Crack Open One of These Books, Part 1

After Bill Schweber wrote about cracking open a design book in Go Offline & Crack Open a Design Book, I looked through my bookshelf and came up with a few design books that had influenced me, although, interestingly, were more manufacturers' data and applications books.

We start with the GE Transistor Manual and a typical circuit I made use of. It's a preamp for phono cartridges to raise the signal to line-level. I used this at the college radio station where I volunteered years ago. We actually broadcast, not with an antenna, but onto the AC lines (a.k.a. carrier current), which radiated enough for nearby AM radios to receive. Large portions of the station's electronics were built from this book.

Click on the picture below to launch the slide show of books. I have a few representative circuits from these books shown, although I can't do them justice with these few pictures.

The cover of the extremely useful GE Transistor Manual. The book is full of excellent info on semiconductor theory and very useful circuits. Audio, servo-control, power, logic, RF -- it's all here.

The cover of the extremely useful GE Transistor Manual. The book is full of excellent info on semiconductor theory and very useful circuits. Audio, servo-control, power, logic, RF — it's all here.

I'll post more of my favorite books in a few days. For now, please let us know about your own favorites (data, application, or other) that you used or still use in your work.

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37 comments on “Crack Open One of These Books, Part 1

  1. eafpres
    May 13, 2013

    Hi Brad–how common is the approach you described?  Did the station still have to get an FCC license to operate?  And did the power company have any heartburn about you guy sending “noise” down the lines?

  2. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    Back in the 1960s and 70s, it was common. Into the 80s, less interest since it was AM radio. Not so much now as other media have taken over.

    No FCC approval needed since we were only pushing a few Watts from the 6146-based transmitters we were using in each dorm building. Never got any complaints from the power utility. But then we never specifically asked if they'd mind.

  3. eafpres
    May 13, 2013

    Ah, those were the days, my friend…

  4. bjcoppa
    May 13, 2013

    Often times, engineers and scientists sell back their old reference manuals and textbooks after finishing a class or project. I have found them as an excellent resource over the course of my career including jobs at major IC companies. It's interesting how few engineers like to refer back to the literature or books when making multi-million dollar decisions. Gut feelings, short-term trends and personal biases cannot solve all technical problems. They typically lead to poor decisions and having to start over.

  5. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    Quite so. Usually a good idea to combine the [initial] gut feel with verification via consulatation with text books/app-notes.

  6. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    Boy, you ain't kiddin'. I could tell you some stories….

  7. Michael Dunn
    May 13, 2013

    Lancaster's Cookbook  series was never far away in my early years.

  8. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    Hear, hear! We should get him to write a few blogs here.

  9. Michael Dunn
    May 13, 2013

    Scarily, they're still  not far away, sitting on a shelf about 20cm from my head as I type this!

  10. Davidled
    May 13, 2013

    Old textbook is kept in shelf to review the basic theory. When comparing new textbook (new version) and old textbook (old version), in some case, new textbook skip the detailed description of equation and circuit operation, and add the new information as new material.  Therefore, it is a higher chance for us to lose some basic information, because author thought this type circuit operation was explained already in the old version.  Old textbook covered by dust is the treasure.

  11. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    Reach over there, grab a book, and figure out how to contact him.

  12. Brad Albing
    May 13, 2013

    I agree – keep those old text or reference books. Watch for part 2 for more details that support this position.

  13. Michael Dunn
    May 13, 2013

    He's got a website AFAIK. Sells on eBay a lot too. He has to write for SJ too.

  14. antedeluvian2
    May 14, 2013


    Here is the web site for Don Lancaster


  15. Dirceu
    May 15, 2013

       In my undergraduate course, we used the excellent book “Engineering Circuit Analysis, by William H. Hayt, Jr. and Jack E. Kemmerly (2nd ed.) “. At the foot of page 535, about the expression for the Fourier transform and its inverse, one can read:

    (1) Future used-car dealers and politicians may forget it.

    What caught my attention. I think I have not forgotten!

  16. BradWood
    May 15, 2013

    I have a huge technical book collection, but many of them are to some extent redundant.  I would mention however a couple of gems that are unusual: Arbel, Analog Signal Processing and Instrumentation, which has a nuclear science emphasis, and Peter Dunn's Gateways Into Electronics, written as a textbook for experimental physicicts.  Both of these are highly recommended and available at a reasonable cost used.

