Review: Electronics For Dummies book UK edition (paperback)

Introduction

Despite not being a networking book, the Electronics For Dummies book has helped me quench my thirst for knowledge and as it’s related to one of my goals for the year i.e. brushing up on my electronics skills, I thought it warranted a review.

Review

This is the second book from the For Dummies series that I have read from cover to cover. I can’t even remember what the first one was but I do know it was back in the early days of the series. I also recall, vaguely, that it was a very good read. I have since avoided the For Dummies series like the plague for two main reasons. Firstly, the quality varies massively from title to title. Some read like they were written by a dummy and fail miserably to inspire newbies to the subject. Secondly, and this ironically is nothing to be proud of, was my pride getting in the way. Who wants to admit to reading a book written for the total beginner in any subject? Of course, that point of view is utter nonsense. Some of the Dummies books are so well written that they take you to a fairly advanced level within a short period of time afforded by the page count. On top of that, diving in to a subject, whether for the first time or as a refresher, at too deep a level will most likely have a negative impact. At best, you’ll not grasp the subject matter as you should. At worst, you’ll lose interest completely and miss out on learning something new.

When I decided to get back in to electronics and expand upon the knowledge I had picked up as a giddy teenager with a soldering iron and a desire to try to repair every broken appliance and remove every component from those I could not fix, I bought a couple of books online and headed off to the local library (yes, how very old school!). A quick scan of the For Dummies book in my Amazon app showed it had a review score of 4.6\5  with 15 votes so I put the stigma to one side and booked it out.

Breakdown

The book is made up of four parts with a number of chapters in each. Each chapter builds nicely upon the knowledge bestowed by the previous ones.

Part one begins with an initial discussion of electronics and electricity in general and moves on to components, starting with resistors, capacitors, coils and crystals (not the ‘healing’ type), semiconductors, Integrated Circuits and others besides. Various critical equations and laws are given in this section such as the classic Ohm’s Law. Whilst I like to think I am comfortable with mathematics and electronics in general, I do feel that this section is presented, for the most part, in a very concise and understandable way with only a couple of places where I had a ‘flick through the last chapter in a panic’ moment.

Part two covers things like how to begin collating a good toolkit, the importance of safety when working with electricity, how to read schematics, how to make your own circuits and finally how to measure and analyse circuits with aforementioned toolkit.

Part three puts the rubber to the road and looks at how real circuits are put together and how to apply the knowledge gained up to this point to any circuits you run in to. It then has a number of projects for you to build yourself from scratch. This hands on approach rounds off the book nicely. As a network engineer, it is always the hands on labs that cements the knowledge that I gain from books and videos.

Part four is the standard ‘Part of Tens’ section that the For Dummies series has become well-known for.

The appendix at the end gives a number of Internet resources for those willing to expand their knowledge further.

Summary

Electronics For Dummies is an excellent introduction to the addictive world of electronics. It is written in a very readable style and keeps the pace nicely throughout. There are only a small handful of places where I got lost and had to read over the material again. I would recommend it for anybody in my situation, wanting to get back in to an old hobby or for a total beginner assuming that you don’t come out in hives when you hear the word ‘algebra’.

It has certainly given me the confidence to move on to the more advanced aforementioned books that I purchased with Xmas money and it will only be a matter of time before my Raspberry Pi gets brought in to the fray, perhaps with an Arduino to keep it company.

Now I’m off to build my first circuit.

Score

8.5\10 – recommended

Till the next time.

Edit: since writing the original review, I have noticed that at least one of the projects in chapter 14 has errors in the instructions, where the schematic and the physical breadboard picture\component list don’t match up. However, with a the vast number of projects available on the Internet, this barely detracts from an otherwise well written book.

Please let me know your thoughts!