I have recently gotten a taste for electronics and despite the fact that I love to ramble around stores like HSC, I am amazed by the largess of the south bay in the way of cheap/free materials that often are abandoned and on the way into our waste stream.
insert a photo of part on my bench
Step 1: A few words of caution
Dumpster diving is a risky activity. Be aware, wear appropriate personal clothing and protective equipment (gloves/boots/etc). Never put yourself in a dangerous situation. You should go with a friend in the case of a mishap there will be someone to help or call help.
Electronic components are hazardous material.
You should be cautious when handling materials such as capacitors, transformers, or anything that stores or builds voltage. These types of parts can kill you.
Many electronic components are toxic you should use due care when handling them and wash your hands, especially before eating, smoking, etc, etc.
Understanding and being able to identify components is very important. I use a bunch of resources but here are a few that I have found:
btw, most of these originally came from a simple google search for identifying electronic components