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Book details of 'How Electronic Things Work. . .And What to Do When They Don't'

Cover of How Electronic Things Work. . .And What to Do When They Don't
TitleHow Electronic Things Work. . .And What to Do When They Don't
Author(s)Robert Goodman
ISBN0070246300
LanguageEnglish
PublishedAugust 1998
PublisherMcGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics
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Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
In the preface, Goodman states that the text is intended for the general consumer with little or no electronics background. The promotion of the book emphasizes the ability to save money on maintenance and repair costs. To be blunt, I don't believe this book can be written. A biased opinion, to be sure, but one that I have formed over years of experience with all manner of things electronic. In the first place, electronic things work in an enormous variety of ways. Certainly the basic discrete components are the same, but the numbers of components can easily reach hundreds or thousands in the complex electrical devices on which the book concentrates. In addition, any number of service "technicians" do not actually know how the devices they service really do work. What they do know is that on machine A part B fails quite often, and the characteristic symptom of this failure is C. This is why it is often dangerous to allow electrical engineers near your faltering equipment: they *do* know how things work, but don't necessarily know the frequency of repair rates for part B on machine A. Another factor is that many failures in electronic objects are actually due to mechanical faults, with special needs in terms of repair. A final point is that, in an attempt to ensure that components cannot be damaged, many are now designed in such a way that they cannot be fixed, either. Chapter one does not relieve me of any of these concerns. The explanations are not simple, they are simplistic. In fact, the brief descriptions of discrete components and the like signally fail to teach what these items are and do. The illustrations and figures are appalling. I am thoroughly familiar with books that do not use figures effectively, but I don't believe I have ever come across a work which relies so heavily on pictures, uses so many, labels them so poorly, and, in the end, conveys so little useful information. The author suggests some testing tool circuits as projects, but the simple diagrams would be completely incomprehensible to those who were not already fairly heavily involved with electronic hobby work. (They make very little sense to me, and I've seen more than a few circuit diagrams in my life.) (The projects also require many items that you might not find in the usual home repair toolkit, such as an oscilloscope.) A cartoon of "Piher mini pots" is not very informative, particularly since neither "piher" nor "pots" are defined, or even mentioned, in either the text, the index, or the disjointed glossary. And so it goes. Chapter two, on radios, seems to be more of an ad for Bose than anything else. I showed the diagram of an "FM dipole antenna you can make" to a technical colleague, and his immediate reaction was "what is that?" Would anyone with "little or no electronics background" know how to check the B+ voltage on a capacitor? Or ensure that they did not arc it to ground? Or properly adjust the head penetration depth on a cassette deck (with no more instruction than that)? Would they know how to check broken flex cable trace leads on a CD player circuit board (chapter three)? Check the vertical oscillator and output transistors and/or IC stages on a TV (chapter four)? Check and replace any broken parts on the idler tire of your VCR (chapter five)? Admittedly, some of the material is not quite so arcane. Chapter six, on satellite TV dishes, only recommends those adjustments that can be made from the system menu accessible to the user. And, after telling us how to take a camcorder apart (which might be easier than getting it all together) chapter seven doesn't actually recommend any action you can't take from the outside. But chapter eight seems to think we can check (or even find) the ring detection circuit on a telephone answering machine. In comparison, chapter nine's review of computers is comically brief, with very little to suggest in the way of repair tips. Printer and fax problems and solutions, in chapter ten, focus on paper jams. There are some magazine level "explanations" of how some of the technology, such as CDs and FM radio, work. Generally speaking, these discourses fail to impart any real understanding that would lead to an ability to fix something that wasn't working. In fact, most of the material in the book simply provides vocabulary, without anything in the way of conceptual background. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999
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Book description:

Is your CD player skipping tracks? PC keyboard locking up? Cordless phone full of static? Get those electronic babies up and running perfectly with this handy do-it-yourself introduction to basic home-and-office electronics repair. From audio/video equipment to cameras, cordless and cellular phones, personal computers, and peripherals, it helps everyone Ieven those with no prior electronics experience) troubleshoot and find solutions. Includes safety tips, easy-to-read schematics, block diagrams, and time-saving information on the most common problems and fixes.

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