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Make: Electronics, Second Edition

Publisher: Maker Media

Books are great at storing information. Books can be good at explaining how to do something. However, when it comes to really getting a good grasp on something, you need to actually do it. When trying to learn a new skill, practice makes perfect and experience is king.

Make: Electronics, Second Edition, by Charles Platt, is a book for learning about electronics, but one in which the author understands the limitations of the typical "bookish" approach and, instead, presents a "walkthrough" of sorts of the trial and error process of experimentation. This allows you to get the all so important "Aha!" moments without as much random (and possibly dangerous) experimentation that leads you up to those moments. Further, the explanations explain what you just saw, so you don't misinterpret your results. The text on the cover sort of says it all, "Burn things out, mess things up - that's how you learn." Platt will lead you not only through burning things out, but even taking some components apart to see how they work on the inside.

Don't think that all you get is a walkthrough, however; Charles Platt uses opportune times to share the history of electronics, as related to what you just learned, as well as how to calculate values for balancing resistance, current and amperage (and it's okay if you don't know what those are, yet)... even some math tricks are shared to help you with these calculations or, for that matter, any time you encounter decimal division or multiplication.

Platt holds your hand on this journey, not only presenting the experiments and explaining what you observed when doing them, but even in the selection of your equipment and components. Unlike most instruction I've seen, where a checklist or shopping list is simply provided, Make: Electronics, Second Edition goes into detail on the differences between different options on equipment (such as the handy multimeter), comparing and contrasting your different options, setting expectations as to durability and cost and suggesting how to determine a good budget to have in mind.

The "Second Edition" made me wonder a bit at first, as I've seen many a textbook in my college days that, despite the lack of any noteworthy changes in that particular curriculum, the author found it important to release new versions of the book annually. Comparing previous years texts to the new version typically yielded almost no changes, outside of aesthetic formatting changes and, of course, that all of the homework problems were different, forcing students to get new books. This isn't a textbook and I haven't compared this edition to the previous one, but there are multiple places in the book where the author specifically points out that the text has been changed - due to feedback from readers. One case that sticks out in my mind is when he received a lot of feedback stating that a certain component he was using in a project was outdated, rarely used and bordering on hard to get. He changed the project to use different components to "keep with the times" and to make more of his projects able to be built using 9-volt batteries or power supplies.

If you want to learn about electronics and you're ready to roll up your sleeves, pick up some components and get your hands dirty, Make: Electronics, Second Edition is the ticket to your journey. You'll get a hands-on ride from the basics of voltage, current, resistance and making LEDs light up, through timers, driving lights and speakers, creating an alarm system and on up to making a keypad-controlled locking system and using Arduinos, with some background on the components you're using and explanation on how to choose your tools and components, to give you the ability to shop (and stock your electronics bench) with confidence. If you're looking for a place to get started, this is it.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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