Introduction: Electronics Made Easy

Picture of Electronics Made Easy

So I have seen a lot of people asking where is a good place to learn about electronics. I think it is about time that someone made an instructable about it. In this instructable I will cover some of the main electronics components, their uses and what they look like in schematics. I would like to request the members who are good with electronics to help out; if I missed a component, tell me I missed it, if I got some information wrong, tell me, please.

Note: I am by no means an expert, but I consider my knowledge (and the knowledge of the instructables community at large) sufficient enough to educate those who wish to be educated.

Step 1: Resistors

Picture of Resistors

Resistors are simple: they limit the amount of current allowed through a circuit. Resistors are color coded to make it easier, and can have four, five, or six colored bands. Resistors are measured in Ohms.

To find the resistance of the four-band resistor:
look at the resistor, make sure the side that has a silver or gold is to the right (there might not be a band with one of these colors, make sure the side that has no band is to the right).

now you simply read it.
write down the first value
write down the second value
the third number tells you how many 0's to add to the number
the fourth number tells you the tolerance.
Silver=10% tolerance
Gold=5% tolerance

In the picture the resistor is red green red gold, so that would be 2500-5%. This means that it is 2500 Ohm's and has a tolerance of 5%.

Step 2: Diodes

Picture of Diodes

Diodes force the current in one direction, so it is imperative to put them in the right way, or you could blow them up. (literally)

Luckily, manufacturing companies make this easy on us. One side of the diode has a stripe on it. Electrons (electricity) flow from the cathode to the anode. The side with the stripe on it is the cathode.

Note: LED's (Light Emitting Diodes) are diodes, and therefore can burn out if inserted wrong.

If you build a circuit with Diodes, and you see smoke or flames coming out of it, DISCONNECT IT AS FAST AS YOU CAN more than likely you have inserted it wrong. It is ok if there is heat though, as long as there is not smoke or flame.

Step 3: Capacitors

Picture of Capacitors

Capacitors are like batteries. They store an electrical charge and then discharge it. Because of this, they have a positive and negative lead. These are easier to find, as they are labeled + and -.

There are two types of capacitors: electrolytic and ceramic.

Capacitors are measured in Farads.

Step 4: Transistors

Picture of Transistors

A transistor is like a mini amp. It takes weak signals (like those that represent sound) and make them stronger.

There are three leads on a transistor, labeled "B," "E," and "C." These stand for "Base," "Emitter," and "Collector." 

If there is no current flowing to the base, the transistor won't let the emitter and collector receive any current.

There are several types of transistors, two of them are NPN and PNP. "N" stands for negative, and "P" stands for positive. NPN means that the outer two leads are negative and the inner lead is positive. PNP means the exact opposite.

Step 5: Motors

Picture of Motors

So now we are getting into the bigger components. There are three types of motors: AC, DC, and stepper. DC stands for direct current, which is what you get from batteries. AC stands for alternating current, which is what courses through your house. A stepper motor moves in steps, so that you can have it move an exact amount.

With DC motors, the motor spins spins towards the negative energy.

Motors can also be generators, which is how your house is powered by AC.

Step 6: Speakers.

Picture of Speakers.

Speakers work on the same principle as motors. Speakers, therefore, can also be generators. Speakers, instead of turning, move up and down. This moving up and down compresses the air, thus creating sound waves.

It is important to note that the only difference between a speaker and a microphone is that a microphone is a speaker specifically wired for input.

Step 7: Transformers

Picture of Transformers

I have to admit, I don't know a lot about transformers, but this is what I know.

Transformers are used to change the voltage in a circuit. They can increase it or decrease it. A step-up transformer increases the voltage, a great example is the Tesla coil, which takes a voltage (usually 120V) and makes it MUCH bigger. An example of the opposite type of transformer would be a wall adaptor, which takes 120V (depending on where you live) and brings it down to something that won't blow your electronic joy up.
The number of wrapping on the coils is directly proportional the voltage in vs. voltage out.
Note: transformers can have four or five pins, on a four pin transformer, those are: +in, +out, -in, -out.

EDIT: 1/14/2011 thanks to frozenveinz, I now have a good picture of a transformer.

Step 8: Miscelleny

Picture of Miscelleny

This was a brief overview of the world of electronics.

I will post abbreviations on this page. If there are any I forgot, please inform me.

IC= integrated circuit.
MOSFET=Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor
LCD=liquid crystal display (basically a screen)
LASER= Light Amplification by Stimulated Emition of Radiation

Please post a link to any 'ible you make from this, including your very own death ray :)


man33153 (author)2016-02-08


bmccaig (author)2015-12-06

PCB = printed circuit board, although this may not be overly important for a hobbyist

sivasancaran (author)2015-11-13

I liked it

techturtle2 (author)2010-07-16

The diagram is wrong. there is a curved line on the negative.

Mihsin (author)techturtle22014-04-20

Again: It could be right as presented.

cc67 (author)techturtle22012-03-21

that is a european symbol for polarized capacitors. American symbol is like non-polarized with just plus sign to the positive side.

