Everything for Electronics

Gerard Fonte

Gerard's Articles

Analog Mathematics
May 2009
Even in the midst of the digital revolution, there's still a place for analog mathematics to streamline your designs.

A Primer on Phase Locked Loops
April 2009
Learn the fundamental principles that PLL circuits embody and try your hand at a couple applications.

Power MOSFETs Part 2
February 2009
Last time, we examined how to use power MOSFETs. This time, we'll build two projects.

Basic Analog Power Supply Design (Part 2)
January 2008
Start to finish instructions on how to build your own power supply - Part 2.

How To Choose An Operational Amplifier
March 2008
There are probably thousands of operational amplifiers (op-amps) available. But which one is the best for your particular application? Learn how to wade through the jargon and select the op-amp that best fits your needs.

January 2009
Part 1 will cover the theory behind these useful devices that have a lot of overlooked features.

Column: In The Trenches
January 2003
This is the first in a series of columns that looks at the business perspective of electronics. This is about the things learned from experience, rather than from a textbook. This is about practical electronic design direct from the trenches. Hence the title. The idea is to show how to design better with real-world examples and from lessons learned the hard way.

January 2003
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been around since the mid-1960s. They have nearly replaced incandescent lights as indicators and in digital displays. They're even making inroads into AC line-operated lights. In particular, traffic stop-lights are now often made with LEDs. However, LEDs are not incandescent lamps. They have many qualities of their own, some quite surprising. This article will discuss the general characteristics of LEDs, practical applications, and some of the more unusual...

Column: In The Trenches
March 2004
Much of a design engineer's time is spent making things that aren't working work. Often times, this can be a real challenge, especially if the design steps (circuit design, board layout, assembly, etc.) are performed by different people. The engineer must determine not only the problem with the product, but also which design step is faulty and how to correct it. This month, we'll look at some approaches that can help in such situations.

Column: In The Trenches
May 2004
Statistical analysis is an extremely powerful tool. It is important for an engineer to be familiar with techniques and methods of statistical analysis. Statistical procedures are often used to define reliability, but they are also very useful in signalprocessing.

June 2004
This is one of those things that seems just a little interesting at the start, but, as you look closer, it gets stranger and stranger. It’s a simple, plain, plastic box. It has a knob, LED, and power connector. When you turn it on, it doesn’t seem to do anything at all. It just sits there. However, put an empty soda can on the machine and lightly rub it with a dry finger. The can vibrates. Yet, this does not happen with a stationary finger or a damp finger.

Column: In The Trenches
June 2004
This month, we'll apply basic probabilities. We'll start by looking at some fundamental concepts and the mechanics of probabilities.

July 2004
Last month, we examined two designs for building the Enigma Machine. We saw that it is a device that produces pulses of 1200 volts at a rate of a few Hertz to a couple of hundred Hertz. Because the high voltage is completely isolated from the outside, no significant current flows. Therefore, it’s safe to play with. This month, we’ll look closely at the vibration effect, as well as experiment with other properties of high voltage.

Column: In The Trenches
July 2004
A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is more than just traces that connect components together. It is an integral part of any design. A good PCB design is one that you never notice. A bad design can cause headaches for years.

August 2004
The Enigma Machine generates high voltage pulses that are safe to play with. In the first two installments, we saw how to build it and witnessed some of the more obvious strange effects. The vibration effect (where a dry finger brushes an empty soda can on the machine causes a vibration, but a damp or stationary finger does little) is probably the most apparent. This month, we'll look at some of the less obvious — but still very strange — effects. We'll also show how you can transfer an electric

Column: In The Trenches
August 2004
New ideas abound, but it's important to be able to recognize bad ideas, as well as good ones. Good ideas can make lots of money. However, it's probably more important to be able to see bad ideas from the start. These bad ideas may very well cause problems in the future from lost sales, lawsuits, and wasted time and money.

September 2004
This is the last part of the Enigma series. In some ways, it should really be the first because The Enigma Machine grew out of these high power observations. It was only after the electrical, physical, and chemical experiments were performed that enough information became available to design it.

Column: In The Trenches
September 2004
There is probably no other profession that depends upon specifications as much as engineering does. You create something to meet some set of requirements or you rely on the performance data of various components. Very often, both aspects are employed at the same time. Knowing how to make, read, and understand specifications is an important part of engineering.

Column: In The Trenches
October 2004
The characteristics that are associated with engineers are both stereotypical and somewhat accurate. This month, we’ll take a not-too-serious look at some of these traits to see what they are. After all, it’s important to understand how others see the profession, as well as what features make someone a good engineer. (Note that the pronoun “he” is used for simplicity and brevity. Most hardware engineers are male; however, more women are entering the field every day.)

In The Trenches
Column: In The Trenches
November 2004
At some time in an engineer's career or in a business' development, a decision about specialization or generalization will occur. This month, we'll discuss and examine various factors and implications of generalization and specialization. Clearly, it's useful to consider the good and bad points of each position well before you face the choice.

How to Make Projects That Work
Column: In The Trenches
December 2004
There is probably nothing more frustrating, annoying, and embarrassing than spending a week on a "simple" project that doesn't work, only to have someone else do it in an afternoon and with a handful of junk-box parts. What makes some people better at getting things to work properly? In this special all-projects issue, we'll look at ways to make you more successful in making projects that work.

Analog To Digital Conversion Considerations
Column: In The Trenches
January 2005
This month, we'll examine the error sources and problems that occur when the necessary attention to detail is ignored.

