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How to Get Into Hobby Electronics

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Newbie level 3
Jun 7, 2011
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Hello all,

I'm a 3rd year EE student trying to get into electronics as a hobby. My first problem though is I don't know what I need to buy. I bought a soldering kit, but what else do I need? I presume I need a power supply, DMM, LEDs etc., but are there any components in particular that I SHOULD have? Or is there a good online source that details components?

In particular, I'm wondering what I need to do for a power supply. Is it best just to buy one off Ebay, should I make my own with a step down transformer, or what? I don't really know what voltage levels are appropriate for DIY circuits, so I don't know what to look for.

Any help would be much appreciated!

Let's assume you bought everything someone tells you that you need: oscilloscope, signal generator, logic probe, LCR meter, etc. Then what will you have? Not a hobby, but a well-equipped display.

My advice: Think of something you want to do. Then, get started trying to do it. Get what you need as you go along. I am just a hobbyist and have collected quite a few toys and parts over the past decades. But, except for the soldering iron and voltmeter (DVM), nothing was bought before I "thought I might need it." Just ask my wife.


Get this, it's what I have.

Electronics Learning Lab -

If you want to learn Mirco-controllers get this,

Arduino - HomePage

or the cheaper ($5 USD) Texas instruments launch pad.

You should have at least have a bread board.

A fancy power source just gives you the purest DC you can get from AC. If you made your own power source to give you say 9 volts, there's a chance you'll actually be getting 10 volts. The 5 volt power source I built myself takes the power from a 9v, 500mA wallwort and brings it down to a constant 4.98volts through a 7805.

...I don't know what I need to buy. I bought a soldering kit, but what else do I need?...

It is also important acquire an microcontroller starter kit.
Most of your applications will be performed this way.


My list of essential items:


An adjustable power supply was one of my first electronics projects. Also the most used I think.

The transformer is 12V 3A. With light load it rises to 17V. I like that because it never exceeds supply specs for most IC's I've worked with.

To adjust output voltage I turn a knob which changes bias current to a 2N3055 power transistor. The meter is switched to select readout in V or A.


My understanding of electronics took a major jump when I got an oscilloscope. Used but durable. It was necessary to building and troubleshooting many of my projects.


Another major jump was when someone gave me Radio Shack's highest priced electronics lab. With breadboard and book of 300 circuits.


I made my own waveform generator with 6-digit frequency counter. The generator is built around a 2206 IC and has four ranges from 1 Hz to 300 kHz. The frequency counter is a design in Forrest Mims' Engineer's Notebook that I bought at Radio Shack.


Assorted books and clippings and catalogs. The Forrest Mims series of booklets (Radio Shack) is tops for explaining electronics concepts. His Engineer's Notebook gives data on a slew of 7400 and cmos IC's as well as op amp and audio IC's.


My collection of assorted electronic parts and tools. New and scavenged. Resistors, capacitors, coils, IC's, wire & connectors, wall warts, light detectors, led's and 7-segment displays, audio stuff, etc.


A circuit simulator.

Buy first buy a soldering kit.and a bread board then make your own power supply .any doubt regarding it, ask here. And again make some circuits from hobby circuits like amlfire .timer.astable etc (if you can make your desgin) dont start microcontroller first.

On the power supply issue. I've bought several switch mode AC/DC converters that were made for consumer electronics. I get them dirt cheap at a local thrift store. They're relatively small, light and efficient. I favor the ones that have screws holding the case together so I can repair them if needed. I also get the surplus cell phone car chargers because I can use them as-is for DC/DC supplies at their rated output voltage or I can modify the output voltage by changing a resistor or two.

If the supply has a standard DC coaxial connector, DIN connector or USB connector, I leave the connector in place and create my own pigtail to convert to alligator clips or E-Z-Hooks or whatever connector I need. This way I still have a reliable molded connector on the supply and can exchange the output connection at will.

Aimed towards the last point in the post above,

Here's a very crude but insightful circuit simulator based on java.

Yes, the website is very helpful. Got it in my bookmarks list. It has a lot of circuits to choose from, with interactive settings.

His java applet has many aspects similar to my own animated simulator that I've been developing. Mine shows current bundles moving within wires. Makes it more obvious to grasp circuit behavior.

dont start microcontroller first.
Could you explain why not? That's exactly what I did.
I was playing for few weeks with some simple transistors/555 based circuits and then started with uC, I just can resists, it's so much fun :)

man if u r new to electronics never go to micro controller first .its better to start from transistors , 555 , digital electronics for logic development in electronics and equipments needed are as follows : soldering kit , breadboard, components for testing small simple circuits.if you want to learn larger circuits , better Use simulators first .its better to save money and clear logic.

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