A-Nony-Mus (author)techturtle22010-08-12

Just, to double-check: From my understanding the parallel bars are for the non-polar capacitors (it doesn't matter which way they are inserted) and the diagram you posted is for polarized capacitors (it does matter which way they are inserted). I know, I realize it was a sloppy mistake to not put both.

raghav57 (author)2013-11-03

the symbol of capacitor is wrong it has a curved line below plz check it

Mihsin (author)raghav572014-04-20

It's also OK as presented.

Tbus (author)2014-02-24

This was an excellent review for my first electronics exam. I am taking a Basic Electronics course from home ( and this Instructable covered a lot of what we learned. Thank you!

surya_143 (author)2013-06-20

Thanks for the basic stuff

yhdesai (author)2013-03-06

transformers are also used to convert ac to dc

Wisaam (author)yhdesai2013-03-12

A transformer alone cannot be used to convert ac to dc, for that you would need diodes and use them as a rectifier.

R3gou (author)2012-07-26

Thank you! This was very helpful for me! Keep up the good work!

David97 (author)2011-09-12

You might want to state how to tell what the pins are on a IC. The pin closest to the dot or notch is 1 and the numbers go counter clockwise.

David97 (author)2011-09-12

Putting this link on might be usefull.

David97 (author)2011-09-12

I might be worth adding a section on using the diode tester on a voltmeter.

David97 (author)2011-09-12

I already know how to read resistors but it might be worth adding a resistor chart.

pigeonpants (author)2011-02-12

Could a section be added on relays and/or potentiometers?

A-Nony-Mus (author)pigeonpants2011-02-12

Sure, it may take a while thoguh, because I've been doing a lot of work and haven't been getting much sleep. I'll notify you when I've done it.

pigeonpants (author)A-Nony-Mus2011-02-13

Yay! Btw, it's pretty super awesome that you, and all the other smarties who've contributed comments, put this instructable together, so thanks for having done all this! ^_^

Purple Guy (author)2011-01-28

As someone else has said, The "S" in Laser stands for "Stimulated", not "Simulated". Not particularly important but since its a guide for beginners, best not for them to pick up little errors.
Otherwise, Great guide!

LiquidLightning (author)2011-01-13

Here you go.

Thank You.

No problem. Although you should add that a transformer has two coils and four pins on it, and that voltage and amperage are stepped up or down.

Here's a diagram.

mofoya (author)2010-11-23

your definition of LASER is incorrect.
it is: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emition of Radiation

vitalzero (author)2010-08-27

hey! what about coils?

A-Nony-Mus (author)vitalzero2010-08-29

Could you be more specific? I covered coils briefly in the motors section.

vitalzero (author)A-Nony-Mus2010-08-30

I meant inductors

devinmccloud (author)2010-08-22

Very nice tutorial. I learned a little more knowledge.

techturtle2 (author)2010-07-16

What about MOS FETs?

troseph (author)techturtle22010-07-21

I've been tinkering with "beginner" electronics for a year and haven't touched a MOSFET. I'm familiar with what they are but have never needed one in small projects.

F430gx (author)troseph2010-07-21

MOSFET is an acronym for "Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor". MOSFET is the most used transistor, but is not realy relevant to talk about a special type of transistor in a basic guide, is like introducing subwoofers and tweeters with speakers.

techturtle2 (author)F430gx2010-07-21

It is also a VERY good voltage regulators. (7805, 7812, 7803 ect.) I built a divice that uses a 7805 on a 9v and a female USB to charge my iPhone!

troseph (author)2010-07-21

I think this guide could help you get a better understanding of how those kits you're building works. Some good further learning would be Collin Cunningham's electrons videos on youtube.

jman 31 (author)2010-07-16

One thing to note is that the npn and pnp are representative of the "doping" of the materials (i.e. silicon etc.) in a transistor, not the polarity of the legs. There is much more to it than just negative,positive,negative. I realize that this is a very brief overview, but it could lead to some confusion.

adamazing (author)2010-07-15

Good instructable, but I think the description of the diode may benefit from a change or two.

Electrons indeed "flow" from the cathode to the anode. But most people think of electricity as a flow of positively charged particles, moving from + to - when looking at a circuit diagram. So suggesting that equivalency between electrons and electricity is misleading.

It might be better to state more explicitly that the stripe indicates the forward direction or, put simply, where the current will "flow" out of.

A-Nony-Mus (author)adamazing2010-07-15

I thought the stripe is where the positive energy is connected

mattthegamer463 (author)2010-07-15

Also note, only electrolytic and tantalum capacitors are polarized (have a + and -) ceramic, mylar, film etc. do not care which way they are inserted. Caps which are polarized are almost always have either the positive or negative marked on them.

mattthegamer463 (author)2010-07-15

Another way to tell which side of the LED is which, if the legs are cut and it is a square LED that has no flattened spot, is to look at the metal encased in the plastic. One side will look like a "flag" and be a lot larger than the other side, this large side is the negative.

Godkranek (author)2010-07-15

great instructable, i know very litlle of electronic, and this give you a very easy start, i hope you continue adding stuff

A-Nony-Mus (author)Godkranek2010-07-15

Thank you

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an Apple Developer in College ultimately pursuing a masters in robotics. If you would like to take a look at my apps, all ... More »
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