Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1 by Platt
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Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1 by Platt

Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1 by Charles Platt | PDF Free Download.

Preface to Encyclopedia of Electronic Components

At a time when information is widely and freely available in greater quantities than ever before, the reader may wonder whether The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components is really necessary.

Surely, anything you want to know can be found online? Well, yes and no. Let’s consider the available resources.


Datasheets are indispensable, but they have limitations. Some are detailed; others are skimpy. Some show you sample schematics as a guide to using a component; many don’t.

None of them tells you much about how a component works because that’s not their purpose. Often they don’t mention other components that must be added.

Some datasheets for DC-DC converters, for instance, say nothing at all about bypass capacitors, even though the capacitors may be essential. A datasheet for an optocoupler says nothing about the pullup resistor required by the open collector output.

Datasheets don’t facilitate comparison shopping. A datasheet from one manufacturer will not compare its products with those from another manufacturer, and may not even provide much guidance about alternatives that are available from the same manufacturer.

For example, a datasheet for a linear voltage regulator won’t suggest that you might do better to use a DC-DC converter in an application where high efficiency is important. Most of all, datasheets don’t tell you how to avoid common mistakes.

What actually happens if you connect that tantalum capacitor the wrong way around? A datasheet gives you the customary list of absolute maximum values, and after that, you are on your own, burning things out, encountering mysterious electronic behavior, and discovering limitations that are so well known, the datasheet didn’t bother to mention them.

In my experience, relying on datasheets creates a significant risk of reinventing the wheel.


Wikipedia’s coverage of electronics is impressive but inconsistent. Some entries are elementary, while others are extremely technical.

Some are shallow, while others are deep. Some are well organized, while others run off into obscure topics that may have interested one of the contributors but are of little practical value to most readers.

Many topics are distributed over multiple entries, forcing you to hunt through several URLs. Overall, Wikipedia tends to be good if you want theory, but not-so-good if you want hands-on practicality.

Manufacturers' Tutorials

A few helpful and enlightened manufacturers have compiled highly authoritative, instructional overviews of the components that they sell.

Littelfuse, for instance, publishes an excellent series of documents telling you everything you could possibly want to know about fuses.

But now you encounter a different problem: There is so much information, you’ll need a couple of hours to dig through it all. Also, because the tutorials tend not to receive high page rankings on Google, they can be hard to find.

And if a manufacturer has gaps in its product line, its tutorial is unlikely to mention them. Consequently, you won’t know what’s missing.

Personal Guides

It is a well-known attribute of the Web that many individuals feel the impulse to share everything they know (or think they know) about a particular topic.

These personal guides can present surprisingly thorough online coverage of relatively obscure issues, such as the types of capacitors most suitable for loudspeaker crossover circuits, or the correct derivation of amp-hour numbers for lead-acid batteries.

Unfortunately, on some sites you can also find errors, unsubstantiated opinions, plagiarism, and eccentricity. My general rule is that three or more guides generally have to agree with each other before their statements can be trusted—and even then, I have a small residue of doubt.

The search-inspect-and-verify process can take a while. So—yes, the information that you want usually does exist somewhere online, but no, it may not be easy to find.

The vastness of the Web is not organized like an encyclopedia. What about books? Generally speaking, they tend to be entry-level, or they specialize in narrow areas.

A few broad-ranging books are truly excellent, but they are primarily educational, organized in an instructional sequence. They are not reference books.

The Encyclopedic Solution

Scarcity or inaccessibility of information ceased to be a problem many years ago. Its vast quantity, inconsistency, and dispersal have become the new barriers to acquiring knowledge.

If you have to go hunting among datasheets, Wikipedia, manufacturers' tutorials (which may or may not exist), personal guides (which may have unrevealed bias), and multiple educational books, the process will be inconvenient and time-consuming.

If you plan to revisit the topic in the future, you’ll have to remember which URLs were useful and which ones weren’t—and you may find that many of them are not even there anymore.

When I considered these issues during my own work as an electronics columnist for Make magazine, I saw a real need for a fact-checked, cross-referenced encyclopedia that would compile the basic information about components concisely, in an organized, consistent format, with informative photographs, schematics, and diagrams.

It might save many people a lot of search time if it could summarize how components work, how to use them, what the alternatives are, and what the common errors and problems may be. That is the modest ambition of The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components.

The Audience

Like any reference work, this one hopes to serve two categories of readers: The informed and the not-yet-informed. Perhaps you are learning electronics, and you see a part listed in a catalog.

It looks interesting, but the catalog doesn’t tell you exactly what the part does or how it is commonly used. You need to look it up either by function or by name, but you’re not sure where to start. An encyclopedic reference can simplify the fact-finding process, can save you from ordering a part that may be inappropriate, and can tell you how it should be used.

Perhaps, instead, you are an electronics engineer or hobbyist, thinking about a new circuit. You remember using a component three or four years ago, but your recollection may not be reliable.

You need to refresh your memory with a quick summary—and so, you open the encyclopedia, just to make sure.


Obviously, this book cannot include every component that exists. Mouser Electronics claims to have more than 2 million products listed in its online database.

The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components only has room for a fraction of that number—but still, it can refer you to the primary types.

The electronic edition of this book should allow easy insertions and updates. My hope is that it can become an ever-expanding resource.


Any reference work draws inspiration from many sources, and this one is no exception. Three were of special importance:

Practical Electronics for Inventors by Paul Scherz (second edition) McGraw-Hill, 2007

Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory by Robert L. Boylestad and Louis Nashelsky (ninth edition) Pearson Education Inc., 2006

The Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill (second edition) Cambridge University Press, 2006

I also made extensive use of information gleaned through Mouser Electronics and Jameco Electronics.

And where would any of us be without Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M. Mims III, or The TTL Cookbook by Don Lancaster? In addition, there were individuals who provided special assistance.

My editor, Brian Jepson, was immensely helpful in the development of the project. Michael Butler contributed greatly to the early concept and its structure. Josh Gates did resourceful research. My publishers, O’Reilly Media, demonstrated their faith in my work.

Kevin Kelly unwittingly influenced me with his legendary interest in "access to tools." Primary fact checkers were Eric Moberg, Chris Lirakis, Jason George, Roy Rabey, Emre Tuncer, and Patrick Fagg.

I am indebted to them for their help. Any remaining errors are, of course, my responsibility. Lastly I should mention my school friends from decades ago:

Hugh Levinson, Patrick Fagg, Graham Rogers, William Edmondson, and John Witty, who helped me to feel that it was okay to be a nerdy kid building my own audio equipment, long before the word "nerd" existed.

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