getting started

I would like to begin getting started with some minor electrical engineering.

Right now, I don't have any tools besides pencil, paper, and a good calculator - but when I start building things, does anyone recommend any particular tools? I don't need the best, and would rather not spend too much (this will be a hobby, at least at first) but I don't want radio-shack level equipment :)

I know the basics of soldering/desoldering (and indeed have done some SMD work in training once) and have access to a cheap supplier of one-off prototype boards (no layers, two-sided, solder/silk masking included, drilling, etc)

Right now I'm going through the "Lessons in Electric Circuits" [1] to give me a refresher (it's been several years since my high-school physics and calculus classes, and a year or so from my Finite math class)

Do any of you recommend any other resources?

[1] -
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Build kits. Most of the half-way competent electrical engineers (and electronics engineers) that I know started off buying and assembling kits.

For tools, always buy the best you can afford - but with the best discounts that you can get. Good tools will be something to hand your grandchildren. Crappy tools will be something to prevent you having grandchildren.. :(

There is a difference between electrical engineering and electronics. If a hammer is in your tool box - it's electrical engineering.

Always keep yourself two mistakes away from a fatal accident.

Never believe instrumentation that someone else has fitted...

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I have several toolboxes :-)

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I appreciate this link.

All and all, it looks like a good source of introductory material. In my brief perusal, it looks good enough. I am sure that if I look, I will find more picks to bone, but the only thing that caught my attention was the use of vectors to describe complex numbers. Complex numbers are NOT vectors. They do not obey the algebra of what is usually meant by vectors. Unfortunately, when vectors confined to a plane are added and subtracted, they do behave like complex numbers. For that reason, the term phasor has been introduced to substitute for the erroneous term vector when complex numbers are used.

This is likely to become a problem when you actually do get around to using vectors and multiplying them using the two kinds of multiplication used for vectors.

Getting to your inquiry, there is nothing particularly wrong with using Radio Shack products. You might be able to find tools at a swap meet devoted to amateur radio or computers. You could go to Ebay. Fry's is also a good source of tools. You could also try looking up vendors in Nuts and Volts. Unfortunately, there are few stores that cater to electronic hobbyists.


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Salmon Egg

Nonsense. My toolbox used to have a hammer in it, until I bought a pneumatic nailer. ;-) ...still has lotsa screwdrivers though.

Yep, one with solder, flux, and torches too. ;-)

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That's all an engineer needs.

Now you are talking technician, tradesman, craftsman.

The radio shack wire cutters are as good as any... well Greenlee cutters are pretty nice to have too.

Go ahead and get an Xcelite basic kit. If you take care of it, it will last forever (except for 'greenie' screwdrivers which dissapear at an astounding rate.)


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Tim Perry

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