New Book Reviews (circa 1996)

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by Rudolf F. Graf and William Sheets

It's here, the latest volume (#5) of the Encyclopedia of Electronic Circuits, one of the best-known circuit reference books. Volume 5 is just like its predecessors, which might sound bad, but is actually meant as a compliment. The authors have a winning formula and are sticking to it. There are 112 separate sections in Volume 5, each of them devoted to a specific class of circuit, such as amplifiers, oscillators, or comparators. Each entry within a section consists of a schematic diagram and a brief description of circuit operation. If you need more information, bibliographic citations tell you where to look. The circuits themselves are abstracted from various popular magazines and professional journals, though a few of them have been devised by the authors.

At the back of Volume 5 you'll find a comprehensive index covering not just Volume 5 but the preceding four volumes as well. Since similar circuits are found in all of the volumes, each can stand on its own as a circuit reference. Thus, a hobbyist could buy just Volume 5 and feel comfortable knowing that he's not missing much by not having a complete set. On the other hand, engineering libraries and those with deep pockets will want the whole set.

The library of an electronics enthusiast is not complete without some form of circuit reference book.

The Encyclopedia of Electronic Circuits is comprehensive and reasonably priced, which makes it a good choice for the hobbyist as well as the engineer.

Encyclopedia of Electronic Circuits, Vol. 5, 753 pages, softcover: $34.95.

TAB/McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850.

Telephone 800-822-8138.


by James E. Tunnell and Robert Kelty

The purchaser of a scanner or shortwave receiver often finds himself in a quandary, because there is so much activity to monitor that it's hard to know where to begin. How do you tell what is important from what is not, and how do you know when and where to listen? You could answer these questions in the time-honored way, through diligent listening and experimentation, or you could do it the easy way by picking up a copy of Master Frequency File, the radio listener's equivalent of TV Guide.

Master Frequency File is a directory of U.S. government usage of the radio spectrum. It identifies the frequencies, call signs, and user IDs for a variety of U.S. government agencies. The frequency range covered is from 25 to 2110 MHz.

Agencies covered include the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Commerce Department, Transportation Department, Veterans Affairs Department, General Services Administration, Land Management Bureau, National Park Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration Service, Marshal Service, Prisons Bureau, ATF Bureau, Customs Service, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Internal Revenue Service, and Secret Service. All of this is augmented by maps and a Master Resource File which points the way toward other books and organizations related to monitoring.

There is also some interesting trivia to be gleaned from the book.

For instance, I learned that Henry Kissinger's code name during the Nixon years was "woodcutter." And there are some lengthy appendices devoted to the terrorist threat to police and fire communications, encrypted voice communication, and radio monitoring for earthquake precursors. All in all, quite an interesting book for the radio buff.

Master Frequency File, 530 pages, softcover: $29.95. TAB/McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850. Telephone 800822-8138.


by Colin Haynes

For centuries now, the dissemination of words and ideas has been a cooperative effort between two vastly different groups of people: publishers and writers. The publisher is the businessman whose job it is to see that writers are turning out script, printers are printing it, and distributors are delivering it to the readers. From the writer's point of view, this is all pretty dull stuff.

The writer's job is to think and peck at a keyboard. Since the writer rarely shows signs of exertion, publishers feel that writing is a fairly simple job and pay accordingly.

This cozy symbiotic relationship between writer and publisher may now be in jeopardy thanks to the emergence of new forms of electronic publishing. According to author Colin Haynes, electronic publishing (either on disk, on CD-ROM, or over the Internet) allows the writer to also act as publisher.

Mr. Haynes goes on to describe multimedia publishing and some of the software available for that purpose. He describes the impact of electronic publishing on in-house business communications. And he offers advice on marketing and distributing electronic books. Also discussed are the packaging and duplication of disks and CD-ROMs.

Electronic publishing presents opportunities for photographers, artists, and musicians as well as writers, and the author briefly covers some of the possibilities. He offers tips, tricks, and techniques to aid the would-be author/publisher, and includes four well-regarded shareware authoring programs on a disk bound into the book. The programs are Dart, Multimedia Workshop, Softlock, and Writer's Dream.

Colin Haynes does a good job of explaining the new forms of electronic publishing and how they can be exploited. No doubt there are people who can function as both author and publisher, and they will relish the book, but I have a feeling that most writers who also don the hat of publisher are likely to starve.

Paperless Publishing, 370 pages, softcover: $27.95.

Windcrest/McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850.

