beginner-friendly electronics tutorials and projects

Discover the joy of understanding electronics!

CD4026 decimal counter tutorial

November 17, 2019 tutorial

The CD4026 is an integrated circuit (IC) that works as a counter from 0-9 with an integrated decoder for a 7-segment display. I think it is an ideal beginner circuit for anybody who wants to learn electronics. In this tutorial we will go through the very basics of this IC and learn, step by step, how to connect it to pushbuttons, a 7-segment display, and a battery, to build our own counter! Keep reading.

  • CD4026
  • decimal counter
  • 7-segment display
  • common cathode
  • debouncing
  • beginner-friendly
  • schematic
  • tutorial

My electronics gear over the years

November 8, 2019 article

Over the last 15 years I have used many pieces of electric/electronic/mechanical tools and equipment (“gear”), and some of them are great and I still use them, and others turned out to be a bit of a downer. In this article I list those that come to mind right now, and add their advantages and disadvantages. Keep checking back, as I will continuously update this page! Keep reading.

  • power supply
  • bench multimeter
  • analog multimeter
  • digital multimeter
  • oscilloscope
  • digital storage oscilloscope
  • logic analyzer
  • microcontroller programmer
  • soldering station
  • solder fume extractor
  • desoldering pump
  • desoldering braid
  • tools

How do old school analog panel meters work?

October 27, 2019 tutorial

Panel meters are simple electromechanic devices that can be used to measure currents, voltages, and resistances. Even though they seem to fade away in today's ever more digital electronics world, I think it is worthwhile to learn a little bit about them. How do they work? And how can we use them in electronics to measure stuff? Keep reading.

  • panel meter
  • ammeter
  • voltmeter
  • ohmmeter
  • moving coil instrument
  • magnetic field
  • spring
  • tutorial

Learn binary!

October 18, 2019 tutorial

We all know decimal numbers, but computers work with binary numbers which are formed from 0's and 1's. When working with microcontrollers it is extremely helpful to know a little bit more about binary numbers as well as operations that can be performed on them (called Boolean operations). In this tutorial we will go through the basics so that we can face any binary number that crosses our path! Keep reading.

  • decimal
  • binary
  • hexadecimal
  • Boolean operations
  • NOT
  • AND
  • OR
  • NAND
  • NOR
  • XOR
  • SHL
  • SHR
  • tutorial

What is your favorite electronic display?

October 11, 2019 article

I have always found displays one of the most fascinating things about electronics. There are so many interesting and creative ways to visualize data! In this week's article we will take a look at a lot of different displays, just so see what's out there. Many of these display technologies are quite old and no longer in use. All the more reason to take a look! And who knows, maybe you will come across on of these displays :) Keep reading.

  • electronic display
  • seven-segment LED
  • LED matrix
  • flip dot
  • edge-lit
  • lightguide
  • IEE projection
  • LCD
  • VFD
  • Numitron
  • Nixie tube
  • Panaplex
  • CRT
  • NIMO tubes
  • thyratron

CMOS 101 - Understanding integrated circuits of the CMOS family

October 4, 2019 tutorial

Microcontrollers are great, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to think outside the box a little bit. In this tutorial we will go through the basics of integrated circuits (ICs) of the CMOS family, including counters, logic gates, encoders & decoders, shift registers, flip flops, and others. Knowing when you can use a CMOS IC to solve a simple problem can and will make your life easier! Keep reading.

  • CMOS
  • 5V logic
  • decimal counter
  • binary counter
  • logic gates
  • encoder
  • decoder
  • shift registers
  • tutorial

More microcontroller outputs with shift registers

September 29, 2019 tutorial

What do you do when your circuit has a lot of LEDs that need to be individually turned on and off? Do you always need a bigger controller with more I/O ports? The answer is no! Using a so-called shift register you can extend the number of outputs almost arbitrarily. In this tutorial we will learn how :) Keep reading.

