Electronics: Basic Terminology

Electricity versus Electronics: Flowing electrons can be used as a medium for transferring the energy from the generator to the consumer, or as a medium for transferring information from the input to the output. Electricity refers to the former use (lights, heaters, motors, bench-top power-supplies), and Electronics to the latter. With electronics, the aim is to minimize the energy, with only the laws of thermodynamics preventing us from reducing it right down to zero.

Alternating Current (AC): A current whose polarity alternates from positive to negative over time. The rate of such "alternations" is measured in cycles per second — more commonly known as Hertz (Hz) Amp / Ampere: The basic unit of current flow. Analog Signal: A variable signal that is continuous in time and amplitude, as opposed to a digital or discrete signal: Arduino: An open-source electronic prototyping platform allowing one to create interactive electronic objects. It consists of a single-board microcontroller with an Atmel AVR processor and on-board input/output support. The software consists of a standard programming language compiler and the boot loader that runs on the board. Breadboard: (Commonly used to refer to as a solderless breadboard). A construction base for prototyping of electronics. Capacitor: A pair of parallel "plates" separated by an insulator (the dielectric). Capacitors store electrical energy while there's energy coming in, and release it when the incoming energy stops. They have a variety of uses. One common use is to smooth out the dips and spikes in an electrical supply. This use is called decoupling. Circuit: The complete path or closed loop through which electric current flows from the power source to the load (s) (a load is a component or device that consumes power) and then back to the source. Digital Signal: A waveform that switches between two voltage levels representing the two states of a Boolean value (0 and 1), even though it is an analog voltage waveform, since it is interpreted in terms of only two levels. Diode: A type of two-terminal electronic component whose function is to allow an electric current to pass in one direction (called the diode's forward direction), while blocking current in the opposite direction (the reverse direction). Direct Current (DC): A current flow which is steady with time, and flows in one direction only. Electric current: A flow of electric charge through a medium.  Its unit for measuring is the ampere. Conventional symbol (I) Ground: 1) the common point of current return in a circuit; 2) the point(s) in a circuit that is at zero volt; 3) the connection of an electrical circuit to earth; in a circuit that has a single power supply, the ground is generally the point to which the negative terminal is connected. Integrated Circuit (IC): A collection of active and passive devices (e.g. transistors and resistors) mounted on a single slice of silicon and packaged as a single component. Examples include operational amplifiers, Central

Processing Units (CPUs), random access memory (RAM), etc. LED: Light-Emitting Diode. A semiconductor diode that converts applied voltage to light and is used in lamps and digital displays. Like all diodes, they are polarized, meaning that they only operate when oriented correctly in the circuit. The anode of the LED connects to voltage, and the cathode connects to ground. Multimeter: An electronic measuring instrument designed to measure electric current, voltage, resistance and sometimes capacitance. Ohm: A measurement of resistance in a circuit. Ohm's Law: V = IR (or I = V/R or R = V/I ) It defines the relationships between voltage, current, and resistance. One ohm is the resistance value through which one volt will maintain a current of one ampere. Parallel Connection: A circuit arrangement wherein the electronic components are connected to the power source independently of each other. Photocells: Variable resistors whose resistance changes as the light hitting them changes. Physical Computing: 1) Building interactive physical systems by the use of software and hardware that can sense and respond to the analog world. 2) A creative framework for understanding human beings' relationship to the digital world. 3) Handmade art, design or DIY hobby projects that use sensors and microcontrollers to translate analog input to a software system, and/or control electro-mechanical devices such as motors, servos, lighting or other hardware. Potentiometer: A variable resistor. The two outside terminals act as a fixed resistor. A movable contact called the wiper moves across the resistor, producing a variable resistance between the center terminal and either of the two sides. Widely used in radio and television receivers (e.g., volume control knob. Also called a pot. Power: The rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit.  its unit of power is the watt.  It is represented by the letter (P). Printed Circuit Board (PCB): Is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. Resistor: An electrical device which impedes (resists) current flow regardless of frequency. Basic unit of measurement is the Ohm. Schematic (circuit diagram): A diagram that describes the interconnections in an electrical or electronic device. Does not necessarily conform to actual physical layout on a breadboard or printed circuit board. Series Connection: A circuit arrangement wherein the electronic components are connected to each other along a single electrical path; in a series connection, there is only one possible current path. Switches: A form of digital input (high/low, on/off). Two basic categories are momentary switches, which remain closed only when you press them; and toggle switches, which stay in place after you switch them. Transducer: A device that uses the first law of thermodynamics for converting between electrical energy to or from any other type of energy (acoustic, optic, thermal, chemical, etc.).

Transistor: A semiconductor device with three connections, capable of regulating current or voltage flow and acting as a switch or gate for electronic signals. When you put a small voltage across the base and emitter, the transistor allows a larger current and voltage to flow from the collector to the emitter. Volt: The basic unit of "electromotive force". One Volt applied to a resistance of one Ohm will force a current of one Ampere to flow Voltage: A representation of the electric potential energy per unit charge. If a unit of electrical charge were placed in a location, the voltage indicates the potential energy of it at that point. In other words, it is a measurement of the energy contained within an electric field, or an electric circuit, at a given point.

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