I literally already tried getting a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I hated it, and I switched to Computer Science.

But here's the thing-- I find circuits and electronics and electrical devices FASCINATING! I just don't understand them.

My degree program (which was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, no slouch of a school in engineering) was so busy teaching me how to apply differential equations to circuit diagrams that I never actually learned how the components of a simple house fan actually WORK or what they do.

Meanwhile there are all these kids in the program that come to the school already building robots, having taught themselves somehow-- and they're not using differential equations or Fourier analysis. They just understand, and they build. That's what I want to do.

How do you learn to understand these things? Is there some particularly good site, or book?

  • \$\begingroup\$ electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/616/… \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Mar 17, 2012 at 9:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You learn this by being truly interested, which means you were messing around with this stuff since late grade school. And, all that theory may not tell you how to take apart a house fan, but it is important. You can't be doing real professional design just from intuition. So pay attention to the theory but build things on the side. When I was at RPI (class of '78, M.Eng EE 1980) I built, among other things, a power line transmitter and we'd play radio on Sunday nights in BARH. Having everyone flush the toilets at once was "interesting". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 17, 2012 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's hilarious :) I do know the theory is crucial to professional design, but I hated that it was all I was learning. On its own it is quite insufficient. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2012 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've had a very similar experience when I attempted to learn it. \$\endgroup\$
    – colemik
    May 27, 2012 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are two ways:1) serious study, but you don't like it. 2) execute very small and simple projects and gradually move to more complex ones. You'll think you know something and you'll even post stupid explanations here just to intimidate beginners such as you are now. \$\endgroup\$
    – user114883
    Dec 12, 2017 at 6:57

2 Answers 2


Practice. Build a simple two transistor LED blinker, then move on to more complex stuff. Read Wikipedia or sites like this for knowledge. Get software that can simulate circuits.

I usually learn new stuff about electronic in one of two ways.

1) I decide to build something, then I look for ways to do that. While in the process of designing my device I usually learn things that I didn't know before - how to accomplish some simple function (like edge detection) or maybe I find a schematic for the whole device. If I do, I always study it to find out how it is supposed to work and whether it will actually suit my needs (maybe it needs wrong voltage or has too low/high frequency or whatever). When the built device does not work correctly, then troubleshooting it usually teaches me about something I missed while designing it.

2) When I am repairing a device, I learn about how it is supposed to work. If the problem is not simple (a bad cap or something like that), I usually learn a lot about that device, because i need to understand how it is supposed to work and whether what I see on the scope is OK or not and if not, then what may be the problem.


I'm told by many many people that "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill, is genuinely superb as a practical guide to everything electronical. Get version 2. Despite the glowing recommendations I've never yet seen a copy :-). But, I bought one at auction yesterday just to see if it was good as everyone says. I'm almost seriously wondering if I should write a book on the topic, but youd have to wait a while for that :-)

In the meanwhile, H&H's book is actually a serious recommendation.

I'd also join the PICList as a flexible resource where you can ask much less formally structured questions here and have general discussions.

AND, as well, ask good single subject well described questions here about things that don't make sense to you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I bought The Art of Electronics in the past when I wanted to get into electronics (~8-10 years ago), and I found it quite complex. The fact that it was in english (I'm not native) didn't help, but I'd recommend looking online for tutorials and courses first before investing in this wonderful book. Simple stuff is usually correct anywhere, one just needs the good keywords: analog/digital/power electronics, electrical machines/motors, op amps, transistors, ... Instructables will teach you to build stuff (makeshift sometimes...) and StackExchange to make it right. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 6, 2015 at 18:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.