Practical Electronics for Inventors
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185 of 187 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
I teach an introductory class in electronics at a small university. The class is intended for scientists, not electrical engineers; so the emphasis is on basic knowledge, practical troubleshooting skills, and design. I've used the Second Edition of this book a number of times with some satisfaction simply because the book covered most of what I needed. It was a great reference book for just about anything someone would want to know about electronics.

However, there were some notable gaps in the Second Edition that I typically teach in an electronics class; specifically, I teach a section on transducers and microcontrollers. With the Third Edition, there are new sections on sensors (transducers) and microcontrollers, and now this book has everything in it that I could possibly want to teach. I've been using the Arduino for class the last couple of years because most scientists would use a microcontroller to design a piece of equipment instead of discrete gates and logic chips. So with these new additions, I cannot imagine any other book that would be needed for a class. So from this point forward, I will be using this book for EVERY electronics class that I teach.

The detail in the book is in-depth enough for folks who want to know how everything works, BUT the person who wants to skip past the theory can certainly do that and STILL learn a lot from this book. As I teach, I tend to skip around within the book to cover what is important to me. The chapters are designed to be somewhat modular; for instance, I can teach the basics of analog electronics and transistors and then move to microcontrollers without necessarily having to spend a lot of time time on discrete logic chips.

There are lots of illustrations and graphs; so those who need to see something to understand it will be pleased. There is also a lot of detail on practical things like motors that generally are NOT in an electronics book.

The sections on household electricity are excellent and very useful, since some equipment/inventions would require mains power. So knowing how to be safe around it and how to use it properly is important.

I haven't read every single page yet and marked it up. In a book this size, I am sure there will be some typographical errors along the way and maybe even a mistake or two in explaining something. But I would still say this book is the BEST practical book on electronics out there. Kudos to Mr Scherz and Dr. Monk. You've taken an excellent book and modernized it in a great way for the current day.

In short, for a 1000 page book, anyone who buys this is getting a bargain. It's the BEST.
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246 of 259 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2013
This is a wonderful book--5 star content--but the tables and diagrams are essential to its usability. The Kindle version ruins it by providing low-resolution images that become unreadable if you try to enlarge them even just to their original size.

Buyers need to know the Kindle version is vastly inferior to the physical book. Amazon graciously allows a reversal of a Kindle purchase within 7 days. We reversed our purchase within the hour, but had we not immediately gone through the Kindle version and recognized the problem, we'd have wasted our money. Don't waste yours.
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108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2013
I've never been so humbled by a book. I've only read about 250 pages but felt compelled to put my 5 stars in.

Chapter 2 on Theory at 245 pages is worth the price of the book. Not content to tell you that a capacitor holds a charge, the authors give pictures of six types of capacitors along with their schematic representation, diagrams showing the open, charging and charged-but-not-charging state and another showing where the electrons are, formulae telling you what's going on in each of the diagrams and paragraphs describing how it works in theory. Then they move on to the real-world to include graphs showing the inductive and resistive elements that make a capacitor less like a capacitor. Then there are graphs showing how temperature affects the dielectric loss for six different types of capacitor. The variables (abbreviations) in the equations are defined, then described. You won't wonder what IR means. Concept after concept, component after component--the authors are relentless. Still, it's not dry--there's a point to all of it and you can skip the theoretical parts and just use the rest.

There's no condescension and no chit-chat. The authors are to be commended for skipping every useless story of how an inventor discovered an electrical principle or invented a particular component. The water analogy is sometimes used to illustrate WHAT a component does, but never to avoid telling you HOW something works. If the authors decide to tell you how something works, hold onto your hat! There will be sub-atomic physics. There will be line drawings with arrows going in several directions. You may see chemical equations. There will be equations and graphs and some calculus where needed. What you won't see is just as important--electrons will not be wearing clothing, be running around on cartoon legs, tilt in the direction of motion like car wheels in a Dr. Seuss book, be chased by any living creature and above all, a circuit that is not in a state of equilibrium will never be described as "unhappy."

