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(Feel free to edit the question's title. Wasn't sure of a good one liner for my question)

I'm a university student who has found a love for electronics and circuit design. I have a solid knowledge of the basics of logic design (worked with logic gates, created ALUs, created registers, stuff like that). I found this SE site and started reading a lot of the top voted questions, which helped a whole lot. However, when reading most of the questions here, I find myself completely lost.

I think this is because of my limited scope and knowledge of the world of electronics. There are a lot of acronyms thrown around (IC, FPGA, MCU, etc) and most of them have little relevance to what I already know. I think hardware programming is awesome, but where does it happen? What do you program?

So, I guess my question is this: How can I visualize the world of electronics and where is the next logical (no pun intended) step for someone at my level? Where does circuit logic (NAND, NOR, etc) fit into all this?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure if this question is a good format for our site. But I'll try to be helpful, I noticed that you're pursuing a CE degree in your profile. How far have you gotten and what classes are you taking at the moment? \$\endgroup\$ – Jon L Nov 10 '11 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonL: I've taken a Digital Design course (logic gates, simple logic circuits) and a Computer Architecture course (more complicated logic circuits, building ALUs and interfacing with memory). \$\endgroup\$ – n0pe Nov 10 '11 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you gotten a chance to play with an FPGA in any of those classes to implement a simple CPU and instruction set? I took a class like this in my 3rd year of CE and it was a huge help allowing me to understand what a computer chip actually is. In case the term FPGA is alien to you, an FPGA is basically a huge configurable transistor array for implementing any digital logic design (within the constraints of the FPGA) using a description language. It filled the gap of knowledge in between transistor logic and full blown chip design for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Jon L Nov 16 '11 at 0:51
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Get the Art of Electronics, by Horowitz & Hill. Don't wait for the third edition, just get the second edition. Any decent bookshop should have it.

http://frank.harvard.edu/aoe/

It's fun and easy to read, gives an unparalleled overview of basic electronics, and most importantly for you ties it all together so you know where everything fits.

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Im not sure if its what you're looking for, but there is a young and growing community of people doing electronics online at upverter.com

It might give you a snapshot into the kind of designs the average joe hobbyist is building in his basement, or give you some inspiration for your own projects.

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