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Review of Horowitz / Hill: The Art of Electronics 3rd edition, Chapter 9

Please take at look at this post by Winfield Hill in sci.electronics.design. It includes a link to download a sample of the book (the Table of Content of the book and Chapter 9, about Voltage Regulation and Power Conversion). I have not provided the link directly to avoid any confusion whether it is OK to download one whole chapter - if one of the authors says so, it certainly is. This review is only about chapter 9, please also take a look at my review of the whole 3rd edition.

At the begin of the chapter is a very nice introduction to linear voltage regulators (which was not present in the 2nd edition): In five steps the authors show the evolution from a simple Zener regulator to a complete voltage regulator circuit including overvoltage protection. This circuit could already be used for practical applications, but in the following sections the authors show how to make your life easier by using dedicated voltage regulator ICs. Interestingly, just as in the 2nd edition, they start this with a detailed discussion of the classical 723 (designed by Bob Widlar and introduced in 1967)! But of course they also also discuss contemporary designs, e.g. low dropout regulators.

From section 9.6 on, the (more complicated) switching regulators are introduced, starting with their advantages and disadvantages in comparison with linear regulators. The highlight of this part is section 9.8, called A real world switcher example. On 7 pages, every detail of the Astrodyne model OFM-1501, a single output (5V, 0-3A) regulated switching supply is discussed, from the schematic over the discussion of it's general operation and the idealized waveforms (which are then compared with actual measurements) to every detail of the circuit that might be interesting to you. These pages are great if you want to delve deeply into switchers. If you lack the time for this, make sure you at least read sections 9.8.5 Wrapup: general comments on line-powered switching power supplies, and section 9.8.6 When to use switchers.

The authors say that the above mentioned discussion of the Astrodyne switcher is part of what they call "Designs by the Masters". Looking through the table of content, other examples for this are section 5.12 Agilent's accurate DMMs (p. 342-344, I wish it would be even more), section 8.6.4 SR560 low-noise preamplifier (p. 512-515) and 13.8.6 Agilent's world class "multislope" converters (p.918-922). Although relativley small, these pages are really something to look forward to.

Some general remarks (I hope they are true for the whole book): The authors have kept the very informal style for which the book is famous. In addition, they have packed even more practical information into the book, some of it in the form of extensive footnotes. One other feature that was not present in the 2nd edition are pictures of actual scope measurements, now there are lots of them. Figures 9.51 and 9.52 compare such a measurement with the results of a SPICE simulation. Just as a sidenote, take a look at figure 9.54: At the top the date May 28, 2008 is clearly visible - the authors really took their time to make this book perfect....

What I really miss in chapter 9 are the "Bad Circuit"examples from the 2nd edition. Even worse, when looking at the Table of Content, it seems that all of the Bad Circuits have been eliminated from the book! This is very sad, it was always much fun to look at them and to find out what went wrong (and also a great opportunity for the intermediate learner to test his knowledge).

If you look at the replies to Winfield Hill's post, you will notice that a few people found some minor errors and that Hill replied they would be fixed in a second printing (there is a first -printing run of 15000 books). You may wonder whether it is a good idea to wait for this second printing. But I would advice to (pre-)order the book right now. In comparison to the amount of material that is available in chapter 9, the number of errors is really small, I guess this is true for the whole book. And considering the attention that AoE 3rd has created everywhere, you can expect that some enthusiasts will compile very complete errata lists within a few months.

You might also be interested in my review of the 2nd edition, or in some recommendations for other books on practical analog electronics.

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