General Questions about electronics


I’m fairly new to the world of electronics. My actual degree was very light on the hardware assembly of things in the field. I just wanted to ask a few clarifying questions, as I have no background on these topics and it would be great to find out some information.

The main things I want to do is program ICs.

  1. Is a FPGA just a dedicated pre-assembled IC? Is there some difference in how the electronics are assembled.
  2. How do I pick a power supply assuming i want to prototype IC’s using a breadboard, how does the wattage affect the choice and such, and what should I be aware of.
  3. Is a PCB just a board with presoldered connections between parts? What else is in a PCB exactly?
  4. The most important question, where can I find resources for what I want to do, I have been reading electronics books, but some of it is far too detailed for me to use effectively within the time constraints I have.

Thanks for all your replies in advance.

Hi Jeygopi,

I’m not really sure about most of these questions. Let me break them down.

  1. I think so? I’ve never heard the term FPGA before (I had to Google it)
  2. You need to pick a power supply that provides the proper voltage. The incorrect voltage will destroy any delicate electronics. The amperage needs to be some amount that is greater than the demands of your device, but its less critical. A device will only use as many amps as it needs. (There are personal safety risks to having very high amperage power supplies though. If you short a wire and have a high amp power supply you could weld something together)
  3. PCB stands for “printed Circuit board” Its just electrical paths laid flat on a board that the components can be soldered to. PCB is very general and can apply to a circuit with any sort of parts. In most cases, you would encounter one with parts already attached, but “PCB” does not refer to the attached parts.
  4. You can find lots of resources online to do what you want to do. If you gave me some specifics I could make a recommendation!

Thanks for the reply Stephen, Appreciate it,

  1. What exactly do you mean by personal safety risks? The amperage I’ve bought has a maximum output of 2.2A, but I bought a converter to 3.3/5V for use in an IC circuit
  2. Great thanks, exactly as I thought, good for someone to clear it up, sites often forget to mention what the benefits of PCB’s are and what they do better.
  3. I’m looking for resources to learn how to go from designing a PCB on a computer to actually getting it manufactured and such.

Thanks !

Hi Jeygopi,

FPGA is Field Programmable Gate Array. I have used these it the past, Altera was the brand.
Essentially, you design a circuit on a PC, then tell the PC to program the circuit in the chip. We didn’t use the ability to change the circuit in the field. The result was one chip that did what we wanted and would have taken maybe 100+ individual logic chips.

The software and equipment to do all this was extremely expensive, at the time.

FPGAs are very powerful because the circuit design can be changed as necessary. One device could be used for many different applications if the design was such. In our case a slow 8-bit micro controlled the data flow and functionality of the fast FPGA.


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Hi Jeygopi,

While it’s OK electrically to have more amperage than you need, excessive amperage increases the risk of shorting something. This isn’t anything you need to be concerned about with if your under 5A. I’m only suggesting that if you power a simple circuit off a car battery that might be capable of delivering 100A, then if you accidentally cross a wire its going to burn up in a very bright flash. You always want to have more amps available than what your circuit will draw, but don’t overdo it. Its unlikely that you would find yourself in this position anyway, as power supplies get pretty pricey as they get more powerful.

What software are you using to design your PCBs?
Something like Proteus will allow you to design, program and test all on the computer. You can export your designs and send them to PCB manufacturers. This has obvious advantages for product development, but its way over my head personally.

I typically use Eagle to design PCBs. Things I design tend to be pretty simple so I don’t scratch the surface of what this software is capable of. There are lots of resources out there to help you learn to use it effectively.

We offer a PCB milling service that makes it easy to get simple prototypes made without needed to order 100+ like many manufacturers require:

Hey Jeygopi

On the Subject of FPGAs Intel bought out Altera a couple years back. Though you can get the lite version of their Quartus Design software for free.
You will need to learn a Hardware Description Language. I learnt System Verilog, it looks a lot like C but you need to remember with hardware everything happens at the same time, It is a bit of a head trip going from Software to hardware.

There is also the TinyFPGA though I have not used them before, they seem to have a community going fairly strong.