I had been wanting to learn electronics for a very long time and hadn't really come across any books that had seemed approachable to a beginner, most seemed either too basic (covering very little) or too advanced (assuming a prior knowledge of some basic electronics). I pre-ordered this as soon as it was released as I am an avid read of MAKE and have found other O'Reilly books to be of very high quality.
MAKE: Electronics covers the basics of electricity (what is AC and DC current) up to using logic ICs and touches on microcontrollers (the PICAXE). Each chapter introduces a new topic building on what has been learnt in the previous topics, Platt does not repeat himself in the book therefore encouraging the reader to refer back to the earlier material. Theory is not integrated with the experiment text but compliments it after the experiment (teaching via "Do first, then understand what is going on" which holds the readers attention), this makes it incredibly easy to find little snippets of theory when referring back to earlier experiments (which you will have to do to so to comprehend the circuits unless you have a great memory).
Chapter 1 "Experiencing electricity" Covers the very basics of electronics such as reading resistor values, using a multimeter, current, voltage and resistance (the hydraulic analogy) and how they feature in an electric circuit.
Chapter 2 "Switching" covers the use of slightly more complex semiconductors such as Transistors, PUTs, diodes and capacitors as well as relays, loudspeakers and LEDs. Platt introduces each component with a background to how the component was introduced, how it works (to some extent, though he does not cover PN & NP junctions which he considers to beyond the scope of the book, fair enough, as it teaching through discovery however one can easily find out more on the internet)
Chapter 3 "Getting somewhat more serious" Covers the introduction of moving a project from bread board to perfboard and making a project permanent; discussing how to solder, how to mount your projects and how to contain them (as well as extend their functionality). This is taught around the implementation of a simple burglar alarm (circuit from the end of chapter 2) bringing together several circuits featured earlier as well in the book and thus giving the reader a taste of the modularity of electronics and how a project can be improved upon by adding extra circuitry.
Chapter 4 "Chips, Ahoy!" Introduces the first ICs of the book, covering the 555 timer (how to produce oscillating circuits), 4026 7 segment display driver as well as logic ICs (74 series logic) teaching the reader the basics of boolean algebra. This chapter covers A LOT of theory, it is presented in an easily digestible colourful layout which I find very easy to learn from (and again, easy to refer back to). My favourite part of this chapter is the discussion of TTL vs. CMOS components (what is the difference, and why you should care) this is invaluable when designing circuits and picking components. Platt also covers a lot of 'problems' and how they are remedied (e.g. switch bounce).
Chapter 5 "What's next" is the final stepping stone after covering the majority of the basics of electronics and encourages the reader to sample some different genres of circuit design, "Audio", "Radio", "Robotics" and "Microcontrollers", this chapter gives a good base on which the reader can choose what direction they would like to take after completing the book and suggests some good books to obtain. It also gives tips on how to setup your workspace and how to organise your electronics components. The experiments it covers introduce new topics to the reader again with theory and background knowledge to compliment it. The projects covered are more advanced and take longer to carry than the early experiments (as is to be expected) and introduce some new skills such as cutting, drilling and bending ABS in experiment 32.
Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in electronics, Platt describes electronics as "A cheap hobby" however, I beg to differ, It has cost a lot to get through the projects I have done so far however it has most definitely been every penny, this book gives a real practical understanding of electronics and not the wishy washy understanding you get just from studying the theory.
- "Shopping Lists" at the start of each chapter makes learning far easier, having a list of all the components you need in 1 place is invaluable and what I would say is one the best aspects of this book
- "Theory boxes" After each experiment, theory is introduced in a colourful manner which encourages the reader to fiddle with the experiment and make observations. This definitely gives the reader more intuition when playing around with circuits and is invaluable when advancing onto more complex projects
- The sheer quantity of topics this book manages to cover in ~300 pages is amazing. Experiments are concise but highly informative but do encourage the reader to try and comprehend the circuit and how it works, some circuits are ellaborated on in the theory sections by analysing the circuit with your multimeter thus introducing the reader to trouble shooting.
- Colour. This book is NOT dull on the eyes, it is very engaging and one of the reasons I find myself picking the book up over and over again (bar the content) is to drool over the beautifully produced graphics.
- The first addition I have has a few errors in it in circuit diagrams, assuming you have been paying attention to the text these are quite easily corrected but I suggest checking out the errata on the O'reilly website (http://oreilly.com/catalog/errata.csp?isbn=9780596153755). I suppose this could be quite good for a reader as it makes them debug their circuit and it ensures they understand how the circuit is and should be working.
- Some theory is a bit minimalist in places, I would have liked a little more detail (as I have mentioned earlier, there are plenty of resources to compliment the book)
Why 4 stars instead of 5? Purely because of the errata which I'm sure will be corrected in the future editions. Once these are fixed it's 5 stars from me. This is definitely the most accessible book on the market and pick it up even if you have a passing interest in electronics. I would give it 4.5 if Amazon permitted half stars...
I'd suggest checking out a few of these resources if you do decide to embark on learning electronics:
http://www.antonine-education.co.uk/module_1_activities.htm (covers the AS level Eletronics syllabus with lots of good theory and questions if you find you need a bit more help on theory)
http://www.electronics2000.co.uk/download.php#assistant (Good if you can't remember your resistor colour codes, the resistor attack app further down the page is good if you're having trouble memorising the colour codes)
http://willprice94.blogspot.com/ (my own blog covering my experience with this book and "Learning Processing" by Daniel Shiffman - If you want to learn to program with not previous experience, I'd highly recommend it!)