I learned electronics in the 80's.
Electronics is what I wanted to know since forever. My brother had the Science Fair 10-in-One kit, and later we bought the 100-in-One together - it took us more than a year to save the money to buy it.
I knew what studies I was going to do: electronics. In the early 80's
That means that everything was still through-hole at school. Digital was all about TTL. We learned processor architecture, but the only practice we had was a Z80 kit with 2 7 segment LED displays - and a TRS-80 with cassettes to learn Basic.
The first PC I saw for real was at the open day at my school when I was graduating . I had never seen or used it, but it left an everlasting impression.
So the digital knowledge I had when finishing electronics study was:
- sound understanding of digital blocks (the gates, flip flops, latch, timer, adder, divider, what have you) and TTL ICs.
- theoretical understanding of controller and processor architecture, RAM, ROM & EPROM (yes, the UV erasable variant )
- PLC, ladder logic, control theory + feed-back (and pneumatic and hydraulic systems ).
Queue some years later (1987):
IBM XT PCs were just introduced. The company I worked for (DAF Trucks) launched an employee PC program. We could buy an XT PC from Philips, and each month a part of our earnings were transfered to Philips instead of to @self - for several years!.
I subscribed, got my XT with mouse, monochrome CRT and DOS 3.
This got me so inspired that I decided to start studying again. I did an IT graduate study while working (and while starting a family+kids and building our house). My parents advanced the study money.
(I learned assembler for the 68000 [basic knowledge] and 8086 [expert knowledge, value of that skill may be below 0 by now] then. )
Once graduated (1994 or 95 - don't ask me why it took so long ), I started working in IT. I learned the OS's, languages (C++ and Java), SQL, ...
(special note to the Gang of Four and their Design Patterns: you changed the way my brain works - Grady Booch will be my hero for ever).
And this happens with many of us - we start working in IT, and our link to electronics fades. But the passion doesn't. Thank you Elektuur - Elektor for keeping me current.
I have been repairing electronics in parallel too all the time - that is also a good way to stay involved.
Electronics again, the Arduino and Hercules LaunchPad
I have been keeping my skills up to date, learning about SMT, lead-free; computer aided PCB design. And switching power supplies (I did not learn anything about that during my studies - go figure)..
And then I learned about the Arduino. I bought two of them on the 2nd hand market. It allowed me to jump from 1986 to 2012 in a few months.
Then someone posted the code to get a 20$ credit for the TI shop on eevblog. I bought (sic) a Hercules LaunchPad with that (my automotive past pushed me into the Hercules direction).
That controller has allowed me to gain so much knowledge. It's not the most popular one (partly with reason: its safety features are rich, but the learning curve is steep). But it's one of those devices that allow you to learn everything.
Because it's not one of the very popular ones, you often have to create or port libraries to that platform. You learn a lot when doing that.
The Arduino has always served me very well on the track. Because it has so many working projects and libraries, it's the ideal stepping stone and prototype platform. The community is awesome.
When I'm struggling with a design, I try to get it working on an Arduino first (or with a Bus Pirate, if it's a pure protocol try-out). That gives me a design that I can probe, verify, understand and play with.
But that Hercules microcontroller family, with its safety features and automotive/industrial/medical focus, has been my entry to step up. I'm ready for what's next.
What's your stepping stone?