Saturday, January 15, 2011

Final Thoughts

I apologize in advance for the length of this "final" post - final in quotes because who knows... there may be reason to occasionally revisit this blog with updates. But before I leave and move on to the next blog project, I'd like to put down some overall thoughts on this entire experience.

1. Should be required reading for all engineering students - I feel strongly that this book should be a standard textbook for all engineering students. I wasn't in the electrical engineering department, and my electronics training was mostly white-board theory and word problems in the back of chapters. One class did get us some hands-on time with a soldering iron and some resistors, but come on! I don't think any engineer should leave school without having this level of basic knowledge.

2. Should be suggested reading for all high school students - We have these lists of books that we tell every high schooler they should read - mainly classics of literature. But how often do we provide those students who have a strong interest in math and science with a list of good technology books? This is the book I WISH I had in high school - it may very well have changed the course of my studies. I'm happy with my chosen vocation, but it took over a decade out of university for me to find the time and the right book to get my understanding of electronics to this level. So... high school teachers and parents - try to buy a few copies of this for your high school library. (I'd donate mine, but the picture I'm including here should give you an idea of how I've abused my copy - the spine is peeling away and every other page is curled and written on.)

3. The cost to learn is high - I've read some comments about Component Packs 1 and 2 that Makershed sells... and there are concerns about the extra costs involved in finishing this book and its 36 experiments. Yes, the costs are high. But I'd estimate that for less than $300 you can have everything you need, including tools, to finish this book. That's the cost of a few college textbooks these days. It's also about the same cost as a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot kit which many parents buy for kids ages 8 and up. Consider this book, all the parts, and all the tools an investment in your education (or your child's education) and dive in. The tools will always be yours (and will last if you take good care of them). I simply refuse to worry about the costs I've incurred by working through this book. The education is priceless.

4. I missed a few... argh! - A few of the experiments I never could get to work... and a few others I skipped (especially towards the end). But the important part is that I understand! I get it. I have never understood electronics before the way I do now. I am still in shock that a book like this has alluded me all these years, but I'm glad it's here now, and I have shared (and will continue to share) both the book and the skills I've learned with teachers, parents, and students.

5. Learning by Doing... and Blogging - I've always had success learning a new skill when I'm actually doing something... I think most of us will agree that this method works. But I've also learned over the years that when I write something down... either my own explanation or at least my thoughts on something... it sticks better. By sharing my experiences - and reading your feedback/comments - I get to go back through each experiment again and further cement that knowledge. Maybe you'll consider doing something like this yourself - pick a book, create a blog, and document your work as you plow through the material. Reading a book is typically a solo endeavor, but I was surprised at how many folks tuned in to follow me work through this book. It was nice to know others were doing the experiments, getting their own results, and comparing them to mine... and those who helped me troubleshoot were a huge asset that you'll never get reading a book on a couch alone.

6. Never stop learning - I've already picked my next blogging project, but for those of you not ready to leave the book after Experiment 36, you'll be happy to know that the author appears to be providing more experiments in the pages of Make magazine... I've already seen in the previous 2 issues (23 and 24) that the author has included new experiments to perform with all new components to investigate. Rest assured, if one picks my interest, I may grab it, do it, and follow up here with a post.

Just a little over a year ago (Jan 6, 2010) I began this blog with the simple goal of using it to motivate me... if I posted my work for anyone to see, it'd light a fire under me to finish. I figured if I knew people were checking in on my status, it'd be hard to quit. Peer pressure can be a great motivator.

So, here we are... Jan 15, 2011. Make: Electronics finished.

Thank you, Charles Platt, for writing the book. I think it is one of the most valuable books I've ever read.

Thank you, Make Magazine, for putting it out there and creating those components packs that have allowed many folks to perform the experiments. (I also want to thank you for supplying a nice bundle of Maker Notebooks to give away as prizes - I've kept a few for my own personal use in future projects.)

Thank you, Readers... I've enjoyed your comments, and the results and obstacles you've shared. Good luck finishing the book (if you haven't already done so). I'll continue to receive notices when you post comments, and I'll do my best to reply to them. And please feel free to share (as a comment to this post) what you'll be doing next - any books of interest? Any project kits you've found that look interesting? Let me know.

James Floyd Kelly
Atlanta, GA
Jan 2011


  1. Hey James, it's been fun watching this unfold. have fun on the next project.

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  3. Good job, and I'll look here for the next project. This website project eclipsed any tech book review I've ever read through.

