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All personal computers contain integrated circuits.
The program in a washing machine is controlled by electronics
Items at a checkout in a supermarket are scanned by a bar code reader.
Many cars are now made using remote controlled robots and run using an 'on-board' computer.
A very sensitive cot alarm has been made to follow the breathing of babies.
All amplifiers in radios, cassette recorders and televisions contain many electronic devices.
Cash cards and phone cards are scanned by electronic sensors.
Many books and newspapers are written using a word processor and you will find one of these machines in most modern offices.
If you book your holiday through a travel agent it is most likely that they will do it through a computer database.
Shopping can now be done "on line"
Mobile phones using either speech or text messages are an important part of everyday life
Email is used to transmit information round the world
The Internet is a vast source of information you have used it to access these notes!
Many cars now have a GPS unit

These facts show you just how much electronics affects our everyday lives. The enormous increase in electronic devices both for communication and entertainment has had a huge impact on our lives in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. We are going to look at some experiments to help to understand some of the electronic devices that you might meet although we will have to stick to the simple ones!


Every electronic circuit must have some kind of input device so that we (the outside world) can "communicate" with it.


When the switch is closed it allows current to flow through it.


There are various types of switches that can do slightly different jobs in a circuit

SPST - sinqle pole, single throw

SPDT - single pole, double throw

DPST - double pole, single throw

DPDT - double pole, double throw

The diagrams show you examples of each type.

Which switch would you use to:
(a) change the direction of an electric motor
(b) switch on a light
(c) switch off a green light and switch on a red light
(d) switch on two motors at once


This is a resistor which has a resistance that changes with the amount of LIGHT that falls on It. In the DARK its resistance is LARGE (millions of ohms), in the LIGHT its resistance is SMALL (tens of ohms). Very little current will flow through It In the dark.


This is a type resistor which has a resistance that changes with TEMPERATURE. In the COLD its resistance is LARGE (thousands of ohms), in the HEAT its resistance is SMALL (tens of ohms). Very little current will flow through it when it is cold.


Every electronic circuit must have some kind of output device so that it can "communicate" with us (the outside world).


This is a diode that emits light when a current is passed through it. lust like a normal diode it will only work one way round. The longer of the two connecting legs should be connected to the positive terminal of the voltage supply (battery). A protective resistor is also usually placed in series with it.


This will make a noise when a current passes through it. Like the diode the version we have only works if connected the correct way round. The current needed to operate the buzzer is much larger than that needed to light the LED.


A small current passing through the coil will close a relay switch and so allow a much larger current to flow in another circuit. The reed relay could also be closed by holding a magnet next to it.


This is simply a small bulb that lights up when a current is passed through it. The bulb works either way round and the bigger the current the brighter the bulb.

Remember that for all these devices:

The bigger the resistance of a device the bigger the voltage drop across it.
In other words:
when its resistance is LARGE the output across it is HIGH (1)
when its resistance is SMALL the output across it is LOW (0)
© Keith Gibbs 2012