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Basic Hobby Electronics Vocabulary, A-Z

If you’re a beginner to hobby electronics, here is a short list of the most basic terms you will encounter as you venture into your electronics hobby.

Alternating Current (AC): Current that is periodically reversing its direction of flow.

Ampere (A): The unit of measure for electric current. Commonly shortened to “amp”.

BatteryBattery: A device which uses a chemical reaction to convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy.

Capacitance: A measure of the electric charge that can be stored on a conductor; the ability of such conductors to store electric charge.

Capacitor: An electrical component that introduces capacitance in electric circuits.

Conductor: A material that has low electrical resistance and can therefore efficiently allow electrical current to flow through it.

Current: A measure of the flow of electric charge passing any point of a wire per unit of time.

Digital Circuit: A circuit in which inputs and outputs have only two possible states: low (0) or high (1).

Diode: A two-terminal electronic device that allows current to flow in only one direction.

Direct Current (DC): Current that flows across a material in one direction only.

Disc capacitorDisc Capacitor: A type of capacitor that has low capacitance and is used mostly in high frequency circuits. Disc capacitors are not polarized.

Electrolitic capacitorElectrolytic Capacitor: A type of capacitor that has high capacitance and is used mostly in low frequency circuits. Electrolytic capacitors are polarized.

Electronics: The science and technology concerned with and based on electricity and its applications.

Farad (F): The unit of measure for capacitance.

Ground: A common name for the reference point in an electrical circuit at which the measured voltage is taken to be zero.

Insulator: A material that has high electrical resistance and is therefore a poor conductor of electricity.

Integrated Circuit (IC): A type of digital circuit in which transistors, diodes, resistors and capacitors are constructed on a semiconductor base.

Light Emitting Diode (LED): A type of diode that generates light when current flows through it.

Ohm’s Law: The relationship between voltage, current and resistance.

Ohm (Ω): The unit of measure for resistance.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB): A board in which components are connected using a thin coat of conductive material “printed” on the board instead of wires. It is used for mounting electrical components.

Resistance: The electrical friction between an electric current and the material it is flowing through that causes electricity to be dissipated as heat.

ResistorResistor: An electrical component used to introduce resistance into a circuit.

Schematic: A diagram of an electrical circuit that uses standardized symbols for the components.

Semiconductor: A material of electrical resistance between that of a conductor and an insulator. It is used to construct diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.

SolderSolder: A tin-lead alloy that becomes liquid when heated to above 360 degrees. It has low resistance, like other metals, and provides a strong mounting.

Switch: A device used to connect or disconnect the wires in an electric circuit, turning it on or off.

TransistorTransistor: A three-terminal, solid-state electronic device designed to amplify, oscillate, or switch the flow of current between two terminals.

Voltage: The measure of difference of electric potential across a material or between two points in a circuit.

Volts (V): The unit of measure for voltage.

Want an Encyclopedia?

Maker Shed has an exhaustive list of any component you can imagine and then some, with awesome pictures, a perfect reference for the electronics hobbyist and curious tinkerer!

Here: Encyclopedia of Electronics Vol. 1 and Encyclopedia of Electronics Vol. 2

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