  • shift registers
  • I/O ports
  • data
  • clock
  • strobe
  • cascading
  • CMOS
  • CD4094
  • tutorial

Use RS232 to connect your microcontroller to a computer or another controller

September 20, 2019 tutorial

RS232? That sounds so 1990! Maybe so, but in this tutorial I want to show you why I still think RS232 is a good protocol to connect your PIC circuit to a computer, and, perhaps more importantly, to another PIC controller. Many PIC controllers have a built-in USART module that allows you to utilize the full power of the asynchronous data transmission and reception offered by protocols such as RS232. Let's do it! Keep reading.

  • RS232
  • serial port
  • RS422
  • MAX232
  • level shifter
  • data transmission
  • BAUD rate
  • tutorial

How to configure your PIC microcontroller

August 17, 2019 tutorial

In every single PIC microcontroller project we do it: set the configuration bits. But what does that accomplish? In this tutorial we will go through the basic options for these “configuration bits” and we will focus on the PIC16F627A microcontroller so that we have a concrete example. Keep reading.

  • configuration bit
  • PIC microcontroller
  • FOSC
  • WDTE
  • LVP
  • CPD
  • CP
  • oscillator selection
  • watchdog timer
  • power-up timer
  • brown-out detection
  • low-voltage programming
  • EEPROM memory code protection
  • code protection
  • tutorial

What have we done?!

August 9, 2019 overview

In the last couple of weeks we have accumulated quite a few articles and projects! Time to list them all in a better way to make everything more organized :) I hope that this post is useful for anybody who stumbles upon FriendlyWire and wants to get a streamlined presentation of what we have covered here so far. Also, I will update this post with every new upload and article so that it is always up to date! Keep reading.

  • electronics
  • beginner-friendly
  • tutorial
  • PIC
  • microcontroller
  • how-to
  • projects
  • articles

How to adjust LED brightness with a PIC microcontroller

August 2, 2019 tutorial

In our first real microcontroller project we made an LED blink: it could be either ON or OFF. But what if you want to control the brightness of the LED and dim it? With a microcontroller this is usually accomplished by pulse width modulation, or PWM for short, and in this tutorial we will learn how to dim an LED using the PWM module inside a PIC16F627A microcontroller! Keep reading.

  • tutorial
  • PWM
  • LED
  • pulse width modulation
  • dimming
  • RC filter
  • analog-to-digital converter
  • DAC
  • beginner-friendly
  • breadboard
  • schematics
  • microcontroller

How to build a binary clock

July 29, 2019 project

In the last weeks we have learned how to program PIC microcontrollers, how to connect pushbuttons, and how to create a 1Hz time base signal. Now it is time to put it all together and build a clock. But not just any clock, a binary clock! Binary is the number system used by computers, and it is ideally suited to display numbers by using simple LEDs! Let's do it! Keep reading.

  • binary clock
  • microcontroller
  • pushbutton
  • LED
  • crystal
  • 4.194304MHz
  • interrupt service routine
  • simple project
  • .hex file
  • source code

Where can you buy electronic components?

July 12, 2019 article

So you have decided to get a bit more into electronics. Great! But where should you buy the electronic components that are needed for a project? How do you find them? Where do you get the best deal? In this week's article, we will go through common resources for electronic components, and by the end of this article you will have a good idea where you should buy that last missing component for your next cool project! Keep reading.

  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Mouser Electronics
  • Digikey
  • AliExpress
  • Banggood
  • Adafruit
  • SparkFun

Programming a 1Hz clock signal

July 5, 2019 tutorial

Electronic clocks are everywhere, so it is probably a good idea to learn how they work. And the most important part of a clock is, of course, the clock signal. In this tutorial we will learn how to generate a reliable 1Hz signal using a PIC microcontroller. In the end, we will write a small program that makes an LED blink precisely once a second. And soon enough, we will be able to build our first digital clock using this technique! Keep reading.