They answer the questions that will come up when you're looking at a specification sheet for a particular component. Suppose you're buying an LED and it gives you a milliamp rating. The first thing this novice wonders is "what voltage?" Don't smirk, I'm new to this. On page 499, after a few pages explaining what makes an LED emit photons at different frequencies, you're told that the anode needs 0.6 to 2.2 V more than the cathode to shine. Reversed leads won't shine. I'm pretty happy, but the authors won't stop. They have an illustration of the pn junction with photons jumping off like fleas along with a sentence or two about the epoxy package that forms a lens and holds the reflector that is designed to dissipate heat. But wait, there's more! There's the pin-out for a seven-segment LED display, the schematic symbols for the blinking, single, bi-color and tri-color LEDs. If that isn't enough, here are seven mounting schemes. You might not think to surface-mount an LED on your circuit board and embed a light pipe in your case. But once you see it, it's obvious that you don't want or need wires running from your circuit board to the case for every indicator light. Then you realize that in a pinch, the light pipe could just be a small glob of clear silicon caulk that will make your panel air-tight and simplify your assembly. Exactly what a hobbyist needs to know.

Another small consideration involves surviving your hobby. Pages 551-554 cover many things you might be tempted to disassemble that can kill you--a disposable flash camera, strobe lights, camera flash units, a microwave oven, a VCR, a CD player, a vacuum cleaner, toaster, old CRTs and CRT-based TVs. I didn't know the microwave has a 5000 V circuit...that the chassis of a microwave, TV or CRT monitor may be electrically live versus earth ground. That a camera flash or strobe light (among other devices) holds a lethal charge "long after the power has been removed." The authors explain how one might avoid the "grip of death." Nice.

Did I mention the authors are relentless? I will dip into the book at random pages:

10: Illustration of alkaline dry cell battery. Includes the chemical composition of the cathode and anode, the electrolyte, the chemical reactions that create the current (noting the waste product) and a caption reading "10^17 reactions per second for 0.100A current" An arrow shows the direction of the electron flow.
18: Eight one-battery and two-battery schematics with a quick quiz--what is the voltage between points A and B? It moves on to an eight-battery example. Includes answer keys.
52: Power loss through resistors. Includes two graphs, formulas and four worked examples.
56: An IC needs 5 V but the supply voltage is higher. Here's a voltage divider.
70: Kirshhoff's Voltage Law (or Loop Rule)
82: pulsating DC and combining AC and DC voltages
96: the leakage current of a capacitor.
223: transients caused by a switch being thrown
254: chart of bare and enamelled copper wire resistance, every wire from AWG 1 to 37.
265: finding the impedance of RG-58/U coax cable
287: selecting the right battery (15 battery types times 37 attributes like form factor and what they're good for)
293: binary-coded switches--what pins are connected when the switch is rotated to the "B" position in a hexadecimal (16-position) switch
363: Types of Inductors--line drawing of 17 different types of inductors
327: RC Time Constant
393: what's going on inside the center-tap transformer on the utility pole outside your house (7,200 VAC to two 120 VAC / one 240 VAC)
581: "What All the Little Knobs and Switches Do" (an introduction to the oscilloscope control panel)

By now I'm thinking I know so little, maybe I'm easily impressed. So I skip to the page about the Arduino hobby board. Bam! A chart describes Arduino library functions including the millis() function that returns the elapsed time since the board was reset. It's a 32-bit counter in milliseconds that will wrap back to zero--get this--in about 50 days. They knew I would have to do the math--2 raised to the 32nd power divided by 1000 milliseconds per second divided by 60 seconds per minutes, etc...and gave me what I wanted to know. Bravo!

The authors serve the hobbyist by including some brand names and component numbers, since you're going to be looking for this stuff at Digi-Key or Radio Shack. One electronics book I have assumes that I'm familiar with the 555 timer chip since they're so cheap and common. Well that doesn't mean I know how to choose one! This books helps. You get pin-outs for the single (555), dual (556) and quad (558) versions. There's a chart of distinguishing features within the chip families. Then it mentions the capacitor you'll need to avoid false triggering. But you want to time something. To get you started, the authors include a schematic of a simple delay timer, an LED/lamp flasher and a metronome.

