The second and probably most significant learning point is that it’s important to think of alternatives whenever you approach a circuit. Think of the articles in Nuts & Volts as basic recipes. That is, they’re starting points that you can and should personalize. Instead of approaching a project as ‘cookbook electronics’ or the equivalent of paint-by-numbers construction, think of ways that you can improve on the basic design. How can you make a circuit more economical? Smaller? More efficient? More general-purpose? For example, let’s say you find an article in this magazine or on the web that describes an op-amp circuit powered by two 9V batteries. It’s a common shortcut that often doubles the size and weight of a circuit. Instead of following the original design, why not invest an hour in making the circuit work on a single battery? You’ll not only have a smaller, lighter, and less expensive circuit, but you’ll learn about op-amps in the process.
Or, let’s say a circuit requires a chip that’s not available from the online suppliers because of a worldwide shortage. Spend some time on the web looking for equivalent chips or chip sets, and develop an equivalent circuit. Using substitute components might require reworking the circuit board and changing a few components, but you’ll really understand the circuit operation when you’re done. Sure, one of the greatest rewards of circuit building is applying power and having the circuit come to life. But the deeper, longer lasting reward is gaining an understanding of what’s going on in the circuit so that you can apply it to new circuits and situations. With time, you’ll develop a repertoire of circuit designs that will not only make you impervious to temporary component shortages but that will enable you to create your own circuits from scratch. Then you’ll be the one sharing your expertise with other readers. Happy circuit building.