Electronics are all around us. We see them when we go to work and when we eat. We also see them when we communicate with one another over the phone. You are using an electronic device to read this post right now.
But what exactly are electronics? How do they work? If you are wondering if electronics are as complicated as they seem then you are right. However, if you really want to learn how electronics work then stick around.
If you want to look at electronics in a simple manner then you can. Just like anything else in this world, electronics are composed of components. These components working together is what makes electronics work. We will discuss each of these components and help you build a better understanding of how electronics work.
Electricity and How It Relates to Electronics
Most electronics require electricity to function properly. That is why it is important that we discuss electricity before getting into the inner workings of electronics. Electricity is a type of energy used to power most electronics. However, this energy is dangerous when not controlled by a central unit. A good way to describe electronics is by comparing it to the heart. That would make electricity the blood. So, electronics can send electricity throughout the device to make it work. Just as the heart pumps blood out to the body so that you can live. Electronics use circuits to move the electricity around in a safe manner. These circuits are what make electronics work.
Circuits and Components: Inside Electronics
If you have been curious enough to tear open an electronic device then you likely have seen a circuit before. Circuits are very important to how electronics work. Everything that goes on in the circuit is crucial. Each circuit inside has a specific function, just like your body! To understand how electronics work, learning what each component does is essential. Before we begin discussing the different parts of a circuit, you should know that a circuit is composed of two sides, the component side of the card and the circuit side of the card. Each side is equally important, but the components we will discuss below are located on the component side of the card. The electricity we discuss moves around on the circuit side. This will give you a better visual representation of how each component works in the electronic device.
Diode and Semiconductors
Direction is important to electronics. Moving electricity the right way is vital to keeping the device working. Diodes allow for electricity to travel in one direction. Just like diodes, semiconductors are also capable of controlling the flow of electricity in a specific direction. Semiconductors do this in a more efficient and precise manner. The ability to change AC (alternating current) into DC (direct current) is a major reason diodes are so important. For example, some circuits hold electricity through them that send the current going back and forth. This electricity is not doing anything if it is not sent throughout the rest of the device. Diodes are used in this situation to change that electricity which is in alternating current to direct current. Thus, the electricity can be sent to work on powering the device.
Just as the name implies, resistors are used to resist or restrict the electric current going through them. A simple name with a simple job, resistors can be used in multiple situations. Being able to control the amount of electricity in a circuit is just as important as controlling the direction of it. Imagine the circuit as a swimming pool. The water is the electricity. If you fill the swimming pool up too much, it overflows. Without resistors, the electricity would overflow the circuit and destroy its components.
Transistors serve two functions: to amplify and to switch. The amplify function is quite simple. When a transistor is set to amplify, it can provide a boost of electrical current. The most common example of this is with hearing aids. Transistors are used to increase the sound volume of hearing aids. Looking at switch transistors, you can imagine them working similar to a light switch. When an electrical current is traveling through the circuit, having a transistor switch will tell the electronic device when it is okay to send the current through to another component.
How Do Electronics Work?
Electronics are complicated but developing a basic understanding of how they work is doable. Look at electronics as any other thing in this world. Everything is created of different components that work together to function correctly. This is the same for electronics. The different components inside of them combined allow for electronics to work. Electricity plays a big part of this as it is the energy required to power electronics. Electronics direct this energy and manipulate it in a way that is safe. Without circuits and the different components inside of it, electricity would be too dangerous to use. The manipulation of this electricity is the key to making electronics work. Here is a quick summary of the important parts of each component:
- Diode: sends electricity to one specific direction
- Resistors: controls the amount of electricity in a circuit
- Transistor: can amplify and switch electrical currents
- When amplifying, the electricity is boosted to provide more energy for a certain function to work properly such as increasing the volume on a hearing aid
- When working as a switch, transistors can redirect the electricity in the device to serve a different function
These components are located on the component side of a circuit. All the electrical current runs through the circuit side opposite of the component side. The blocks that hold each component are different sizes and this makes sense because each one has a different function.
Simple can be good, however, you should always strive to learn more. For a more in-depth basic guide on electronics, check out Greg’s Introduction to Basic Electronics. It is a wonderfully made guide that goes through everything we’ve discussed here and more in better detail.