Lastly, the layout has plenty of white space around diagrams and the type is perfect. I could keep going, but you need to use the Amazon "look inside" to see for yourself. Usually when I see something at Amazon for almost half of what I paid at retail, I'm a little upset. Not here. It's worth every penny of its list price.
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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
I had a couple of electronics classes as part of my bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. We learned Kirkhoff's rules and how to solve node mesh equations. The results were numbers though, not practical circuits. This book show how to use transistors, gates, op amps and microcontrollers. If you want to build a little circuit to run a robot or a sprinker system, you need to understand a few simple things like input/output impedances so that you don't put more current though a device than it can handle. This book gives you this kind of understanding. It gives you what you need to turn datasheets into useful roadmaps for your projects... not a just set of numbers or equations but something that blinks, moves, or displays information.

The other great book for me was "Art of Electronics" by Horowitz. With these two books and a few hundred hours or so making gadgets, you can be reasonably adept. Maybe not an electrical engineer, but well able to make basic robots, 3D printers and things like that. That's about where I am now, and while I thumbed through a lot of others as well, it was these two books that helped me the most.
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50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2013
Kindle edition buyers beware! The book content might be excellent but it's nearly useless on kindle e-readers because the charts are microscopic and the equations are dim and invisible! There is also no way you can make them larger! No, you can't view them on your PC either!

Just giving You guys warning that the Kindle readers are obviously still not ready for technical or other practical reference books!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2013
Having two editions of this book, the 2000 edition originally by Paul Scherz, and the 2013 one with Simon Monk. It is easy to see the difference between them.

The 2nd edition of this book although a bit dated was much easier to read through than this 3rd edition. This edition seems to be bombarded with technical terms. The order of things in this one is also a bit nonsense. In the beginning they have a question involving resistivity of a certain gauge wire pages before they even discuss what gauge wires are. So obviously an absolute beginner has no idea the number of the wire affects the cross sectional area and therefore is lost in a sea of calculations that have no explanation. We then learn all sorts of things about lattice structures and the flow of electrons in semiconductors pages before we even learn what simple series and parallel circuits are. Ridiculous!

When we finally get to some basic concepts like kirchoff's law, the way the author chooses to introduce it is by showing an overly complicated application of it that involves inductors and capacitors pages before we are even formally introduced to them. Contrast this to the 2nd edition pre Monk which shows us how to use kirchoff's laws in a much simpler and beginner friendly way.

Definitely would not suggest this 3rd edition that discusses properties of Quantum physics(and even acknowledges some things should be skipped) in the first few pages to absolute beginners. I could see it as a reference or for people who are already experienced with electronics. Not a good textbook though because there are too few questions in there to practice from. If you're a self learner I think it would be best to use this book(3rd edition) as the occasional reference/supplement.

There was clearly a shift in the target reader base between this edition and the previous pre Monk one. Paul Scherz's 2nd edition could be read by a complete beginner to circuits looking to learn, Simon Monk's edit can only really be recommended to people who have previous experience in the world of electronics. The 3rd edition is a contradiction to the original goals of the 2nd edition, in which Paul Scherz in the preface states, that a lot of electronic books throw technical formulas and theory at the reader before first giving them a practical understanding and that this book would be more focused towards intuitive understanding.

The only reason I chose to stick with the 3rd edition over the 2nd is that the 3rd edition is more updated and has useful information on micro controllers and other technology that wasn't as developed 13 years ago when the 2nd edition came out.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2014
My goal in reading this book was to learn enough circuit design to debug circuits with my children as they have started to do soldering kits, and to do some basic circuit design to interface with microcontrollers. I tried to learn something about electronic circuit design as a child, but between learning poorly and forgetting much of what I did learn, I needed the help.

I was a bit disgruntled to find that the extensive errata compiled by Martin Ligare for the second edition seem largely (or entirely?) ignored for the third edition. I first doubted myself when some of the math didn't seem quite right as I worked through the theory chapter (a significant portion of the book). But when I saw 3.18 used as an approximation for pi, and discovered that it wasn't just a typo but was included in the following worked-out equations giving wrong values, it made me start doubting the math generally.

