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# Note that this is only meant to be a rough guide.

Its purpose is to give you a feel for the basic operation of electronic devices and systems. This should help you understand what's going on if you go on to study more detailed, theoretically precise, material. Basic electronics courses sometimes make it appear as if electronic engineers have an obsession with voltmeters, batteries, and oscilloscopes. That's because it's often convenient to talk about these when presenting a course at a university, college, or wherever. In reality, the physics and electronics of practical systems like Hi-Fi's, TV's, computers, etc, are much more interesting. For that reason these pages will try to use these more useful examples whenever possible. ...And by the way, I'll keep referring to all this set of pages as a 'course'. This is partly to save time, partly because this is all based on a course I teach, OK?

Electronic systems are used to process information. Figure 1.1 shows a familiar example, a CD-player and Hi-Fi system. For simplicity, only one channel is shown. A real system will handle stereo information & will have pairs of microphones, amps, and speakers, but apart from that the behaves as shown. For this course we will use the Hi-Fi/CD system as an illustration of various

basic electronics ideas. We could have chosen some other example - anything, from the control system for a central heating system to a colour TV would do but the CD/Hi-Fi is convenient since it uses most of the techniques and devices we'll be looking at. When considering electronic systems we can talk about the information being carried around by some sort of varying signal voltage or current. This signal can be in various forms. For example, it can be an analog signal where the voltage/current level varies in proportion with the value we wish to carry. The CD system illustrated in figure 1.1 uses both analog and digital signals. The microphone produces an output voltage which changes in proportion with the varying air pressure falling upon it. These variations in voltage have the same pattern as those of the air pressure (i.e. the sound waves). For this reason the pattern of voltage fluctuations is said to be an analog of the sound pattern. The voltage fluctuations produced by a normal microphone are very small. Hence they have to be enlarged with a suitable amplifier. In the diagram this is called a pre-amplifier. This name is used to indicate an amplifier place at the front of a system whose job is to boost weak signals up to a more useful level. The amplified analog voltage pattern is then passed to a circuit which converts it into a stream of binary digits which are output as a pattern of high and low voltages representing the signal pattern of 1's & 0's. One of the most common choices (TTL or Transistor-Transistor Logic) uses any voltage in the range 35 Volts to 50 Volts as a '1' and anything from 05 Volts to 25 Volts as a '0'. Unlike analog signals, the precise digital voltage levels aren't usually important. This flexibility about the exact voltage required is one of the main advantages of digital systems over analog ones. Slight changes in voltage don't change the actual information content of a digital signal but may ruin an analog pattern. The digital pattern of information is recorded on the CD as a spiral pattern of pits which can be read by the CD player to recover the stream of binary 1's & 0's or bits.These are then converted back into the appropriate analog voltage pattern which is amplified and used to drive loudspeakers. These push and pull the air in the listening room to reproduce the sound wave patterns originally recorded falling on the microphones. During this course we will use various parts of this system as examples to show how electronics is put into use. However, before doing that, we need to sort out some general points about electronic systems and signals.

The diagram (figure 1.1) shown on the previous page is a fairly sketchy one. It gives us an idea of the overall structure of the system, but it doesn't tell us anything about what's going on inside any of the boxes. The diagram is a schematic one. It has more in common with the drawings in Viz than with a photo! It doesn't really tell us how any of the things shown actually work. If we just want to buy a Hi-Fi & listen to it this may not matter. In the end, the main thing is that it should sound good, no matter what's inside the boxes. However, you're more likely to choose the 'best' Hi-Fi if you take an interest in what's inside the boxes. And if you want to understand, modify, design, or build Hi-Fi you need to take a keen interest in what's going on inside!

Most of the diagrams electronics engineers use look like the examples shown in figure 1.2. Just like figure 1.1, these are stylised, but as individual components. The level of stylisation and the symbols used depend upon what's required. The symbols for things like transistors, capacitors, etc, aren't meant to look like the actual components. Similarly, their arrangement in the diagram shows their

functional relationship. It's usually not a reliable 'map' showing where they are placed on the actual circuit board. This abstract quality can be confusing at first but it gives us the freedom to choose different manufacturer's components and lay them out on a circuit board as we like. This flexibility can be useful when building a circuit from a diagram. It doesn't matter if you don't understand the diagrams shown in figure 1.2, they are included purely for illustration. Don't panic, this is the written language of electronics. There is no real reason to expect the meaning to be 'obvious' until it has been explained. You have to learn the rules of the language before you can use it - just as you would if you were sent to foreign country. At this point all you have to do is realise that circuit diagrams are a written language that can be very useful once you've learnt it. The good news is that for this course you won't have to know very much about this language.

Another point to remember when reading a circuit diagram is that some of the most important wires and connections may not be shown! For example, the logic gates shown in figure 1.2b have to be connected to a power supply which provides them with the electrical power they need. TTL requires connection to +5 Volts and 0 Volts (usually called 'Ground' or 'Earth'). These power/ground wires aren't shown on figure 1.2b because, to a digital engineer, they are so obvious that they can't always be bothered to waste their time & ink reminding you about them! The effect of not connecting these wires is pretty obvious nothing works!

Any system which boosts or amplifies signals must get the extra power from somewhere, otherwise it would violate the principle of energy conservation. This means all amplifiers - whether they use transistors, ICs, valves, or whatever - must have power lines connected to them. (Digital logic gates also boost the signals passed through them, so the same arguments apply to them, too.) The amplifier then draws the power it requires from the supply and uses it to produce the enlarged version of the signal. This requirement to satisfy energy conservation has some important consequences. The most obvious one is that there is always a maximum possible signal voltage/current/power which a given system can produce. For example, the amplifier shown in figure 1.2a is powered by connecting it to a +15 Volt rail (another term for a power wire) and a 0 Volt 'Earth' line. This means it's impossible for this circuit to produce an output voltage which is outside the range 0 to +15 Volts. Hence it can't output a signal which is bigger than this range. Although less obvious, there will be also be a limit on how much current the amplifier & its power supply can produce.

All electronic signals require some power/energy to be sent from one place to another. A signal which carried no energy wouldn't be able to do anything to let

you know it existed! Since electrical Power, Watts = Volts x Amps, this means that both the voltage and the current have to be non-zero if we want to do anything. Some of the reasons why this is important should become clear in later sections.

One of the most common errors people make when they build their first electronic circuits is to not bother connecting up the 0 Volts or Earth lines. This is partly the fault of engineers for leaving these wires off most diagrams, but it also seems to come from thinking something like, "0 Volts is nothing therefore - this wire/connection does nothing - therefore - I don't have to bother with it". Alas, leaving off the Earth connections usually has the same effect as not connecting the power supply voltage - nothing works! To see why the 0 Volts connections are important, remember that all the voltages we're talking about are really Potential Differences. i.e. they refer to a difference in electrical potential between two different places. Currents will only flow in circuits when we apply differing voltages to different places in them. It is very common to draw diagrams like figure 1 which shows the signal as a 'voltage on a wire'. In fact, the signals are voltages or potential differences between pairs of wires. These wires form loops around which the signal current flows. Engineers often say something like, "The voltage on this resistor is 10 Volts." This is misleading. When they say this they really mean that there is a 10 Volt potential difference applied between the two wires connected to the resistor. Try not to be mislead by this kind of statement and resign yourself to the sad fact that enjuneerz ain't much good at Inglish! Another potentially confusing (deliberate awful pun!) thing is that sometimes systems don't use a wire to connect places at 0 Volts together. This is because many signal generators, amplifiers, etc, have a connection to the earth pin of their mains plugs. All these earths on the wall/bench sockets are connected together, so we can sometimes use these earth wires as the 0 Volts connection to 'return' currents and provide a place all our potential differences are referred to. Note, however, that this is bad practice. Mains earth wires are provided for safety reasons. They ensure that the metal cases of equipment are always at 0

Volts even when the equipment is faulty, hence preventing us from getting a shock. We shouldn't assume that they will help us carry signals around.

Summary.
You should now know that Circuit Diagrams are a picture language for describing how electronic circuits work. That they are a sort of shorthand which shows the functional relationships of the items in the circuit, but don't show how the components are placed in a real circuit, nor do they always include every detail (e.g. power connections are sometimes ignored). You should also know that electronic systems process information in the form of patterns of electrical voltage & current. These signals must have a non-zero power, which means that both the voltage and the current must be non-zero. Since all voltages are potential differences, signals require pairs of wires or connections which form loops around which signal currents can flow. It should now also be clear that systems which amplify signals require a power supply, and that this usually means connecting both power lines or wires and 0 Volt/Earth wires.