Electronics Explained. Fundamentals for Engineers, Technicians, and Makers

By: , Posted on: August 13, 2017

In this blog post we interview the author of Electronics Explained, 2nd Edition and ask him about his career, the second edition of his book and if he has any tips for budding electronics engineers.

Tell us about your career in engineering

I started out in electronics as a technician with an Associate degree from a technical institute. I built and tested engineering prototypes and repaired equipment. I went back to school and got my Bachelors degree then worked as a design engineer of electronic equipment for geophysical oil exploration then aerospace telemetry. I also worked on mainframe computers as well as analog computers. Later I did digital design of a computer kit and ended up at Heathkit where I worked on educational trainers and the first of Heath’s personal computer kits. Since then I have designed a number of wireless systems. Today I am a contributing editor for Electronic Design magazine where I write articles, blogs, and ebooks. And I also write a column for the hobbyist magazine Nuts & Volts.

What tips can you give to budding electronics engineers and enthusiasts?

Two things really helped my career. First take up electronics as a hobby. I did that early on by becoming a ham radio operator (Currently W5LEF). It gets you involved with the equipment, circuits and their application. It is usually very complementary to your job.

Second, keep learning. Electronics technology changes daily. If you don’t keep yourself up to date, you will quickly become obsolete. Read books and magazines, attend webinars, go to conferences, take courses, get an advanced degree, participate in the online course movement, or whatever, but do something, continuously.

Your book Electronics Explained was successful in its first edition. Can you sum up the approach of the book which has made it appealing?

The book is different in two ways from other basic electronic books. First it takes a systems view of electronics rather than the more traditional circuit approach. Thanks to ever larger integrated circuits, electronic circuits are where you cannot see them, work with them, troubleshoot or repair them. Equipment is smaller and more complex. Engineers, techs and others work at the block diagram systems level in design, troubleshooting and testing. The book features more block diagram signal flow how-it-works discussions rather than circuit details. Yes, the basic principles and circuits are still covered but not in the depth other books present.

Second, the book covers all the types of major electronic equipment. Audio, video, wireless, industrial, and others. Most other books do not cover these specialties.

Why does this book appeal to Makers?

Most makers are not engineers.   They basically do not design. They work at a systems level and dive into the circuits only as they have to. They want basic circuits that are proven to work. The book gives enough information on circuit details but also covers how to view their project from the systems level. It is more like the real world today. So many other basic electronics books teach the history of electronics rather than addressing it as it now is. Makers can still learn electronics from this book but with a contemporary rather than a historical view. And practical proven working circuits are given for makers to copy and use.

What is new to the second edition and why is the new content important?

The new edition updates all of the technology chapters. A considerable amount of change occurred in the years since initial publication. A good example is the chapter on cell phones. Major upgrades and new technologies came along to produce the smartphones we know today. The current LTE phones and forthcoming 5G phones are discussed. Lots of new stuff was added like the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, new wireless standards, and others.

The most important changes in this new version is that it has more hands-on projects. In addition, it expands the coverage of microcontrollers. Every electronic device today has an embedded controller so it is essential that you learn this technology. A new chapter on programming was added with some hands-on projects on the Arduino, BASIC Stamp and PIC development products.

For engineers and technicians wanting to keep their skill set appropriate for the future, what advice would you give them?

As I mentioned earlier, keep learning. Reading books and magazines and internet searches is the core of the process today but do try to take in webinars, visit vendor websites, and experiment on your own. Commit some time and money, it is that important. Electronic technology changes and evolves perpetually so don’t get left behind.

Another success tactic is to become a specialist in a needed subject. Focus, specialize and dig deep to become a guru in your field. Just be sure the subject will not go away in the coming years. Examples are power supply design, video, and antennas.

Can you explain why someone would like or need to learn about electronics?

Great question. In case you haven’t noticed, electronics virtually dominates our lives. We can’t put our smartphones down, we sit in front of a computer all day at work, we watch TV at night, we continuously engage in social media and do internet searches. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are common terms and voice recognition products are the hot electronic item. Homes and automobiles are using more electronics. My belief is that since electronics is so prevalent, we should learn more about it. You may want to learn more as it helps you understand its operation, buy, use and troubleshoot your own equipment. There are lots of basic electronic books out there, but mine has the consumer and hobbyist in mind with that objective. It is also a great reference for non-electronic engineers and technicians. If your budget restricts you to one book on electronics this year, choose mine as it is clearly the best value, since it provides the most information per dollar (pound, euro, etc).

About the author

Louis E. Frenzel Jr. has been a Technology Editor with Electronic Design magazine since 2000 and covers the wireless, communications, and networking and test/measurement fields Lou has over 30 years of electronic industry experience as an engineer in the geophysical, aerospace and computer fields. Prior to joining ED he was a college professor teaching electronics and semiconductor manufacturing and working on several NSF grants. He holds bachelors and masters degrees and is author of 21 books on communications, computers and electronics.

Electronics Explained

electronics explained

  • Learn about the basic components of electronics such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, transformers, diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits
  • Discover different types of circuits, using the functional block diagram approach which makes it easy to understand their purpose and application
  • Get involved with Hands-On projects in each chapter, using components and ICs with the breadboarding socket

The book is available now on ScienceDirect. Want your own copy? Save up to 30%, enter STC317 when you order on Elsevier.com

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Electronics and electrical engineering have practically limitless applications. From power engineering, telecommunications, and consumer electronics to circuit design, computer engineering, and embedded systems, these disciplines form the backbone of our increasingly tech-dependent world. Elsevier’s collection of electronics and electrical engineering content — particularly our Newnes and Academic Press Imprints — encompasses these areas and more. Our books and journals provide fundamental knowledge and practical, up-to-date toolkits for professional engineers and technicians, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and electronics enthusiasts.