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Customer Review

on August 25, 2003
I just recently finished reading this book. The motivation for reading this book was, ofcourse, to learn electronics, both analog and digital, and to ultimately be able to build out ideas that I have floating in my head for the last several years.
The cover of this book caught my eye, and flipping through the pages, I could tell the book was definitely not dry. But was it good? I looked up some of the reviews and all of them were positive from some more reputable sources: National Public Radio/ Car Audio and Electronics / Science News / Radio Electronics Magazine. So I decided to purchase the book.
This book introduces basic concepts of eletronics by use of analogies; imagery of little green men, chickens, and magicians to get his points across. Amdahl was impressed that his children could comprehend the entire Star Wars universe after watching the movie for 2 hours, and he figures he could do the same with electronics.
Usually the format goes, introduce a theory with the usual electron jargon, translate the jargon into a story about Greenies who want to party. Repeat a few times, then review the last few sections with a story about Greenies and electron jargon.
The concepts learned are pretty basic. It doesn't get into much detail, or formulas except for the two basic ones where a component is in series versus in parallel. Semi-conductors are covered.
The stories themselves are somewhat entertaining. And they help you *some what* remember the concepts you learned. Amdahl has borrowed a concept used by mnemonics.
However, the stories can be quite long. Some sections have five pages worth of stories to go through, and none of it has to do with electronics, or analogies. Just pure entertainment. I'd rather he just make analogies, and keep the narrative to the minimal. Remember, the more unusual, the better remembered, and to have a long narrative in a story helps make the bizarre imagery rational, thus losing it unusualness.
The stories themselves with the electronics makes this book -for me- worth 3 stars. What makes this book worth five stars is the following.
The book got me over my 'procrastination' hump and into learning electronics. I also liked the analogies and at times Amdahl pretty much comes out and says there are no really good analogies to electronics and everyday life. You'd be foolish to think that the dry textbooks know it all, and he gives some examples of how explanations in textbooks don't really make sense.
That's a big thing, because having forgotten the electronics I learned in highschool, I do remember knowing the rules and how to apply them, but feeling quite anxious about not understanding. which I felt hindered my remembering the subject. Remember, whatever the textbooks or physicists come up with, it is only a model of reality, a mental construct, which just so happens to be the best at the time, but can change.
I also liked the homemade gadgetry he introduces to people which I see lacking in many textbooks on the subject.
The repetitive nature of the concepts introduced along with regular 'review stories' helped to remember important concepts.
Finally, and most important of all, I like the inventive spirit the book seems to have. Kenn Amdahl manages to cultivate your imagination, definitely not something you'd find in other textbooks.
So the negatives of the book. I mentioned one. The stories could be too long at times. The imagery is not 'continuous' first it was green men, then chickens and ducks. The other major problem is that there is no index at the end of the book. There were a few times I wanted to look up a term, but couldn't remember where in the book I read it first.
For those that are impatient and need to learn electron theory fast, I don't recommend this book. It's not detailed enough and the jargon and concepts are not introduced fast enough. But if you are not in this category, this is a great book to start.
(Right now, I am reading as my second book 'electricity: a self teaching guide by Ralph Morrison. It's a good book so far.)
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