    A pity a couple of the experiments failed or were skipped. Hopefully some readers fill in these blanks (I'm actually wondering if some problems were due to small errors in the book, introduced during publication). We'll see.

    I have to say this project you did ranks right up there with the websites tronixstuff, adafruit, and Sparkfun in terms of helpful learning. If this were the 90's, I'd suggest the book manufacturer package this website up onto a supplemental disc. =)

  4. Thanks, Scott - appreciate the kind words.

    Yes, the few skipped/failed projects will always bug me, but I don't like to sit in one place too long... if I can't get a project to work, I at least want to understand it in theory. I think I managed to accomplish that.

    As for packaging the site up? I believe there are sites out there that will take a blog and convert it to a book for a small fee - is one of them. I give permission for folks to buy copies of the book for themselves or as donations but absolutely no selling the content, please!

  5. Update - Blog2Print will print the entire year's worth of blog contents (minus commentary, but you can enable it - price will be higher) for $22.35 for black&white... color softback is $54 and color hardback is $64. Digital PDF download is $8.

    If anyone finds a similar service for less, please post here. I might get a print copy of the blog for my own shelf...

  6. Hello James. You have inspired me to do the same thing - blog my way through Make: Electronics. Thank you for the good work.


  7. That's awesome, Cory... best of luck. I'll check in here and there and see how you're doing...

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  9. I keep reading and hearing that the cost of working through this book is high. I'm not sure that is a fair or even reasonable complaint. I think with anything like a fair perspective, the cost is very reasonable.

    My perspective is this. At the middle school where I teach, there is a machine that sells bottled water. The machine charges $1.00 for a pint bottle of water or other liquid refreshment. Many of the students...11 - 13 year olds...consume at least one, and often 2 of these drinks each day, and these are NOT "rich" kids.

    The cost of working through the projects in this book, including the tools I bought as well as the project kit #2, worked out to less than $400, or about the cost of drinking a serving of bottled water (cheaper than one of those fancy coffee drinks) each day.

    An adult can work through the book simply by switching from *$s to home brewed coffee. A kid can do it by passing up his daily serving of Mountain Dew and Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

    The only legitimate complaint about the cost is that once started, the lure of the toys from Adafruit, Sparkfun, Jameco, Solarbotics, AllElectronics, Digi-Key, and Mouser inspires expenditures far beyond any indicated in the book!

  10. Just wanted to say thanks for an incredibly useful blog. I was doing all the experiments in the book and around halfway through, I found this blog and it was immensely helpful to read your experience and to see your videos. So, thanks ! And I agree with your comments, this book should be a standard book for all engineering students. I am an electronics engineer, but seriously learned more from this book than many years in the engineering program. One of the most useful and interesting book I have read in a long time.

    I will be following along your Arduino blog as well. Keep up the good work.

  11. Jim

    I have just started going through the Make Electronics book and would love to add my comments and experiences to this blog as I go along. Are you still accepting comments and updating this blog?


  12. Just a friendly note for your next project -- please update your method for embedding YouTube.

    There is a newer YouTube embed method which permits Youtube to auto-detect the browser, then return the correct object embed for that platform. This means everything "just works" and the browser gets nice HTML5 video instead of a Missing Plug-In error. :-)

  13. I just got this book two weeks ago and am working through. I just found your blog tonight, love it!

  14. Excellent blog Jim - still working my way through the book myself and appreciate having the opportunity to "compare notes" as I work through things. I just finished experiment 6 but am plowing through things pretty fast. If you feel so inclined, come check out my experiment videos ( and say hello!

  15. Thank you for your amazing blog.

    You inspired me to do the same.
    I know a few people came to your blog to say that they have started a blog as well but they all seemed to have give up very shortly after.

    I went through the pain of buying all of the components and tools necessary for all of the experiments already and have about 7 entry in my blog so far so I think im in a good shape and wont be giving up any time soon ;)

    You actually went on to do exactly what i want to do, get a good grip on the basic and then move on to Arduino.

    Your blog really encouraged me because you show that the book really work, your final thoughts on it confirm that if we follow the instructions, we will learn electronics and be comfortable with it.

    Thank you very much!

  16. Couldn't help but congratulate you for all the hard work and the generosity of sharing so much valuable information. As for the mean commentaries that the price of putting into practice your info is too high, just ignore them. There is no such thing as practicing a hobby or doing a valuable thing without making a financial investment as well. It takes to give in order to get.

  17. thanks for your information and advice.i am a student of electronics &communication engineering .So this book essential for me.