The fact that I hit this early, on page 33, caused me to start working the examples through, which no doubt contributed to enhanced understanding. It meant I noticed when they substituted silver for copper when demonstrating how to calculate heat transfer (page 37). I noticed the arithmetic mistakes on page 60 that make the entire page full of calculations simply wrong. And so forth... But my calculus is somewhat rusty from disuse, and being able to trust neither my skill nor the text made the descriptions of AC theory rather harder to internalize. Every time I look at an equation, I have to ask whether it makes sense first, before I can try to learn the point the authors are trying to make. This breaks the flow of learning.

They talk, rather condescendingly, about "scary math" early in the book. Perhaps they should have taken their own fear to heart and sought review.

Overall, the treatment is very uneven. Some things are explained well, some things very poorly. It's probably a workable lab text where an instructor can smooth over the rough places and supplement as needed. As a single text for the independent reader (notionally the target audience) it did not satisfy me.

If I were grading this book as homework, I'd give it a grade of "redo". There's way too much good stuff, whole sections of lucid explanation that I'm glad I read, to just give it a failing grade. But there's way too much carelessness (uncorrected, it seems, across three editions) in math, and rather disorganized presentation, to give it a passing grade either.

Overall, Wayne Storr's "Basic Electronics Tutorials Site" has been more consistent in quality and often clearer in exposition. It gives me an impression of more complete explanation with less verbage. And I'm guessing that even though it hasn't been updated since 1989 (as of this writing), I'm likely to invest in Horowitz's "The Art of Electronics" rather than spend much more time reading Practical Electronics for Inventors. Maybe some of the newer content added to the third edition will be more useful after learning more from other sources.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2013
I read other reviews and think they are overcritical. For those who already know the basics about electronics they may find the beginning a little slow - but just the beginning. It is designed to start at ground floor electronically speaking and take the reader (by illustrations and circuit examples) to an advanced and deep understanding of electronics. Hate math? No problem you can ignore the calculations. Like to know more electronic theory? The calculations/formulas are explained and derived to walk you through how to apply them from one situation to the next. I think this book is perfect for both beginners wanting to lean more about electronics, as well as for more advanced people who want to go back and understand electronics at a deeper level. I see myself re-reading portions of this book and each time gaining a deeper understanding of electronics.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2013
I am very pleased with "Practical Electronics for Inventors, Third Edition." I own many books on the topic of electronics and this is one of the best. I am a hobbyist and have found the book to be an essential resource. From my perspective, the author provides a perfect balance of theory and practical application. The book would likely overwhelm a beginner, but it would be a good choice as a second or third book after reading something like Mims' "Getting Started In Electronics" and perhaps one of the "Dummies" series books on electronics.

A detailed index allows me to use the text like an encyclopedia. For example, in the past week I looked up RMS voltage, switch debouncing, a circuit for an electret microphone, LCDs, and capacitive sensors, and I found useful information relating to each of the topics. I don't think you will find another book that is as thorough, yet the content is still accessible to those of us who have not studied electronics at a college or university.

I highly recommend the book!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
If I hadn't looked at this book in a store, I never would have bought it. I thought at first that it would be a scattered collection of circuits with minimal, if any explanation. I was so wrong! Actually the book is very long on theory. It would help to understand the theory if you've had a year of calculus, or better yet a physics course that required basic calculus. But the higher math is used to derive the algebraic expressions you will use to design circuits. Yes, design circuits from ground up. Those expressions are all you need. You definitely want to read the book from the beginning if you want to understand thoroughly. Something you won't find much of in other basic electronics books is discussions of the manufacture and the advantages and disadvantages of the different kinds of capacitors and resistors. You will never go back to buying any old carbon composite resistor or mylar capacitor without some thought once you have read these sections. The treatment is not as thorough as Horowitz and Hill, but that text is somewhat out-of-date by now. Practical Electronics for Inventors covers microcontrollers like Arduino. There are solved problems in the text. Many concepts are explained using simple hydraulic metaphors.
I'd give it 5 stars but for its atrocious lapses editing. It's loaded with math mistakes and mislabelled graphs, table columns and part numbers, so if you think you might not be understanding some point, ask yourself if it would make sense if a minor entry was changed. In such cases, the fault may not be yours. Still, the reader trying to understand new technical material should not have to waste their time this way.
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