Hobby Electronics Information


Insider Info

dotElectronic hobbyists build items that use electricity as a power supply. Some hobbyists work with traditional items such as VCRs, stereos, radios or televisions. Others use digital electronics to work with LED displays, computers, robots and so on.

Electronic hobbyists can work at their hobby at home. No special environment is required. "I just work at it from a room at home. All you need is a little space and a table or desk," says Andy Bachle. He is a hobbyist in Illinois.

People working on large projects might require extra space or special environments. For example, people working on model railroads would need enough space to set up the tracks.

Good lighting and ventilation is important. You will also need access to an AC outlet.

dotElectronic hobbyists might pursue a wide range of activities. Bachle says a huge range of projects is available. Possibilities include music and sound, computers and digital electronics, robotics, model trains and cars, ham radios, VCRs, televisions and more.

"You can work with things that affect temperature, sound or light," says Bachle. "There is a project available for almost any of your senses."

dotThere is no central organization that tracks electronic hobbyists. There are many small regional or local organizations that have members who build model cars or model railroads. However, not all hobbyists belong to clubs and no central organization keeps track of these clubs.

Bachle does not know how many electronic hobbyists there could be in North America. "I don't think it can be all that many," he says. "Still, a lot of scientifically inclined people are interested in this hobby."

William (Bill) Boucher, on the other hand, believes that a great many people are involved with electronics as a hobby. He says the interest is growing by leaps and bounds.

dotBachle points out that with the Internet, it is now much easier to find parts than it was before. He figures this increased availability will lead to more people becoming involved in the hobby.

"I go to my local electronics store and maybe I find everything I need except one thing which is hard to locate," he says. "Now, I can usually find it on the Net."

Getting Started

dotAccording to Bachle, it costs about $20 to purchase the equipment you need to get started. He says you would need a selection of small hand tools, including a breadboard. A breadboard is a device resembling a punchboard. "It lets you put the connections in, take things apart, and so on," he explains.

Hand tools might include screwdrivers, pliers, a magnifier for examining circuit board traces, a multimeter for checking voltages, resistances, continuity and current, and a knife with a razor-sharp blade.

You would also need the electronics parts that will go into your project. These could include batteries, integrated circuits or microchips. If you want to attach metals together by melting, you will need a soldering iron.

dotBoucher suggests that hobbyists will want to draw schematics on the computer. He finds that some of the programs are not very good, and others are very expensive. "They must be able to draw to scale. I recommend using something like AutoCAD."

dotMost projects do not require heavy lifting and could be done from a sitting position. A person who practices this hobby would need the use of their hands and their eyes, however. "I can't see any reason why a person with a disability couldn't be an electronics hobbyist," says Bachle.

Since you are working with electricity, you have to be careful to prevent electrical shock or fire.

In his article, Everything You Wanted to Know About Building Stuff But Were Afraid to Ask, Marshall G. Emm says that if you are soldering, the fumes can be harmful over time. Be sure that you have good ventilation.

dotMany electronics hobbyists go on to find full-time or part-time work in the electronics field. Those who want to pursue a professional career can study electronics at college or university.

Other electronics hobbyists might go into business for themselves. They might open a store to sell parts, manuals and other items. Others, like Lynda Morris, have opened a business doing computer consulting and training. "I have found a way to make a living doing what I love," says Morris.

dotSome electronic hobbyists write books and articles about their hobby. "Most people just learn for themselves, using books and kits that are available for purchase," says Bachle. "Or maybe somebody shows them how to start out."

Bachle adds that kits are often a good choice for a beginner. They come with all parts included and have instructions for assembly. "If you try to assemble parts yourself, sometimes you have trouble locating what you need. With a kit, everything is all there waiting for you."

dotOn one occasion, Bachle was invited to go into a local high school and mentor students who were interested in electronics. "That was really rewarding," he says. "But it is not regularly available. It was a special activity." In some schools, electronics classes are offered to students as an elective subject.

dotPeople who are interested in electronics must be good at mathematics. You also need good hand-eye coordination. "You have to fit little things together and it takes a certain amount of mechanical ability," says Bachle.

Bachle points out that this hobby is particularly interesting because it combines intellectual ability with mechanical ability. "You need some of both," he says.

dotThe time required to complete a project depends on how complex the project is. Some can be finished in an afternoon. Others could require several weeks or more if you have to look for parts or do research.

Associations

Institute for Electronics and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Internethttp://www.ieee.org

EEE Student Branches
Internethttp://www.ieee.org/membership/students/sc_branche
s.html

Women in Electronics
P.O. Box 17184
Charlotte , NC   28227
USA
Internethttp://www.womeninelectronics.org/

Publications

The Forrest Mims Engineer's Notebook,
by  Forrest Mims and Harry L. Helms
Bebop to the Boolean Boogie,
by  Clive Max Maxfield
The Art of Electronics,
by  Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill

Nuts and Volts Magazine
Internethttp://www.nutsvolts.com/

Links

USBid
A global marketplace for electronic components

Mondo-tronics' Robot Store
Supplies and books for the robot hobbyist

Hobby Electronics Circuit Collection
Offers a message board, electronic books and more

Home Electronics: An Online Guide for Beginners
Get some helpful tips

Robots, Rockets and More
Learn from someone who's been there