there boy engineers too?’”