Building an absolute beginner course

One of the focuses (foci?) of CE v 3.0 is making sure there is enough beginner content to make sure everyone is on the same page. I’m looking at building an “absolute beginner” short course about electronics. This would be along the lines of “what do you need to know about electronics before even thinking of a course like CE”. I obviously have my own list of items I would discuss, but would like to also collect input from the community as well. So here are some questions that might help me make an effective short course:

  • What were some of the most confusing things you encountered when starting electronics?
  • What was the thing you “didn’t even know how to google for”? (for example, understanding a MOSFET is a type of transistor, so knowing you should understand a little bit about transistors)
  • What was the most effective thing in making you want to learn more about electronics?


  • Most confusing things 1) opamps, everything about them, 2) to ground or not to ground (analog, digital, ac, dc, mix and match)

  • Didn’t even know how to google for - open collector, common emitter, and the weird beasts called FETs!

  • Most effective thing in making me obsessed with electronics - realizing that I CAN make and solder a surface mount PCB, along with the wondrous things called KiCAD and OSH Park! I have three designs on order as I write this, and before CE v 2.0 I believed that would be impossible.

I’d say (as someone who understands the basics okay I’d guess) that understanding how the circuit works just from looking at a schematic. That is kinda in two parts. What is each device doing on it’s own and overall in the circuit.

  • Is that a resistor, op-amp, diode (what type), etc,
  • What components go together to form smaller parts of the circuit.
    • Inverting op-amp with positive feedback vs comparator vs buffer amp and what the output looks like and is how is it used
    • What is that portion of the circuit doing for -another- part of the circuit?

This might be a bit more in depth than you want, but I can also see value in doing that for something like voltage dividers and protection diodes. Personally, I can mostly get individual things. But as I zoom out to the sub-circuit level, I get dizzy real fast.

I think there are a lot of terms that we just use that aren’t really “defined” in common English. So maybe some technical terms and a common English translation would be good. Also including the different variants i.e. Transistor - Acts as a switch for regulating Voltage/Current. There are two main types: BJT and MOSFET. And the names then link to Wikipedia for more information?

Personally I’m driven by wanting to know more about the magic that is our world. EVERYONE uses this technology and almost no one understands how it works. Using a computer as an example, my niece is 9 and she doesn’t quite understand what a desktop computer is. To her it’s “like a laptop, but isn’t a laptop, it’s bigger. And it isn’t a tablet. So it’s not a laptop or a tablet, but it is.” How many people know that a computer is a mixture of CPU, GPU, RAM, HDD, motherboard, disk drives, etc that all come together with firmware to control things to be the magic that is what we see on the screens.

So this long tangent is basically. I’m driven to learn more about this because I want to be able to design and build some magic. On my long bucket list of things to build are RC cars (autonomous and remote controlled) and AR glasses with a persistent world. That last one is going to never happen. BUT I CAN TRY!

When it comes to the fundamentals of electronics for beginners, there are many resources available. As others have noted, you often need to know what and where to look for the information. Which is a challenge in itself.

As beginner, I find tutorials on specific components of electronics mostly confusing, because they are often presented in isolation. Take a simple voltage divider, there are a ton of tutorials on this topic and most focus on the math aspects with some simple examples. However, what happens when you attach a resistive load or some other circuit, or send an A/C signal through it. Someone mentioned transistors, instead of focusing on the transistor itself as so many do, show it in circuit(s) and explain how it affects the signals and is affected by the components around, but do so it in a practical hands-on context.

In my mind, the major strength of your program, is that CE is providing the framework to learn and produce an actual working product. You walk us through the process and discuss some of the details, but mostly you provide a path for us to stumble along to a finished product. There are uncountable tutorials on the basics of electronics, but CE offers real world learning. It’s not this is a transistor and here’s a neat schematic, now go figure out how it works. It’s this is a schematic, now we’re going to pick parts, build the PCB, etc … I’ve had so many “Ohh” moments and thats just with the GTB and CE Header courses behind me.

What about taking your existing material and drilling down to the basics. Take the Getting to Blinky series and provide optional “basics” videos that go into detail about what the supporting components do and how they are impacted by the others around them.

• Provides additional content focused on beginners (larger audience)
• Offers two paths, one for those more familiar with the basics, and another for those just getting started out. (path for new without alienating the more advanced)
• Avoids recreating all the content that already exist on the discrete components that make up the fundamentals. (You can link other external content that you recommend)

Thanks for the effort you’ve put into CE, I hope whatever direction you take, we see many more members join.

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Seems I have good timing as I am a beginner, even though I’ve been working in “tech” for 25 years. I just got back into my old hobby, I studied electronics waay back when before getting into IT.

I’d say the tough thing for me getting started is pretty much WHERE to start. I have seen so many things online and when I start with “how to create electronics” on google, it doesn’t help at all. I think the poster above me also referenced this.

Other than that, I’ve always had trouble with math and so how to apply the math to the concepts I see in my projects are the main thing I’m looking for.

Ah yeah that is a good point. A mathless intro would be quite nice.

If you could have people building circuits without once looking at math, it would make it a lot less daunting to get into. The one thing you would need to do though is figure out circuit designs that can be used as modules for completing many goals.

One thing I wish somebody had told me when I was a kid is that ohms is the ratio of volts to amps, and the ratio of volts to amps for an X ohms resistor is always the same whether you control the volts and measure the amps, or control the amps and measure the volts. R = E / I

I remember being really confused about how current flows in a circuit. I started out learning conventional flow, thought I had that figured out, then discovered electron flow and that tripped me up for a while. That’s one thing I really appreciate about the falstad circuit simulator, is the visual representation of what the current in the circuit is doing. On that same note, ground planes were a total mystery. That all of these components could be tied to the same ground plane was something I didn’t understand right away.

As @ScottS mentioned above, there was a certain level of mystery and magic in the area of electronics that drew my attention. It was the realization that all of the technological gizmos that surrounded me daily had, at their core, electronics as the fundamental building block. Therefore I reasoned that gaining an understanding of electronics could let me not only comprehend how these things worked, but possibly modify them to do my bidding. Not to nerd out too much, but it’s a bit like the force in Star Wars. Electronics is like this invisible power that permeates everything around us. Under the tutelage of an electronics Jedi, a padawan learner can become proficient in the use of controlling this force to affect the world either for good or evil. For our purposes here at Contextual Electronics, I guess that would make @ChrisGammell a Jedi, right? :slight_smile: