Basic Electronics

Picture of Basic Electronics
Getting started with basic electronics is easier than you might think. This Instructable will hopefully demystify the basics of electronics so that anyone with an interest in building circuits can hit the ground running. This is a quick overview into practical electronics and it is not my goal to delve deeply into the science of electrical engineering. If you are interested in learning more about the science of basic electronics, Wikipedia is a good place to start your search.

By the end of this Instructable, anyone with an interest to learn basic electronics should be able to read a schematic and build a circuit using standard electronic components.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Electricity

Picture of Electricity
There are two types of electrical  signals , those being alternating current (AC), and direct current (DC).

With alternating current, the direction electricity flows throughout the circuit is constantly reversing. You may even say that it is alternating direction. The rate of reversal is measured in Hertz, which is the number of reversals per second. So, when they say that the US power supply is 60 Hz, what they mean is that it is reversing 120 times per second (twice per cycle).

With Direct Current, electricity flows in one direction between power and ground. In this arrangement there is always a positive source of voltage and ground (0V) source of voltage. You can test this by reading a battery with a multimeter. For great instructions on how to do this, check out Ladyada's multimeter page (you will want to measure voltage in particular).

Speaking of voltage, electricity is typically defined as having a voltage and a current rating. Voltage is obviously rated in Volts and current is rated in Amps. For instance, a brand new 9V battery would have a voltage of 9V and a current of around 500mA (500 milliamps).

Electricity can also be defined in terms of resistance and watts. We will talk a little bit about resistance in the next step, but I am not going to be going over Watts in depth. As you delve deeper into electronics you will encounter components with Watt ratings. It is important to never exceed the Wattage rating of a component, but fortunately that Wattage of your DC power supply can easily be calculated by multiplying the voltage and current of your power source.

If you want a better understanding of these different measurements, what they mean, and how they relate, check out this informative video on Ohm's Law.

Most basic electronic circuits use DC electricity. As such, all further discussion of electricity will revolve around DC electricity.
freeza362 years ago
Let me add this realy quick (i think its right) the first picture is in series, the seconed in parallel
nope u got it mixed around flip it and your good
first is parallel second is series
in parallel the power that goes through all of the lights only comes from one end instead of multiple power wires from the power source

no bboyman, first is series and second is parallel.

You have it drawn correctly. When I teach circuits, i use the following definitions which seem to bring together what other users have said. I find that these definitions are understandable by most children.

Simple circuit: A circle/path through which electricity passes to connect a power source to ONE component.

Series circuit: One large circle/path through which electricity passes to MORE THAN ONE component. The current flows on one circle path through all of the components. Thus, if one of the components (e.g., bulbs) is removed from the socket, the electricity stops flowing, and all of the bulbs in the series circuit stop lighting up.

Parallel circuit: 2 or more connecting circles/paths where each component is directly connected in its own circuit/circle to a power source. If one bulb is removed from the socket, the electricity still flows to the other bulbs.

Yup, it is parallel, the current has multiple pathways to travel through...whereas in series, there is only one pathway for the current...First one is series, second one is parallel...

in parallel, it comes from multiple wires, whereas in series, it goes through one wire...

When things are wired in series, things are wired one after another, such that electricity has to pass through one thing, then the next thing, then the next, and so on.

When things are wired in parallel, they are wired side by side, such that electricity passes through all of them at the same time, from one common point to another common point

great article

aiftikhar21 month ago

Thanks,best informations for the beginners.

halkawt971 month ago

thank s for your steps , and for beginners very useful ...

Thanks Again .

Tbus2 months ago

I completed a learn-at-home certificate course in Basic Electronics recently ( and this instructable covered a lot of what I learned and was a great review before taking my final exam!
Thank you!

nitingautam2 months ago

I want to learn Electronics from basic and this is helpful

Tigersgomoo12 months ago
Electricity is so metal! I'm on the highway to hertz! lol
JKPieGuy1 year ago
Actually these are called "Cells" Batteries are a collection of "Cells".
tsa'ad JKPieGuy2 months ago

You are correct but lets face it, how many people in everyday life have you ever heard asking for "Cells" in the supermarket?

julianakrhcp2 months ago

I had never really understand why shouldn't I wire a switch button without wiring a resistor to it. This made it so much clear to me, thanks!

ajayraho2 months ago

What is the difference between an electrolytic capacitor and a ceramic disc capacitor?

ajayraho2 months ago

In second circuit, Step 18, what is the need for a transistor?

Grimtudor2 months ago
I am a real noob and im so very happy for this basic electronics 101 tutorial of yours!,,Ive read countless books, seen many videos and your tutorial makes it so fun and easy to learn compared to the others Ive seen!
Farid0073 months ago
Anyone knows where to get cheap electric parts other than radioshack that ship internationally??
SkuenD Farid0073 months ago, very good quality and even cheaper than the websites mentioned by MrBlack2206 (checkout their facebook as well, they occasionally put up discount coupons).

your welcome
spirit x3 months ago
Thanks bro its very helpful
skillndrill3 months ago
Very well written article.
Make_This3 months ago
Thanks. Useful.
lindseyb933 months ago
thank you so much for this! im just starting to get into this stuff and this is so helpful!
kevin1426 months ago
when you say ground, what are you referring to?
is ground the same as the negative terminal of the battery?
is a ground an electronic component?

I am a newbie in electronics :)
raghav57 kevin1425 months ago
Ground here means nothing but negative terminal of battery.
ssieber raghav574 months ago
negative of the battery
TREX ZoaR0K8 months ago
is ohms same as ohm
Ohms is just the plural of ohm. It would write 1 ohm or 2 ( or more ) ohms.
bburdette27 months ago
Well, you have just added to my already extensive hobby list and I'll probably wind up owning stock in Radio Shack, lol..... Awesome!!!!
kf7wag7 months ago
Would'nt u put a capacitor or a Transistor n 2 cover The voltage drop Instead of a resistor That would make The voltage drop even further? also n switches u should have put That They r also relays 2 b more Informative
Raphango8 months ago
Wow! Excelent instructable! Thank you so much!
halamka10 months ago
When are you going to help make a new "Commodore Computer" ? Microsoft is bad. I don't like "Microsoft" How would you limit sales? Computer people can't work non stop. On any one order sales must see a limit. Microsoft is a bad , limiting program. I think I know how to make the " line number and return " work on a " BASIC " computer.
platinumswag10 months ago
this is great. I'm going to start learning about this cool stuff!!!
turtledrake11 months ago
Even after years of electronics projects I found this Instructable helpful.
sspence11 months ago
This does not sound correct. The way you are showing is that the center is biased to one side or the other. Just using one side and the wiper is not the same electrically as connecting the wiper to one side.

sspence sspence11 months ago
For clarification: What happens if the potentiometer fails for some reason (age, poor quality, dirty, etc.)? If the wiper (which is the rotating part of the component and probably most prone to failure) shorts out, it will let the full amount of signal through. By attaching lug 1 to lug 2, we are building in a “fail-safe.” This ensures that the circuit is never completely open—there will always be some resistive path in case the wiper goes south.

earslan112 months ago
thank you so much :)
I_StarkGuy1 year ago
Really good Instrcutable!!
cool... NOT! just kidding. i like ur instructable!

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?


PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!