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Make: Electronics (Learning by Discovery) [Paperback]

by Charles Platt
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 20, 2009 0596153740 978-0596153748 1st

"This is teaching at its best!"

--Hans Camenzind, inventor of the 555 timer (the world's most successful integrated circuit), and author of Much Ado About Almost Nothing: Man's Encounter with the Electron (

"A fabulous book: well written, well paced, fun, and informative. I also love the sense of humor. It's very good at disarming the fear. And it's gorgeous. I'll be recommending this book highly."

--Tom Igoe, author of Physical Computing and Making Things Talk

Want to learn the fundamentals of electronics in a fun, hands-on way? With Make: Electronics, you'll start working on real projects as soon as you crack open the book. Explore all of the key components and essential principles through a series of fascinating experiments. You'll build the circuits first, then learn the theory behind them!

Build working devices, from simple to complex You'll start with the basics and then move on to more complicated projects. Go from switching circuits to integrated circuits, and from simple alarms to programmable microcontrollers. Step-by-step instructions and more than 500 full-color photographs and illustrations will help you use -- and understand -- electronics concepts and techniques.

  • Discover by breaking things: experiment with components and learn from failure
  • Set up a tricked-out project space: make a work area at home, equipped with the tools and parts you'll need
  • Learn about key electronic components and their functions within a circuit
  • Create an intrusion alarm, holiday lights, wearable electronic jewelry, audio processors, a reflex tester, and a combination lock
  • Build an autonomous robot cart that can sense its environment and avoid obstacles
  • Get clear, easy-to-understand explanations of what you're doing and why

Frequently Bought Together

Make: Electronics (Learning by Discovery) + Practical Electronics for Inventors, Third Edition + Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1: Resistors, Capacitors, Inductors, Switches, Encoders, Relays, Transistors
Price for all three: $58.94

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Burn things out, mess things up-that's how you learn.

About the Author

Charles Platt became interested in computers when he acquired an Ohio Scientific C4P in 1979. After writing and selling software by mail order, he taught classes in BASIC programming, MS-DOS, and subsequently Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. He wrote five computer books during the 1980s.

He has also written science fiction novels such as The Silicon Man (published originally by Wired books) and Protektor (from Avon Books). He stopped writing science fiction when he started contributing to Wired magazine in 1993, and became one of its three senior writers a couple of years later.

Charles began contributing to Make magazine in its third issue and is currently a contributing editor. Make: Electronics is his first book for Make Books. Currently he is designing and building prototypes of medical equipment in his workshop in a northern Arizona wilderness area.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Make; 1st edition (December 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596153740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596153748
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Platt is a Contributing Editor and regular columnist for Make magazine, where he writes about electronics. He is the author of the highly successful introductory hands-on book, Make:Electronics, and is writing a sequel to that book in addition to volumes 2 and 3 of the Encyclopedia of Electronic Components, which was published in the Fall of 2012.

Platt was a Senior Writer for Wired magazine, and has written various computer books. As a prototype designer, he created semi-automated rapid cooling devices with medical applications, and air-deployable equipment for first responders. He was the sole author of four mathematical-graphics software packages, and has been fascinated by electronics since he put together a telephone answering machine from a tape recorder and military-surplus relays at age 15. He lives in a Northern Arizona wilderness area, where he has his own workshop for prototype fabrication and projects that he writes about for Make magazine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
191 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Beginner Book for Hobbyists/Beginners/Makers December 17, 2009
I recommend this book strongly for anyone just starting out in electronics. Many other books introduce the subject of electronics by talking about the early discoveries concerning amber rods, Leyden jars, and static electricity. This book dives right in using parts that you can pick up at a local Radio Shack, or can easily order on-line. And it uses a fun almost playful approach to experimentation. Your first experiment involves touching a battery to your tongue! Man, that will either annoy you into quitting or completely intrigue you into learning more. My bet is it will spark (pun intended) your interest and excitement as it leaves you with a funny metallic taste.

This is exactly the hands-on approach that I was looking for to teach my son. Something that he can read on his own, or read with me. Easy experimentation, clear steps, good photography. No wondering if any of the experiments will fail because they were written only/mainly to think about. These were all written to be DONE by the reader. Getting into the nitty-gritty of learning is easy when you can actively experiment as you learn.

Highly recommended as a modern first book for electronics.

Edited: Added in the comments section that I keep buying copies of this book to give away...
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95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't say enough good things about this book! I learned more in the first 20 minutes with this book than I did after pouring through several other "electronics basics" books for countless hours.

Instead of starting with math and theory and circuit analysis, this book uses hands on exercises and explains the theories in very easy to understand language and metaphors. But, it still does then circle back to explain the math and theory upon which the practical examples are based.

I'm only about 1/3rd of the way through the book and projects, but I'm excited to get to the point of using IC's. I've browsed ahead enough to be confident that I'm going to be able to put execute on these projects and then put this knowledge to good use.

