Book tells you not only how to use components, but what can go wrong when you do

November 11, 2012 Dan KB6NU

Encyclopedia of Electronic Components – Volume 1
By Charles Platt
O’Reilly Media, 2012, 278 pages.

The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components is the latest from Make: magazine, part of the O’Reilly empire. Like all of their publications, this book is well-written, well-illustrated, and if you’re just getting started in amateur radio or electronics, it would make a great addition to your library.

The nice thing about this book is that it not only talks about what a component does and show you the schematic symbol for a particular type of component, it also talks about typical applications for a component and what can go wrong with that type of component. Let’s compare how the 2005 ARRL Handbook (the latest version that I have) discusses resistors  with how The Encyclopedia covers resistors.

The 2005 Handbook devotes about a page and a half total to resistors, including:

  • four paragraphs on the fundamentals of resistance in the chapter Electric Fundamentals,
  • twelve paragraphs on different resistor types in the chapter  Real World Component Characteristics, and
  • a half page on resistor markings in the chapter Component Data and References.

It’s also very chintzy with illustrations. I only count one chart and one drawing.

The Encyclopedia, on the other hand, devotes an entire chapter to resistors, with 17 illustrations and two charts. The chapter not only covers theory, but also discusses practical applications, including how they’re used to limit current, bias a transistor, and pull up or pull down voltages in a digital logic circuit.

I also love the “What Can Go Wrong” section. This section describes how resistors can overheat, introduce noise into a circuit, and how tolerances can affect circuit operation. The book takes this approach to discussing a wide variety of electronic components, including batteries, switches, relays, encoders, capacitors, motors, and semiconductor devices, so no matter what kind of electronics you’re hacking, this book has some good info for you.

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