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Review of Scherz: Practical Electronics for Inventors, 3rd Edition

This is very good book for the beginner in electronics. It has a few problems (please see below). But if you can live with them, you get a great book for a very modest prize.

Chapter 2, "Theory", is a very good introduction for the beginner. You can see that Scherz has put a lot of effort into explaining stuff to you so that you can really understand it. This chapter uses a little math (calculus and complex numbers). But the equations are accompanied by very good explanations. If you know the 2nd edition, you will find that not much has changed in this chapter - but you might miss several parts of the discussion about SPICE. This discussion is much shorter in the 3rd edition.

Chapter 3 about Basic Electronic Circuit Components is excellent. It contains exhaustive explanations of the properties of all the different types of passive components. If you have more experience, the same facts can be explained faster with a few diagrams. But for the beginner, the discussion in this book is great. On page 337 starts a 3-page capacitor comparison table. It is a great overview even for the more advanced reader - e.g. if you want to choose between a polypropylene and a metalized polypropylene type. Not much changes in this chapter when compared with the 2nd edition.

Chapter 6 on Sensors is new in the 3rd edition. It is quite short with 25 pages, giving you a basic overview of the general types of sensors.

Very good is Chapter 7, Hands-on Electronics. After a few pages on safety, the construction of circuits is discussed. The discussion of CAD with Eagle and of using a PCB service were added to the 3rd edition. Different methods of prototyping are discussed, but working with SMD components is not. Very nice is the comprehensive section on analog oscilloscopes.

I did not like chapter 8 on Operational Amplifiers as much as the previous chapters. The discussion of the specifications of real op amps is too short to be really useful. Generally speaking, as great as the book is in introducing you to the basics of electronics, it becomes weaker when discussing the more difficult concepts. You might want to take a look at a more advanced book for them - The Art of Electronics is the gold standard. However, you will be glad if you have learned the basics from "Practical Electronics" - the discussion of them in AoE is more difficult and proceeds at a much faster pace.

Chapter 12 is a nice introduction to digital electronics. But, as in the 2nd edition, it only covers standard logic ICs like the 7400 family. Programmable logic like PAL, CPLD or FPGA is not covered. The authors recommend that "if you find that your design uses more than three ICs , you probably could be using a microcontroller (the subject of Chapter 13)". I find it regrettable that the book does not even mention the option to use programmable logic. But admittedly, programming an FPGA is much more complex than programming a microcontroller. If you want to get an idea what is involved, take a look at this What is an FPGA video by Dave Jones.

The discussion of microcontrollers (chapter 13) has been significantly expanded. Among other things, the Arduino is now covered.

The 2nd edition of the book, though loved by many, was notorious for the number of errors that it contained. Unfortunately, this problem still persists in the 3rd edition. Luckily, there is an excellent errata list that was compiled by "TomC", with contributions by many others (you can see his posts in this thread on the 3rd edition in the EEVBlog). Currently (9th May 2015) the latest version of the errata list is this one from 6th December 2014. To find later versions of the list, please check the latest posts in the mentioned thread. Ironically, if you take the book together with this errata sheet, you get a book that may contain less errors than others that are well respected for their quality. But of course having to look up the errors in the sheet and copying them into the book is a nuisance.

If you look at the Amazon reviews (please see the link at the top of this page), you will find that this book has a lot of enthusiastic fans (though I suspect that many of them are blissfully unaware of the errors in the book). This shows that the authors have succeeded in making electronics accessible (and fun) for a wide audience. I cannot guarantee that you will like the book. But for the moderate price I think it is a risk worth taking, if you are looking for a nice beginners book.

If you want to save a few more bucks, you might consider to get the 2nd edition - if you can live without the new material on sensors and microcontrollers. Most of the other chapters have not changed dramatically in the 3rd edition.

You could also take a look at some recommendations for other books on practical analog electronics.

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Foundations: Basic Linear Circuit Analysis, Analysis and Design of Electronic Circuits, Introductions to Analog IC Design, Circuit Simulation with SPICE

Devices: General Op Amp Resources, Op Amp Applications, Resistors, Capacitors, Diodes, Bipolar Junction Transistors

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