Saved by the Bel — Understanding Decibels

If you’ve hung around electronics for any length of time, you’ve surely heard of the decibel (often abbreviated dB). The decibel is a measure of a power ratio. Actually, the real measure is a bel, but you almost never see that in practice. If you are versed in metric, you won’t be surprised to learn a decibel is 1/10 of a bel. Sometimes in electronics, we deal with really large ratios, so the decibel is logarithmic to cope with this. Doubling the number of decibels doesn’t double the ratio, as you will soon see. It’s all about logarithms, and this ends up being extremely useful when measuring something like antenna or amplifier gain.

Besides antennas, decibels are often used to measure sound and light. The reason is that human ears and eyes have a logarithmic response to those quantities. Your ear, for example, has a huge dynamic range. That is to say, you can hear a whisper or a space shuttle launch. That ratio is about 1 trillion to 1, but that’s only 120 dB. This is also why potentiometers made for volume controls have a logarithmic taper. A linear pot would seem off because, for example, a tenth of a turn at one extreme will affect the apparent volume much more than a tenth of a turn at the other extreme. This holds true whether or not those knobs go up to eleven.

Continue reading “Saved by the Bel — Understanding Decibels”

[Engineerguy] explains how a CCD works

[Bill] is back with another fantastic video explaining a piece of intriguing hardware. This time, he’s explaining how a CCD works. For many of us, these things are part of our daily life, but aside from the fact that they capture an image, we don’t put much thought into them. [Bill]  breaks things down in a way that we really enjoy. Fast paced and detailed, yet simple enough for even non-engineers to follow. This time, however, he’s also promoting his companion book which includes tons more information, not only on the construction and function of these ideas, but the underlying scientific principles.

The book, called Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, covers the following items:

  • Digital camera imagers
  • tiny accelerometers
  • atomic clocks
  • enriched uranium
  • batteries
  • microwave ovens
  • lasers
  • anodized metals

We’re excited about the book and it looks like they’ve worked really hard to deliver a quality product. Great job guys.

Electronics tutorial two-fer: soldering skills and wires

electronics_tutorial_twofer_soldering_skills_and_wires

There is a plethora of electronics tutorials scattered about online. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the good ones from the bad, and the enlightening from the misinformed. We recently came across a pair that we found helpful, and thought they would appeal to anyone starting off in electronics.

In this video tutorial, [Dave Jones] at the EEVblog covers soldering, detailing good practices and common mistakes to avoid when working with through-hole components. As the second video in a series he picks up where part one left off, excitedly demonstrating the ins and outs of good soldering skills.

Hackaday reader [grenadier] is working on a series of beginner’s electronics tutorials, and this week’s entry covers wiring. He discusses wire types, gauges, and even provides a nifty self-computing chart that calculates power loss based on the length and gauge of the selected wire. Before wrapping things up, he briefly touches on fuses and the pitfalls of choosing wire that’s not up to the task at hand. While you’re over there looking over his tutorial, be sure to check out the Junkbox, there’s plenty of awesome stuff to be had!

Electronics lessons for beginners

electronics

Hackaday reader [grenadier] wrote in to share a series of tutorials he is working on, where he discusses the basics of electricity and electronics. The first lesson titled, What is Electricity?” has been wrapped up, and is available for free on his site.

For any of our regular readers, the lesson will seem pretty basic (and likely full of things to nitpick). However, we imagine his lessons would be quite helpful to anyone looking to expand their electronics know-how.

Now don’t get us wrong, we love the series of electronics tutorials that Jeri has been periodically releasing, but we think there’s plenty of room on the Internet for other willing teachers as well. If his first lesson is any indicator, his tutorials will be easy to understand, sprinkled with a little bit of humor, and chock full of fun videos that demonstrate the subject at hand.

Take a quick look his way if you get a chance – you or someone you know might find his tutorials and reference guides insightful.

[Image courtesy of Electronicsandyou]

Introduction to the H-bridge motor controller

[Chris] sent us this fantastic tutorial, introducing beginners to H-bridge motor drivers. While many of you will consider this stuff basic, those who are trying to expand from building only things the arduino board can handle to bigger more expansive (and powerful) projects will find this quite helpful.  [Chris’s] tutorial is very in depth, not only going through the construction of the basic circuit but also showing you how to make your own PCB.  Pop on over there and learn some theory and some practice. Then you can build that battle bot you’ve always been dreaming of!

1Hz timebase

Check out this nice simple method of achieving a 1Hz timebase. This is basically a lesson in dividing crystal frequencies in circuits to get the desired result. In this case, they are starting with a 32.768KHz crystal and dividing it down. Instead of using an NE555 like many projects, he chose to go a direction that would yield results less prone to drifting with temperature variation. The method chosen was a CD4060 frequency divider, basically just a chain of flipflops. The divider is one step short of getting to the desired result so an additional flipflop has to be added. This is pretty basic stuff, but a great read. They go into detail as to how it all works and why you would use this method.

Pssst, hey, remember that time I told you to just use a 1Hz crystal? yeah, we can laugh at that again.

[via HackedGadgets]