As an electronics engineer, I understand one spends a lot of time understanding datasheets. I discovered the skill of reading datasheets is much more difficult than I expected. If anything, a datasheet is not "self-explanatory": a lot of technical background knowledge is assumed.

I have set myself the challenge of understanding most of the content in this DAC datasheet. I already have asked many specific questions about it (see here, here, here and here), and could ask quite a few more.

How is one meant to learn to read datasheets? Is it through experience? Are there guides?

Also, is it meaningfull to try to understand all the contents of a datasheet? Are there sections which are almost always ignored?


I'd say it's mainly experience, combined with technical knowledge of the component.

There are guides floating around for individual components, more so for the "popular" ones - for example there a quite a few about opamps, but they are often part of a larger book on the subject. Some general electronic books have sections on common components, but none I've seen go into the kind of detail you need to understand many of the finer point in datasheets.
Often the manufacturer has useful App Notes on understanding their components and datasheets.
I keep many of the good ones bookmarked for quick reference. Analog Devices in particular have an excellent range of technical documents, and also Analogue Dialogue is a great resource.

I would say it is definitely meaningful to try and understand (or at least read) all of the datasheet - this is the definitive guide to that particular component. For example, many of the questions we get here can be easily answered by a particular section of the datasheet the OP missed.


One section that you should ignore unless you are absolutely certain what it means (and probably even then..) is the ABSOLUTE MAXIMA or ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM RATINGS. The values indicate the maximum values that the device will survive without permanent harm.

People sometimes assume that any vale below the maximum ratings must be a valid operational value, which NOT the case. The normal operational value are the values in the other sections.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouter means that you shouldn't use the numbers there as guidelines for your design. If Absolute Maximum for Vcc = 7 V then you should not assume that 7 V is safe. \$\endgroup\$
    – stevenvh
    Aug 11 '12 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ The definition of the A.M. is (roughly) "the conditions that will not immediately harm the device". Note the "not immediately" and the "harm". So if the A.M. say 7V then 7V is safe for a short time, but the device is not guaranteed to work at 7V! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28 '13 at 6:47

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