Just about everything the US Government publishes is available to the public. Granted, browsing the GPO bookstore yields a lot of highly specialized documents like a book on how to perform pediatric surgery in hostile environments. However, there are some gems if you know where to look. If you ever wanted to have a comprehensive electronics course, the US Navy’s NEETS (Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series) is freely available and has 24 modules that cover everything from electron flow through conductors, to tubes, to transistors and integrated circuits.
There are many places you can download these in one form or another. Some of them are in HTML format. Others are in PDF, which might be easier to put on a mobile device. The Internet Archive has them, although sorting by title isn’t quite in numerical order.
Some of the content is a bit dated — the computer section talks about magnetic core and bubble memory, for example, even though the latest revision we know of was in 1998. Of course, there are also references to bits of Navy gear that probably doesn’t mean much to most of us. However, things like the shift register (from module 13) you can see above haven’t changed in a few decades, so you can still learn a lot. The phase splitter in the top banner is even more timeless (you can find it in module 8).
However, the core information is very relevant and well-presented. While it is true that you can find lots of college-level electrical engineering material online now for free, those courses are often stuffed full of theory and math. NEETS is aimed at a technician, so it is quite practical and includes sections on things as basic as reading schematics and as sophisticated as RF filters, microwave circuits, and fiber optics.
Not that the course pulls too many punches. The section on oscillators, for example, covers in great detail how different oscillator types work (like the Pierce oscillator from module 9, below). It also covers frequency multipliers. The emphasis isn’t on their design, but understanding the principles of operation is a big step towards being able to design these circuits. There’s also a lot of background information on how a lot of components like ICs are built.
Some of the chapters are better than others. The test equipment module (module 16) is good but covers a lot about calibration stickers and other Navy administrative trivial. You might not be that interested in RADAR systems, synchros, and gyros, either (then again, maybe you are, but you can always skip the modules you don’t want). Here’s the list (with abbreviated titles):
- 1 – DC
- 2 – AC
- 3 – Circuit Protection and Measurement
- 4 – Wiring and Schematics
- 5 – Generators and Motors
- 6 – Tubes
- 7 – Solid State Devices/Transistors
- 8 – Amplifiers
- 9 – Oscillators, Filters, and Frequency Multipliers
- 10 – Antennas
- 11 – Microwaves
- 12 – Modulation
- 13 – Digital Logic
- 14 – Microelectronics/ICs
- 15 – Synchros, Servos, Gyros
- 16 – Test Equipment
- 17 – RF
- 18 – RADAR
- 19 – Technician’s Handbook
- 20 – Glossary
- 21 – Test Methods
- 22 – Digital Computers
- 23 – Magnetic Recording
- 24 – Fiber Optics
Most of the modules have assignments and you can find the answers, too. You may need a little algebra, but not much and certainly nothing beyond that.
The Navy has a lot of other training that might be interesting. There’s machine shop training, photography courses, and hydraulics. If you are looking for something more academic, the MITx Circuits and Electronics class is excellent and a great example of what can be done with Internet delivery of training. It’s truly a great time to be teaching yourself more about electronics!