Audience: Electronics enthusiasts
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead
Learn electronics by creating exciting projects with an Arduino. It sounds like a really good idea.
Unfortunately this isn't the book the title suggests it is. In fact the discrepancy is so great it is difficult to see how the mistake could have been made.
The book starts off with a project to build a singing bird circuit. The Arduino uses a photocell to trigger a relay that turns on a one transistor oscillator. Not a bad project, but probably not one to start a beginner off. The reason is that the loudspeaker is driven by a split winding audio transformer. This is not a big deal from the construction point of view, but explaining why the project needs to use one brings us into some deep water. Perhaps more worrying is the very first schematic diagram in the book. Instead of the simple "two-rail" sort of layout, i.e power at the top and ground at the bottom, it uses an ad-hoc layout which makes it very difficult to read. Beginners have trouble reading even simple "two-rail" diagrams and this arrangement just makes it unnecessarily hard to see what is going on. Unfortunately, this style of diagram is typical throughout the book.
The next problem is that almost immediately we have the use of Multisim to show how the circuit works and the use of an oscilloscope to see the pulses. All the way through the book, Multisim is used to show test circuits with simulated outputs. However, no details of the software are provided to enable the reader to try out the same techniques.
Very little electronics theory is explained, which doesn't fit with the flash that proclaims "Learn electronics concepts on the front cover and the user level suggested for the book on the back jacket of "Beginning-Intermediate". And where theory is included we start from very high level concepts. The explanation of how a transistor works on page 8, for example, has a diagram that is likely to confuse any beginner and has an explanation that isn't likely to make any more sense. Straight after the attempted explanation of the transistor, we have a detailed investigation of how the audio transformer works. This is not a logical progression.
When we hit the software the reader really needs to know how to program because the Arduino code is simply presented as a finished product. It is true that the book doesn't claim to teach you programming but a few more words might help the beginner.
After Chapter one the book mostly gives up pretending that it is trying to teach electrons and it just gets on with describing projects. The list includes: Mini Digital Roulette Games; an interactive light sequencer; experiments with motors; a music box; experiments with haptics; LCDs; a logic checker; and temperature measurement.
Each chapter contains a good discussion of the components used, how to work with them via the Arduino. But the difficult-to-interpret diagrams, the use of Multisim and the oscilloscope also continue throughout the book. If you know some electronics and how to program then you will find that there is a lot of fun to be had. However, if you are a beginner, you just aren't going to understand what is going on. The explanations are clear enough if you have a good grounding in basic electronics - voltage, current, resistance - and want to go further but this is not an introduction to electronics in any sense.
Overall I enjoyed the book, but then I am not a beginner. I can however recommend it if you know enough electronics and want to know more. The projects aren't, in most cases, cutting edge and the book is light on programming details but it is still worth reading. If you don't know anything about electronics keep well away from this book.
The rating of 4.5 is for a suitable reader, i.e. someone with prior experience of both electronics and the Arduino. For a beginner, the rating would be 1 or lower.