MAKE: Electronics: I love this book!

Make: Electronics, Charles Platt.  © 2009 Make Books, Sebastapol, CA; 1st edition ISBN: 0596153740

Just go buy it. It’s the best introductory book I’ve read on electronics.

To start with, the book is gorgeous.  Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you sure can by browsing its pages.  This book is filled with clear photos and color illustrations (makes it so much easier to read the color-coded wires!) and big, clear circuit drawings and diagrams.  It’s a pleasure to look at, so you want to read more.

Charles Platt writes in a tone, and with a philosophy that I thoroughly agree with:  learn by doing it.  I love the fact that he not only gives exercises, but gives some that he knows are going to fail, and tells you so.  He shows you what can go wrong, and makes you do it, so you’ve already experienced the failure and don’t fear it. Exercises like licking a 9V battery, or measuring the resistance of your tongue seem scary at first, but are safer than they seem, and valuable learning exercises.

Platt doesn’t hide his mistakes, either. He uses them as stories to illustrate his lessons. Reading  – and seeing in pictures — how he blew up a capacitor, for example, is fascinating, and lets you know that when you make mistakes, you’ll survive too.  The stories of his mistakes are very reassuring.

There is plenty of electrical theory in this book, but you don’t feel like it’s being shoved down your throat.  Platt explains conversationally in examples, pictures, and short biographical sketches of some of the big names in electrical history. By the end of each chapter, you’ve absorbed a lot of material, without the feeling of exhaustion that comes from reading most textbooks.

Platt includes shopping lists of all the parts you need, suggests sources, and tells you what acceptable substitutes will do the job.  He makes it as easy as possible for you to get what you need. Even better, he includes directions for cleanup and recycling of your parts too, letting you know what can go in the trash and what needs to be recycled responsibly.  It’s great to see an author treating the whole life cycle of a project as a matter of habit you should learn.  I’ll be taking that away as a lesson for my own writing in the future.

The whole production team on this book deserve praise for this one.  It’s well written, well edited and well designed. It’s a great learning guide, and will be a staple on my shelf.

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