  • clock
  • 1 Hertz
  • quartz crystal
  • 4.194304MHz
  • microcontroller
  • timer
  • prescaler
  • interrupts
  • C code
  • .hex file

How to choose the right power supply?

June 28, 2019 article

As we build more and more circuits, and all of these circuits have to be powered, we have to ask ourselves: what is the best way to power an electronic circuit? With a power supply, of course. But there are many choices. In this article we will go through the major options out there and list their advantages and disadvantages. Keep reading.

  • power supply
  • linear power supply
  • switch mode power supply
  • voltage regulator
  • current regulator
  • galvanic isolation
  • short-circuit protection

What makes a microcontroller tick?

June 21, 2019 article

In the past projects and articles we have kind of glossed over this point: what makes a microcontroller tick? In this article we will fill that gap! We will focus on crystals, and crystal oscillators, and how they are used with microcontrollers to provide a stable timebase. Keep reading.

  • article
  • crystal
  • crystal oscillator
  • clock frequency
  • microcontroller
  • timebase
  • piezoelectric effect

Build your own electronic dice!

June 7, 2019 project

In the last weeks we have learned a lot about the basics on microcontrollers. In this project, we will combine all that knowledge. We will use a pushbutton, nine LEDs, and a microcontroller to make an electronic dice! How does it work? By pressing the pushbutton, the nine LEDs act as the spots of the dice and show a random number. Let's do it! :) Keep reading.

  • electronic dice
  • microcontroller
  • pushbutton
  • LED
  • random number
  • simple project
  • .hex file
  • source code

Schematics 101 – how to read them and not get overwhelmed

May 31, 2019 tutorial

Whenever you build an electronics project that surpasses a certain complexity, a schematic is needed. Schematics show all the components in an electric or electronic circuit, and how these components are connected to each other. At the same time, they can be quite hard to understand and it is easy to get overwhelmed. In this tutorial we will go through the basics of schematics, and I will list a few helpful strategies to understand even complicated schematics. Keep reading.

  • schematics
  • circuit
  • beginner
  • power supply
  • ICs
  • labels
  • junctions
  • conventions

How to read out a pushbutton with a PIC microcontroller

May 24, 2019 tutorial

In this week's post we will discuss the simple question of how to read-out the state of a pushbutton using a microcontroller. How can we check if a button is pushed down or not? What are common pitfalls? I am convinced that breaking down a more complicated project in little digestible pieces is a great idea to develop a deep understanding of a topic. So here we go! Keep reading.

  • pushbutton
  • tristate register
  • pullup resistor
  • pulldown resistor
  • debouncing
  • tutorial
  • beginner-friendly
  • microcontroller

Buttons and switches 101

May 18, 2019 tutorial

Whenever a circuit relies on an external mechanical input we use switches or buttons. I thought it would be interesting to collect the most common variants of switches and buttons that are typically found in electronics. Please let me know if I missed your favorite one! Keep reading.

  • pushbutton
  • switch
  • tactile switch
  • toggle switch
  • DIP switch
  • slide switch
  • limit switch
  • rotary switch
  • rotary BCD DIP switch
  • rotary hex DIP switch
  • reed switch
  • relay

Breadboards 101 – What do you need to know?

May 3, 2019 tutorial

Breadboards are incredibly useful for beginners in electronics. They are affordable, versatile, and re-usable. Nevertheless, there are a few key points to keep in mind when using them. In this tutorial we will go through the basic properties of breadboards. Keep reading.

  • tutorial
  • breadboard
  • beginner-friendly
  • power supply
  • jumper wires
  • Dupont wires

Make an LED blink: your first simple PIC microcontroller project!

April 26, 2019 tutorial

In the last two weeks I described how to write your first PIC microcontroller program and how to flash it on to the controller. In this week's post, we will describe the accompanying electronics. Don't worry, it is not very complicated, we will get there! Keep reading.