A Primer On Quality
Column: In The Trenches
February 2005
Quality and quality control are important to the success of any product. Designing and producing a quality product is not accidental. In this column, we will examine those factors that are necessary for creating and manufacturing a quality product. We will also briefly touch on the ISO 9000 quality standards.

Rules and Rule-Bound Behavior
Column: In The Trenches
March 2005
Rules are part of everyday life and human nature. They are necessary and useful; however, rules can be confining, and this is especially true when rules are applied without any consideration for context. There are all types of rules: social, personal, business, technical, and biological. The important common aspect of these rules is that you don’t have to understand them to obey or enforce them.

Measuring the Speed of Light
April 2005
Most people know that light travels at around 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum, but that speed is really incomprehensible. This project will allow you to measure the speed of light simply and inexpensively, as the basic parts cost well under $20.00.

Project Engineering Taks
Column: In The Trenches
April 2005
There are a series of steps that are usually followed in most engineering development cycles. It’s important to know what these are and what they entail, and this is especially true for the new engineer or new engineering business venture (independent consulting). This month, we’ll go over these basic steps and explain what they consist of and why they are important.

Teaching and Training
Column: In The Trenches
May 2005
Because engineers create new things and new ideas, other people have to be instructed in how these new things and ideas work. Naturally, it falls on the engineer to do the teaching and training. Understanding what is necessary and expected of you when you talk to a group of people can be helpful.

Tips and Techniques Revisited
Column: In The Trenches
June 2005
Engineers are often called upon to fabricate and repair equipment themselves. Unfortunately, for many engineers, their only exposure to hands-on work was from laboratory exercises in school. This month, we’ll look at some practical approaches to common problems. For experienced hobbyists, some of these may seem obvious.

Managing Engineers
Column: In The Trenches
July 2005
This article is going to be somewhat different from the past ones. Instead of addressing a topic that is directly applicable to engineers, I will look an important indirect topic.

Recognizing and Encouraging Good Ideas
Column: In The Trenches
August 2005
Engineers and engineering managers are always at the leading edge of technology. New ideas are potentially very valuable.

Software Development
Column: In The Trenches
September 2005
From time to time, most engineers are required to develop software. Some have training for this and others don’t. Sometimes the training is inappropriate for the task at hand. This month, we’ll look at approaches and considerations that are important in developing good software.

Generating Analog Waves From Digital Signals
September 2005
Getting good analog signals out of digital ones can be done fairly easily with a minimum of parts. It does take some programming effort, and high-frequency audio signals require most of the uC clock cycles. However, if you experiment with these two general approaches you will probably find some interesting applications for your projects.

Hiring And Firing
Column: In The Trenches
October 2005
As engineering departments grow, engineers are often promoted to management positions, or at least assume management responsibilities. When those responsibilities include hiring engineers and technicians, new managers can be challenged by the difficult assignment. Even more challenging are the times when workers must be eliminated from the department because of financial concerns, or poor performance or behavior. This month, we’ll look at the factors involved in hiring and firing.

Human Nature - Part 1
Column: In The Trenches
November 2005
In my column, I often refer to human nature. I think it’s time to take a closer look at what actually constitutes human nature. This is important because engineers, as a group, are generally more interested in things than people. However, dealing with people in both personal and business settings is essential.

Human Nature - Part 2
Column: In The Trenches
December 2005
This month, we'll take a somewhat more serious look at human behavior than last month and examine what motivates people and how to understand why people act as they do. We'll see that once you learn the underlying principles of behavior, some seemingly absurd actions can actually be normal and expected.

Stress - Oh No!
Column: In The Trenches
January 2006
Sometimes stress is defined as that "overwhelming desire to pound the living daylights out of something." Unfortunately, stress isn't explained that easily. Stress certainly includes frustration and anger. But it's also present when you get married or divorced, get a new job or lose your present one, and even when you play video games. Sometimes stress is good. Sometimes it's physical and other times it's emotional. There are many different types and causes of stress.

Column: In The Trenches
February 2006
Instrumentation, sometimes called test and measurement, is a vital component of engineering and production. This month, we'll examine instrumentation fundamentals and look at a couple of examples. We'll also discuss some practical aspects that may help you during the design and development of your product.

RADAR And Electronic Warfare Fundamentals
July 2006
This article presents some of the fundamental concepts of radar and shows how EW (Electronic Warfare) develops from that.

Interfacing Standards: RS-232
January 2007
These days, there are various common interfaces available. Choosing the best interface is not always trivial. Do you need an interface to store data or to control your robot?

The Digi-Log Clock
February 2007
This clock project is a little bit different. It combines digital logic and modern electronic components with the traditional analogpositional display (almost).

Pulse Speed Timer
April 2007
There is a delay between when your heart beats and when the pulse is felt at your wrist (or elsewhere). This delay depends upon a number of physical factors, including the elasticity of the walls of the arteries...

Sonic Realism - Part 1
May 2007
The holy grail of high fidelity sound reproduction is to recreate the listening experience exactly. The listener shouldn’t be able to tell the reproduction from the original...

Sonic Realism - Part 2
June 2007
Why does recorded music sound different from the real thing? When we walk into a room, we instinctively know if the music or speech we hear is live or a reproduction...

Making Waves
July 2007
Examine a number of methods of creating sine waves (and others) from digital values.

The Arbitrary Waveform Generator
August 2007
There are many simple sine/square/triangle wave generators available to the hobbyist. But oftentimes, something more is needed when the commonly available waves just aren’t adequate. For these occasions, an arbitrary waveform generator is necessary...

Basic Analog Power Supply Design
December 2007
Start to finish instructions on how to build your own power supply.