Phone 800-822-8138.


by Harley Bjelland

Most people who own a computer have heard the terms freeware and shareware. Freeware is software that has been released into the public domain by its author. You can use it without paying the author anything. Shareware is software that is distributed under the honor system. If you try a shareware program and decide to keep it, you must pay a small registration fee ($20-$30), which then entitles you to future updates of the program.

Human nature being what it is, shareware authors don't earn much more than their freeware counterparts most of the time.

Freeware and shareware have always been a boon for the economy minded computer user. The only problem is that freeware and shareware have proliferated to such an extent that it's hard to know which program to try. Author Harley Bjelland saw the problem and decided to solve it by writing a book that separates the wheat from the chaff.

Free & Low-cost Software for Scientists & Engineers is a compendium of the programs the author feels are the best to be had in the following categories: computer tutorials, computer utilities, personal/ professional advancement, word processing, engineering & science, databases, scheduling, graphics/ CAD, telecommunications, computer programming, and games.

The features and system requirements of each program are summarized in a few descriptive paragraphs. The author also tells where to obtain the programs (which, by the way, are all for IBM compatible systems). Bound into the book is a 3.5-inch disk containing three programs to get you started: As Easy As, a spreadsheet program that is compatible with Lotus 1-2-3; Wyndfields, an excellent database program; and RGB Tech writer, a scientific word-processing program.

Anyone contemplating a plunge into shareware/freeware pool would be well advised to read Harley Bjelland's book first. It will save you time and money-what better recommendation could a book have? Free & Low-cost Software for Scientists & Engineers, 367 pages, softcover: $34.95. McGrawHill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850. Telephone 800-8228138.


By Victor E C. Veley

The Benchtop Electronics Reference Manual was conceived as a reference book for the working electronics technician or for the student of electronics. Two hundred and forty of the more common topics were selected from the fields of DC circuit theory, AC circuit theory, solid-state-device physics, vacuum tube theory, radio communications, introductory mathematics, and digital logic. Each topic is thoroughly explained, equations are derived, and the use of those equations is then illustrated by means of one or more practical examples.

You might consider the book to be a hybrid formed of parts of a conventional textbook and a set of worked problems. When you need to know more about a given topic, this is the place to turn for a quick, painless tutorial. I imagine you could also use it as a textbook.

Practice problems accompany each topic, and answers are to be found at the back of the book.

This is a very well written book with an abundance of charts, graphs, and schematic diagrams. It will be a valuable reference for the electronics technician or student.

Here are some highlights of the topics covered: node and mesh analysis, Thevenin's theorem, magnetic flux, the motor effect, magnetomotive force, induction, time constants, differentiator circuits, integrator circuits, the cathode-ray oscilloscope, inductive and capacitive reactance, resonant circuits, transformers, zener diodes, amplifiers, op amps, negative feedback, AM and FM transmitters, antennas, the Smith chart, number systems, Boolean algebra, DeMorgan's theorems, and Karnaugh maps.

The Benchtop Electronics Reference Manual, 730 pages, hardcover: $54.95. TAB/McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850. Phone 800-822-8138.


By Bruce H. Walker

A basic understanding of optics is mandatory if one is working with certain electronic systems such as projection TV, compact laser-disc players, and fiber-optic transmission systems. But where do you gain such knowledge? Most books on optics are laden with mathematical baggage-too heavy a burden for anyone who is not an engineer or physicist. Well, there is a new book by Bruce Walker that looks like the perfect introduction to optics for the mathematically challenged.

It's called Optical Engineering Fundamentals. The book begins with a thumbnail sketch of the history of optics, and then delves into the nature of light (wavelength, frequency, refraction, diffraction, etc.). After that, it discusses the theory of thin lenses and image formation. A few equations pop up here and there, but nothing to make you shudder.

Next comes an introduction to optical design using the computer program known as OSLO MG. Several examples are presented. The author then discusses primary lens aberrations such as spherical aberration, coma, and astigmatism. One of the goals of lens design is to minimize these aberrations.

Mirrors and prisms warrant a chapter of their own. Then we move on to an interesting discussion of basic optical instruments such as the magnifier, the microscope, binoculars, the riflescope, surveying instruments, the periscope, the borescope, and the endoscope.

Lenses can be made of optical glass or plastic. The author discusses the properties of each, and the use of antireflection coatings on the surface of a lens. Next we get an introduction to one of the true marvels of optics, the human eye.

The book concludes with several examples of practical lens design using the principles presented previously.

I won't mince words here. This is the best introduction to optics I've seen yet. Grab it while you can.

