electrical engineering for dummies

Discussion in 'Community' started by sonofslim, Nov 20, 2003.

  1. sonofslim macrumors 6502a


    Jun 6, 2003
    so i'm reading Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold, which is an amazing book. he starts off with a simple explanation of the telegraph relay, and from there builds in tiny steps: simple circuits to logic gates to integrated circuits to memory storage to opcodes to assembly language and on and on, and in the end he's done a fairly fantastic job of conveying just what it is computers actually do when they do stuff. like, i can describe a circuit that stores data and i know how you'd string a bunch of logic gates together to get there.

    anyway, it's inspired me to go out and build a few logic gates of my own, maybe put together a small binary adding machine, just to see if i can do it. here's the problem: while i understand this stuff in principal, i have exactly zero idea of how to start physically connecting relays and lightbulbs and whatnot.

    does anyone know of some sort of electrical engineering hobby kit? i know my dad had one when he was a kid, but i've never seen anything like that myself. (maybe there's some software simulator these days?) essentially, that's what i want: electrical engineering for kids. as in, here's everything you need to get started in one box, with plenty of simply-worded instructions and little chance of self-electrocution.

    any hobbyists or engineers out there who could point me in the right direction?
  2. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Nov 1, 2001
    I remember going to radio shack and getting kits to build all sorts of things when I was little. I'm sure they have everything you need there....

    Good luck and post pics of your project when you finish :D

  3. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc
    try to check your local university book store or engineering department. most of the engineering schools i know have kits for the students to buy when they take their first electrical course. it would have all the bread boards, capacitors, inductors, etc.... that you would need.
  4. stcanard macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2003
    I've been very disappointed in Radio Shack lately. They appear to be moving out of the components business and moving into retail electronics.

    None of the RS stores around me even stock resistors anymore! They expect you to go on-line and wait a week to order a 50c piece instead.

    Fortunately I know where the real "toy" store in my area is :)
  5. Tim Flynn macrumors regular

    Jan 9, 2003
  6. sonofslim thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 6, 2003
    well, it's obvious i've got a ways to go. to me, that sentence might as well read "all the flinflons, bodonkanators, destructicons, etc...."

    but i did remember this: when i was young, i had a game for the IIc (booyah! old-school cred!) called "Rocky's Boots." in it, you played a raccoon and you had to run around and collect a bunch of logic gates, then assemble them to perform certain tasks. it was pretty cool, if i recall; all the logic gates looked like their engineering symbols, and different colors were used for on/off states, so you could watch the electricity "flow" through your circuits.

    i'm off to look for a ROM -- maybe i'll fire up the emulator and give it a go!
  7. sonofslim thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 6, 2003
    ideally, i'd be able to build one entirely out of individual relays -- no pre-built gates. but if i can't find an appropriate kit, or if buying a ton of relays (an 8-bit adder would require no less than 144) would be too expensive, i'd be fine with software. either platform is fine, if anyone knows of any logic simulators. (um... something more complex than Rocky's Boots. which can be found here if you're curious.)

    and thanks for the links! the first one looks like a pretty good place to start, at least in terms of getting to know my way around circuitry, although having one shipped from india sounds like a nightmare.

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