I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to do some tinkering with electronics of any sort. Personally, I'm experimenting with data acquisition systems in a race car, and I'd like to be able to create and wire up my own sensors instead of being limited to the plug-and-play variety that are very expensive. I believe that this book will get me enough of the basics so that I can tackle these projects. Or, at the very least, I'll be able to intelligently engage my EE friends for help!
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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Experimenter's Guide To Modern Electronics December 15, 2009
Charles Platt is a widely published science fiction author, electronics and bioscience consultant and superior educator. This is a guidebook to Electronics worthy of Heathkit in its glory days. It offers a completely hands-on and hands dirty approach including examining and pushing components beyond their limits, and assembling and testing all of the topics you study in the handbook. The pedagogy is clear and succinct. Beautiful full-color illustrations show you how to do "it" and to fully know what to expect on your workbench. Because all concepts are conveyed in this excellent hands-on experimental approach some topics are presented in a different order than that experienced with a conventional introductory electronics textbook. For example, wave shaping based upon 555-timer pulses is fully illustrated, as well as the digital electronics necessary to construct electronic dice, and to experiment with microcontrollers, but operational amplifiers and active filters are omitted in this experimental handbook.

This is a superb introduction to electronics, which will provide the conceptual and experimental bench skills to yield a lifetime of enjoyment.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best electronics primer I have ever read March 1, 2010
O'Reilly has been churning out technical literature of unbeatable quality for as long as there has been a real IT industry. In recent years, they have branched into hobbyist and educational material, particularly including the Make series of periodicals and books that has not only reignited numerous hobbyist markets but also spawned its own set of conferences, the Maker Faires. DIY is enjoying a renaissance, and Make is at the forefront. I love pretty much everything about Make, but one of the most recent books under the Make brand exceeds even the high bar they have already set for themselves. I am referring to Charles Platt's Make:Electronics, which I have finally managed to pry from my 12-year-old's eyeballs long enough to review.

I was sort of obsessed with electronics when I was a kid. I read anything I could get my hands on, which unfortunately ended up being the Radio Shack catalog and a set of musty library books that seemed as though they were written in a foreign language. I pored over schematics and took things apart, much to my parents' dismay, in a vain effort to figure out just what made all those wires and components tick. I would have to say that, overall, I failed. I did manage to occasionally fix broken radios and such, but it was always by luck in finding a loose connection or a physically broken component. I simply didn't understand what all the little pieces did individually, so it was impossible to fathom what they did in concert.

Eventually I turned 16 and migrated to cars, which had actual moving parts, but a little part of me always pined to know how the solid state stuff worked.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good refresh, primer
Getting ready to build a few fun projects and needed to brush up a bit.
It's been a while.
First a Nixie Tube Clock then onto somthin' really cool!
Published 12 days ago by Ed Cerrato
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a book. An incredibly simple introduction to complex...
An incredible manual which easily and effectively communicates the ideas of electronics to the masses! Read more
Published 20 days ago by Shahul
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Challenging for me a beginner but well explained. It is like a workbook for a fun course. A couple of projects have had me very focused and in troubleshooting mode, but I have... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nathan Sauer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great place to start!
This is the perfect book for beginners wanting to get into electronics. It lets you learn by doing. You'll destroy some stuff in the process but that is part of the learning... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David W Blankley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product! This is something that quality is a must and it was...
Great product! This is something that quality is a must and it was provided. Will buy again! Right price, fast service!
Published 1 month ago by Peter Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars The author is genius
I would like to see my professors having the same skill of explanation. I never thought the basics of electronics could be described in so simple way. Very impressive! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Yahor Shumski
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it, and so do my kids
I'm trying to get my kids interested in electronics. They didn't love the book that came with our radioshack starter kit, but they did love this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by T. Golisch
5.0 out of 5 stars Man, I've got a lot of tech books but this is one of the very best!
The work, thought and design of this book is exceptional. It's also very descriptive and informative, but very readable at the same time. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jake Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Good starting place
As a retired experimental physicist I know electronics from a theoretical perspective, but I wanted advice on practical matters like how to solder components in a circuit board. Read more
Published 2 months ago by luckymr
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
I started from zero. I could not tell a diode from a resistor; nor knew the difference between a relay, transistor or PUT. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Manish Gupta
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Topic From this Discussion
question about project 11 - controlling sound using oscillators
Just a thought, since I can't seem to view page 91 online (although the reviews make me want to buy the book regardless!)...

Your essential concept is a good one, being how many an ingenious device was genesized (huh?), and loosely describes how synthesizers in general work, except that you... Read more
Sep 28, 2010 by Kenneth Ogle |  See all 3 posts
Age, Parts, Date
I enjoyed it and I'm much older than 20.
Feb 4, 2010 by HyperNerd |  See all 4 posts
Tools and Parts Required?
Go to to purchase the kits for the book. They come in 2 kits, kit1 experiments 1-11 is $100 and kit2 experiments 12-24 is $130
Sep 3, 2010 by Tasha |  See all 3 posts
Can I use this radio shack kit with the book?
I am also interested in this question. sells this:

but Radio Shack sells this:

The Radio Shack one is cheaper, but with Maker... Read more
Dec 15, 2013 by Joe Shippert |  See all 6 posts
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