Physics 221L (Principles of Electronics) Spring 2010
Professor Scott Heinekamp (scotth@wells.edu) Stratton 202 364-3361(w) 364-7676(h)

Electronics runs the human world: reliably, silently, repeatably. From the simple flashlight to intercontinental communication systems, all depends on an understanding of voltages and currents. Electronics is a somewhat odd subject to learn in a classroom. Often, it seems mystifying and almost arbitrary at times, with only imperfect theory to support the practice. It's a lot like learning to drive only by taking driver's ed - we learn how to deal with new situations best by quickly synthesizing experience and circumstances, through experiment, not merely by reading and musing. Judgement comes with experience and a fair number of mistakes, in other words. There is a revered book The Art of Electronics whose title captures an essential thing about the subject. You can expect to continue learning and enjoying electronics for the rest of your life!

Course Outline [see Lecture Schedule]
Part I: Analog (smoothly varying signals) circuits using passive components -- concepts of voltage, current and resistance, and study of linear (resistive) and nonlinear (diode-like, for now) behavior. Thevenin's and Norton's equivalents, both as simplifying concepts and as windows into "systems" concepts. Operational principles and more in-depth analysis of capacitive and inductive phenomena in ac circuits, employing the tools of deciBels and Bode plots [the text contains some interesting techniques imvolving "transfer functions" and the like, which we may touch on if there is interest]. Complex variables is the mathematical setting, in this traditionally a rather difficult part of the course.
Part II: Active circuits -- mainly about the transistor's awesome abilities to control and amplify. The world of the "operational amplifier" [op amp], containing a dozen or more transistors, is, oddly, the best beginning. Transistor action, as a switch and, if there is time and interest, for signal amplification. Introduction to feedback, which can, almost by magic, effect both gain stabilization and dramatic improvement of input or output impedance -- or cause a circuit to go into sometimes disastrous uncontrollable oscillations!
Part III: Digital electronics -- basic logic ideas, binary numbers, and simple logic gates. More advanced digital electronics (some with analog attributes as well): flip-flops, triggers, counters and timers. Conversion from analog to digital and/or vice-versa.

Printed Resources
There are two texts: Lloyd Fortney Principles of Electronics: Analog and Digital is the primary text. To provide a gentler introduction to the important ideas, and give motivation and circuit ideas in a more user-friendly way, accompanying the text is Forrest Mims's Getting Started in Electronics. And, the class notes will be very important as well. Incidentally, Cornell's electronics course uses only an "in-house" text, which is excellent but too brief for our purposes. It's worth a look.

Basis of Grading
Attendance, Class Participation and Homework [see Homework Assignments] (25%)
In order to learn electronics, you MUST play with the ideas and engage the theory, in ways that differ from most other MPS courses. So BE AT CLASS and WORK WITH THE IDEAS.
Examinations (2 x 15% + 20%): Three in all. The third will take place at the time of the final (Monday Dec 17 9am), and will be partially hands-on.
Laboratory and project (25%): Apart from the fun of "small" labs, where you can play with the ideas in the course to see how things happen in the real world, you'll be able to create one modest project: this is more involved than a lab, and will ask for creativity and independent work from you.