Optical Engineering Fundamentals, 341 pages, hardcover: $44.95. McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850. Telephone 800-822-8138.


The new System Applications Guide from Analog Devices is a reference book made to order for anyone who needs a no-nonsense introduction to the real-world applications of linear integrated circuits.

Since it's published by Analog Devices, the book features ICs made by that company. Nevertheless, the principles discussed in most cases apply equally well to the products of other manufacturers.

More like an encyclopedia, the System Applications Guide covers an enormous range of circuit applications: precision-sensor signal conditioning, multiplexing with analog switches, programmable gain amplifiers, sample-and-hold circuits, voltage references, A/D conversion, audio applications, high-speed signals, high-speed amplification, video signal processing, high-speed ADCs, sigma-delta ADCs and DACs, direct digital synthesis, signal computing in communication, and motor control.

To the authors' credit, the tone of this book is more practical than theoretical. Thus, even though it deals with topics that are sometimes quite advanced, the presentation is concise and easy to understand. It's also easy on the eyes, because the type and diagrams are large.

System Applications Guide, 8.5 x 11" format, 800 pages, softcover: $30 (price includes shipping). Analog Devices Inc., One Technology Way, P.O. Box 9106, Norwood, MA, 02062. Telephone 617-461-3392.


by Paul Bergsman

What's your computer doing right now? Chances are that if you're not using if for word processing, spread sheeting or some other standard application, it's just sitting there like a potted plant. Well, for shame. You should be putting that machine to better use, and you can with the help of Paul Bergsman's new book, Controlling the World With Your PC. The author assumes you've got an IBM PC or compatible computer equipped with a standard parallel port, and that you possess basic circuit-building skills. He also assumes that you want your computer to do interesting things, like run a model-railroad system, keep an eye on your house, or monitor the weather. With the interface circuits and program examples he presents, plus a little imagination--you should be able to do all that and more.

The book is divided into five parts, the first of which deals with display devices, like LEDs and LCDs, and circuits to interface them with your computer. Part 2 deals with the control of real-world devices using relays and optocouplers. It also covers the generation of audio tones and speech. Motor control is the topic of Part 3, where the author does a fine job of explaining the use of stepping motors and DC servos. Part 4 deals with digital input signals, such as might be obtained from optical sensors, proximity switches, Hall-effect devices, and fluid detectors. Finally, Part 5 deals with analog input signals and analog-to-digital conversion.

In all, forty useful projects are presented. Each consists of a few pages of description followed by a schematic and-get this-software listings in three languages (Pascal, C, and BASIC). Moreover, the book comes with a 3.5 DOS disk containing all the source-code files as well as compiled (.EXE) files.

According to his publisher, Paul Bergsman has taught technology and mathematics in the Philadelphia public schools for 21 years.

The clarity and thoroughness displayed in this book suggest to me that he's a pretty good teacher. I'm giving his book an A+.

Controlling the World With Your PC, by Paul Bergsman, 8.5 x 11" format, 257 pages, includes 3.5" disk, softcover: $29.95 (plus $3 shipping). High-Text Publications, P.O. Box 1489, Solana Beach, CA, 92075. Telephone 619-793-4141.


by Sam Wilson and Joseph A. Risse

One of the best ways of advancing your career as an electronics technician is by marrying the boss's daughter. If that's not possible, however, you should seriously consider taking one of the communications licensing and certification exams given by the Federal Communications Commission and other organizations. Passing such an examination shows your drive and initiative, and may even be mandatory for securing some jobs.

Communications Licensing and Certification Examinations was written to prepare you for the following: General Radio Operator License, Global Marine Distress and Safety Service certification, Radio Telegraph Certificate, Radar Endorsement, Amateur Radio Technician Class License, Marine Radio Operator Permit, Electronic Technicians Association certification, International Society of Electronics Technicians certification, Society of Broadcast Engineers certification, National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers certification, and others.

This is not a textbook. It serves as a review of the important principles you will need to know in order to pass the various exams. Topics covered include voltage, current, resistance, components, passive circuits, signals, transmission lines, antennas, and digital basics. The text is accompanied by quizzes that test your mastery of the material.

The book also includes some practice exams similar to the ones you will eventually have to take. In summary, this is must reading for the upwardly mobile technician.

Communications Licensing and Certification Examinations, 437 pages, softcover: $29.95. TAB/ McGraw-Hill Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17294-0850. Telephone 800-822-8138.

adapted from: Electronics Handbook Vol. XVIII

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