Monday, November 18, 2013

Welcome to Hands On - Make: More Electronics!

Wow... I really REALLY didn't think I'd ever be doing another electronics blog, but here I am. I received word that Charles Platt's new book, Make: More Electronics, is already well under way, and Amazon is listing it as a February 2014 release. That means I've got a few months or longer before I need to begin.

Begin what?

Well, if you aren't aware of my previous blog -- Hands On - Make: Electronics -- then let me point you there. This is the blog that I created back in 2010 as a way for me to document the projects I would complete as I worked my way through Platt's Make: Electronics book. I was somewhat familiar with electronics, but was never really comfortable because I didn't have a solid grasp of what I was doing when I soldered up a circuit. I knew how to use a breadboard, and I could wire up simple circuits without any real understanding of why this resistor went there... why this capacitor goes there. But when I finished the book, I finally started to get it. I'd read numerous Teach Yourself Electronics-style books, but this was the first book where electronics really started to make sense to me. 

Why blog about my progress through the book?

Well, a couple reasons came to mind. First, I've always retained information better when I take what I've learned and write it down in my own words. If I can explain something in my own words, then I figure I at least have a rudimentary grasp of the topic. And that's what happened as I hit the 50% mark in the book -- the information was sticking and the later projects in the book were making more sense to me.

Second, the Maker Movement is many things, but one key element that really appeals to me is the sharing of results and experiences either through photos, videos, or simple text. I figured if I'm going to take time to learn something and write it down (for my own retention), then why not write it down where others can reference it and maybe even find it useful. And that's exactly what happened! My blog started growing an audience of readers who were also wanting to learn electronics... not only did they view my photos and watch my narrated videos, but they posted their comments, their questions, their solutions, and even links to their own blogs. Very cool stuff.

In the end, I finished up with all the projects and signed off on the blog in January 2011. It was almost a year to the day that it took me to get through the entire book. The early projects went fast, but the later projects could take days or even weeks to gather parts, wire up successfully, and get a grasp of the concepts I would need to put up a useful post.

I finished the experience, closed the book, and moved on to other projects. But... what Make: Electronics gave me was the confidence I could push through and continue to learn on my own. I picked up a few more advanced electronics books and built some fun circuits... even designed a few of my own! My confidence level was high, and remains so as I write this post three years later.

And now... Make: More Electronics is on its way. Charles Platt is a gracious writer, and he responded to my emails that I sent his way with questions. When I learned about the new book, I sent an email over to him, wondering if he would remember me. Sure enough... I got an email back giving me a few details about the new book's subject matter. 

It's going to be awesome!

My assumption (because I didn't ask) is that this new book will build on the skills and knowledge from the first book. So, if you've been wanting to learn electronics but have been struggling to get started or just don't know where to start... grab a copy of Make: Electronics. But be warned -- the book is NOT a book that you just read and close when done. If you do not do the projects inside, I cannot imagine you will gain any benefits or retain what you've learned over time. The hands-on projects need to be experienced. You need to insert wires. Burn out a few components. Press a button and have nothing happen. Examine a schematic a bit closer to find your error. Do these things and you're going to be amazed at what you've learned when you do close the book.

For me, I'm ready to go. But given it's a few months or more before the book will be released, I think I'm going to go back through Make: Electronics. I may wire up a few of the projects again, post a few photos and videos here, and basically just try and refresh my memory about what that first book covered and where it left off. The holidays are approaching, so I think it's good timing. 

As with my previous blog, I welcome your comments. Share your photos and videos. Even better, create your own blog as you work through the first book or this new book! It'd be great to have some readers working "side by side" with me as we progress through the new book.

So, time to go pull Make: Electronics off the shelf and start re-reading. Plenty more to come...

James Floyd Kelly
Atlanta, GA
November 2013

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