Almost all of our devices and consumer appliances are composed of electronic components. IPod, PDAs, mobile phones, game consoles and kitchen appliances are designed using Electronic circuits and built with components. It’s amazing to think just how many things “they” actually do. “They” are electrons: tiny particles within atoms that march around defined paths known as circuits carrying electrical energy. One of the greatest things people learned to do in the 20th century was to use electrons to control machines and process information. The Electronics revolution, as this is known, accelerated the computer revolution and both these things have transformed many areas of our lives.
Electronics is an interesting subject especially for young children who wants to know how things work. They are often driven by curiosity making basic electronics for kids an enjoyable task.
Electrical and Electronics
Electrical devices take the energy of electric current and transform it in simple ways into some other form of energy — most likely light, heat, or motion. The motor in your vacuum cleaner turns electrical energy into motion that drives a pump that sucks the burnt toast crumbs out of your carpet.
In contrast, Electronic devices do much more. Instead of just converting electrical energy into heat, light, or motion, electronic devices are designed to manipulate the electrical current itself to coax it into doing interesting and useful things.
One of the most common things that electronic devices do is manipulate electric current in a way that adds meaningful information to the current. For example, audio electronic devices add sound information to an electric current so that you can listen to music or talk on a cellphone. And video devices add images to an electric current so you can watch great movies until you know every line by heart.
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So How is Electricity and Electronics Related?
Everything from mobile phones, kitchen appliances and even electric cars, cannot run without electricity. At the same time, these things are composed of electronic components that work together to provide people entertainment or functionality. Indeed, Electricity and Electronics are inseparable. Electronic devices depend on electricity to operate. Certainly, the best model of mobile phone is useless without any power!
Conductor and Insulators
Not all the materials allow current to pass through it. When you first learn about electricity, you discover that materials fall into two basic categories called Conductors and Insulators.
Conductors (such as metals, human body) let electricity flow through them; insulators (such as plastics and wood) generally do not. But nothing’s quite so simple, is it? Any substance will conduct electricity if you put a big enough voltage across it: even air, which is normally an insulator, suddenly becomes a conductor when a powerful voltage builds up in the clouds—and that’s what makes lightning.
Analog and Digital Electronics
Analog refers to circuits in which quantities such as voltage or current vary at a continuous rate. When you turn the dial of a potentiometer, for example, you change the resistance by a continuously varying rate. The resistance of the potentiometer can be any value between the minimum and maximum allowed by the POT and dark areas into numbers and stores those instead. Storing a numerical, coded version of something is known as Digital.
In Digital electronics, quantities are counted rather than measured. There’s an important distinction between counting and measuring. When you count something, you get an exact result. When you measure something, you get an approximate result.
Consider a cake recipe that calls for 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of milk, and 2 eggs. To get 2 cups of flour, you scoop some flour into a 1-cup measuring cup, pour the flour into the bowl, and then do it again. To get a cup of milk, you pour milk into a liquid measuring cup until the top of the milk lines up with the 1-cup line printed on the measuring cup and then pour the milk into the mixing bowl. To get 2 eggs, you count out 2 eggs, crack them open, and add them to the mixing bowl.
The measurements for flour and milk in this recipe are approximate. A teaspoon too much or too little won’t affect the outcome. But the eggs are precisely counted: exactly 2. Not 3, not 1, not 11/2, but 2. You can’t have a teaspoon too many or too few eggs. There will be exactly 2 eggs, because you count them.
So which is more accurate — analog or digital? In one sense, Digital circuits are more accurate because they count with complete precision.
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