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Ëý with any field of study, electronics has its own lingo. Some terms deal with electricity and units of measure such as voltage. Other terms are tools you use in projects or electronics parts, such as transistors. Here are many of the terms you’ll run into in your electronics life. Knowing these terms will help you become electronics fluent.
alkaline battery: A type of non-rechargeable battery. See also battery.
Allen screw or wrench: See Hex.
alternating current (AC): Current in which the direction of the flow of electrons cycles continuously from one direction to the other and back again.
See also direct current (DC), Hertz.
amplitude: The amount of voltage in an electrical signal.
Anode: The positive terminal of a diode. See also cathode.
auto-ranging: A feature of some multimeters that automatically sets the test range.
AWG (American Wire Gauge): See wire gauge.
bandwidth: Relative to an oscilloscope, the highest frequency signal that you can reliably test, measured in megahertz (MHz).
battery: A power source that uses a process called electrochemical reaction to produce a positive voltage at one terminal and a negative voltage at the other terminal. This process involves placing two different types of metal in a certain type of chemical. See also alkaline battery, lithium battery, nickel-cadmium battery, nickel-metal hydride battery, zinc-carbon battery.
biasing: Applying a small voltage to the base of a transistor to turn the transistor partially on.
bipolar transistors: A common type of transistor. See also transistor.
breadboard: (also called prototyping boards or solderless breadboards) Plastic boards that come in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes; they contain
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columns of holes that little slivers of metal connect electrically. You plug in components — resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, integrated circuits and so on — and then string wires to build a circuit. See also soldered breadboard.
buss: A common connection point.
cable: Groups of two or more wires protected by an outer layer of insulation, such as a common power cord.
capacitance: The ability to store electrons, measured in farads.
capacitor: A component that provides the property of capacitance (the ability to store electrons) in a circuit.
cathode: The negative terminal of a diode. See also anode.
circuit: A series of wires connecting components so that a current can flow through the components and back to the source.
cladding. A very thin sheet of copper that you glue over a plastic, epoxy, or phenolic base to make a printed circuit board.
closed circuit: A circuit where wires are connected, and current can flow.
See also open circuit.
closed position: The position of a switch that allows current to flow. See also open position.
cold solder joints: A defective joint that occurs when solder doesn’t properly flow around the metal parts.
commutator: A device used to change the direction of electric current in a motor or generator.
components: Parts used in electronics projects, such as a battery or transistor.
conductor: A substance through which electricity can move freely.
connector: Metal or plastic receptacles on a piece of equipment that cable ends fit into; an example of a connector would be a phone jack in your wall.
continuity: A test you perform with a multimeter to establish whether a circuit is intact between two points.
conventional current: The flow of a positive charge from positive to negative voltage; the reverse of real current. See also real current.
current: The flow of an electrical charge.
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cycle: The portion of a waveform where the voltage goes from it’s lowest point to the highest point and back again is one cycle. This cycle is repeated as long as the waveform is running.
DPDT: See double-pole, double-throw switch.
DPST: See double-pole, single-throw switch.
desolder pump: A device that sucks up excess solder with a vacuum.
diode: Components that limit the flow of current to one direction.
direct current (DC): Current in which the electrons move in only one direction, from the negative terminal through the wires to the positive terminal; the electric current generated by a battery is an example of direct current.
double-pole switches: A type of switch that has two input wires.
double-pole, double-throw switch (DPDT): A type of switch that has two wires coming into the switch and four wires leaving the switch.
double-pole, single-throw switch (DPST): A type of switch that has two wires coming into the switch and two wires leaving the switch.
electric current. See current.
electricity: The movement of electrons through a conductor.
electromagnet: Some form of coiled wire around a piece of metal (typically an iron bar). When you run current through the wire, the metal becomes magnetized. When you shut off the current, the metal loses that magnetic quality.