Electronics is that branch of engineering and applied physics that is concerned with the design and deployment of systems involving electrical and/or semiconductor devices. The operation of such systems depends on the flow of electrons through the electronic/electrical devices. Signal generation, transmission, reception and capture are thus carried out. Signals can be in the form of audio, pictures (as in a television or computer system), or numbers and text data.
The implementation of such systems is of great importance in the fields of electrical, electronic and computer engineering. The pure study of electronic devices and circuits is considered an offshoot of applied physics.
Advent of Electronics
Electronics is a vast field in today’s technologically advanced world. It is playing a major role in the improvement of man’s quality of living. This exponentially growing realm of engineering had its origins sometime around the beginning of the 1900’s. Vacuum tubes were used for the manipulation of electrical signals. These vacuum tubes or thermionic valves overrode the necessity of using high-voltage sparks that were needed to create radio waves. This led to the development of more uses of the vacuum tubes for processing of signals as varied as music or voice and simple data transfer in rudimentary computers. Thus, radio communication technology flourished in its early stages, with previous telegraph and telephone circuits improving simultaneously.
However, a turning point in the history of electronics took place with the invention of the transistor in 1948. Consisting of a semiconductor material such as germanium, or more commonly silicon, it has electrical contacts to facilitate appropriate input and output signals to be involved. The power consumption, space required, cost and weight were drastically reduced as compared to their predecessors. Further advancements in electronic technology led to the development of integrated circuit (IC) technology, which incorporates hundreds of thousand of transistors on a single chip.
Design of electronic systems
A modern electronic system consists of ICs at the heart, along with several resistors, capacitors and diodes as supporting devices to perform specialised functions. Using previously manufactured building blocks such as the ones mentioned above, electronic circuits are designed to according to the requirement and application. There are several design softwares like ORCAD, that help engineers design circuits.
Types of electronics circuits
Electronic circuits can be broadly classified as analogue, digital and mixed circuits.
- Analogue circuits involve a few basic circuits in their construction. Such systems, as in a radio receiver, represent data variation by a measurable physical quantity. The measurable quantity is received by a transducer and converted to a desired form.
- Digital circuits use logical building blocks such as gates, flip-flops, counters, shift registers and multiplexers for their construction. Examples are microprocessors, microcontrollers, and digital signal processors. Computers and programmable logic controllers are examples of highly sophisticated circuits.
- Mixed circuits contain both analogue and digital components necessitating the use of analogue-to-digital converters (ADC) and digital-to-analogue converters (DAC) in their setup.
Mobile computers and digitally recorded sound are just two examples of electronic wonders.
Today’s research is focussed mainly on improving speeds and capacities of computers. The future may see the replacement of semiconductors by superconducting elements resulting in very high processing speeds.