  • tutorial
  • LED
  • beginner-friendly
  • breadboard
  • schematics
  • troubleshooting
  • microcontroller

Your first microcontroller program!

April 19, 2019 tutorial

So last week I showed you how you can transfer a hex file onto a PIC microcontroller using the PICkit3 and the MPLAB IPE X software. For this week's post I think it will be nice to go through a very simple program that makes an LED blink. Keep reading.

  • tutorial
  • beginner-friendly
  • microcontroller
  • XC8 compiler
  • .hex-file

How to “flash” a PIC microcontroller?

April 12, 2019 tutorial

Many interesting online electronics projects make use of microcontrollers, and for the beginner this tends to be a pretty intimidating word. At least it was for me when I started with hobby electronics many years ago. But there is really no reason you should be afraid of this topic. It is a bit involved, sure, but you will be amazed how fast you can make progress when you shake off that initial fear. Keep reading.

  • tutorial
  • beginner-friendly
  • microcontroller
  • PICkit3
  • .hex-file

Useful software in hobby electronics

April 5, 2019 article

The computer has long entered the stage of hobby electronics. Sometimes I think this is a good thing, and sometimes I kind of dislike the idea. I mean, back in the day before computers were around it was already possible to build amazing pieces of equipment. But in this post I want to look at computers not as a distraction but rather as a useful companion for anyone who wants to get stuff done in hobby electronics. Keep reading.

  • article
  • freeware
  • Sprint Layout
  • Eagle Layout editor
  • Fritzing
  • LTspice

LEDs 101 – what do you need to know?

March 29, 2019 tutorial

LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, are everywhere. Your smartphone? Check. Your microwave? Check. Your electric toothbrush? Check. In this article I want to present the basic ideas of how LEDs work and how you can use them in simple projects without having to rely on expensive after market solutions (such as wired LEDs with battery drivers that are expensive and often of questionable quality). Here we go! Keep reading.

  • LED basics
  • beginner-friendly
  • led resistor
  • current limiting
  • LM317 constant current source

Soldering vs. breadboard layouts

March 22, 2019 article

Wires are the veins of any circuit. Nowadays most circuits are built using printed circuit boards (PCBs), and what used to be wires has become lanes of copper on a carrier board. This technique is quite involved and rather complicated: the circuit has to be designed, then converted into a PCB layout, and then it is etched out of a copper sheet. In modern PCBs there can be multiple layers (2,4, or even more) and the size of PCBs ranges from a few mm2 to desk-size. It sure can be intimidating as an electronics enthusiast to see these works of art! Keep reading.

  • article
  • soldering
  • printed circuit boards
  • perf board
  • breadboard

5 things I wish I knew when I started learning electronics

March 15, 2019 article

You want to get started in electronics, and there are so many things to keep track of. When I got into the field many years ago, I had to try and figure out what works. In the following list I am trying to compile the five most important facts that I wish I had known back then, so you don't have to go through the same trouble that I did. I hope you find it helpful! Keep reading.

  • article
  • batteries
  • power supply
  • maker communities
  • datasheets

Hello world!

March 8, 2019 article

Yet another blog sees the light of day! But why? In today's overly saturated online world, full of electronic gimmicks and gadgets, is it really necessary to have yet another blog? I think yes! I feel that it becomes harder and harder to understand the pieces of electronics that surround us, and this is only partly due to the increasing level of technological achievement. Mostly, it seems by design: it is a lot easier if you cannot fix your own radio when it breaks. Then you have to buy a new one when it breaks, don't you? Keep reading.

  • electronics
  • joy of understanding

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Beginner-friendly electronics tutorials and projects. Discover the joy of electronics! Keep reading.

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  • electronics
  • beginner-friendly
  • tutorial
  • PIC
  • microcontroller
  • how-to
  • PICkit3
  • XC8 compiler
  • .hex-file