    For a very interesting unified ttreatment of tubes and transistors, there is the now-fairly-scarce Amplifying Devices and Low-Pass Amplifier Design, by Cherry and Hooper.

    Brad Wood

  17. Brad Albing
    May 15, 2013

    That last one sounds good. I'll see if I can find a used copy.

  18. Brad Albing
    May 15, 2013

    Sounds like the sort of comment I would put in a footnote – were I to write a textbook.

  19. David Ashton
    May 16, 2013

    I don't own any of Brad's books (wish I did….), though I did have an old Signetics databook similar to his – but with just about everything they made it it, analog and digital.

    I have several of the old National Semiconductor Linear Databooks and Linear Applications handbooks.  They were gold mines of information and I still use them for bedtime reading. 


  20. Navelpluis
    May 16, 2013


    This is exactly how I started with electronics: I got my hand on one of the National Semiconductor databooks (Analog of course). I fell asleep with the book under my head. Therefore I think why I choose to be an electronics engineer: While sleeping on it the theory in this book might have diffused into my brain 😉

  21. Brad Albing
    May 16, 2013

    I agree that those National semi. books were a delight – full of extremely useful info.

    May 16, 2013

    I remember photos 3 and 7, the RCA handbook. Those were a good ones. Here are a few of my favorites. Somewhere at home I have Siliconix databooks from 1985 when I was planning out my senior project in college.

    Old databooks

  23. Brad Albing
    May 16, 2013

    I had that IR book on SCRs for a while, but it wandered away. I still have the GE SCR book – that's where I learned about phase-cutting lamp dimmers.

  24. antedeluvian2
    May 17, 2013



    I have said this elsewhere (on the Connecting Edge, most recently) I will just repeat it here

     I decided I didn't want all my data books to go to recycling, yet my wife kept on harping over the many metres of bookshelf space. I happens 2 or 3 times a year where someone asks on some forum “does anyone still have any data on xxx”. I sometoimes feel that I am the only person left in the world with the data.

    I tried to interest computer museums, Google and other repositories with no luck. So I embarked on a mammoth exercise and scanned (OCR) all my data books, app notes, design ideas going back to ~1975. It takes up 107GB. It makes searching them much easier, but reading them in bed, not so much!

    I have shipped copies on HD to some people in the hope that the data does not disappear when I do. Even now you see Design Ideas that are not new or original and people re-invent the wheel.

    I have both the IR and GE manuals scanned, available to whomever wants them.


    And some O/T: Actually looking at the photos of the covers below reminded me that while doing the scans I realised quite the amount of cover art there was, so I scanned the “deserving” covers in colour.

  25. Andy_I
    May 22, 2013

    Carrier-current was very common probably starting in the 50s, maybe even the 40s. No FCC approval required.  In fact the FCC used to teach eager students how to set up their campus radio stations to use it, instead of an antenna.  The FCC loved it because, when done right, your signal has a well defined boundary, falls off much faster than 1/r^2, and doesn't radiate far so no interference to distant licensed radio stations.

    The power utility themselves has used the same technique since at least the 1920s, sending weak RF carriers on their own wires for signaling purposes.  It saved them having to run extra wires.  I used to read about it in old IRE (pre-IEEE) journals.


  26. Andy_I
    May 22, 2013

    I know of one carrier-current station that did get in trouble with the FCC for doing it, because they did it wrong.  Instead of using the 115/230 Volt power lines, they coupled to the ~15 KV high-tension power lines.  They did get permission from the local power grid.

    The nice thing is, their signal went a lot further, because those HV lines run much longer distances before encountering a transformer (which blocks the RF).  Consequently, one transmitter covered the entire campus.  That is a rarity for most college campuses.

    The not so nice thing is, their signal went a LOT further.  Miles and miles.  The FCC found out.  The radio station got its wrists slapped.


  27. Andy_I
    May 22, 2013

    One of my favorite books from a few decades back, was the Nonlinear Circuits Handbook from Analog Devices.  It had me intrigued by all the wonderful things you could do with a few transistors hooked up the right way … not as straight amplifiers but to do signal processing of one sort or another … the kinds of stuff for which Barrie Gilbert was the master.

  28. Andy_I
    May 22, 2013

    I almost forgot to say …

    One of those great books, probably NatSemi's Analog Applications book, even described a carrier-current transmitter/receiver system.  It wasn't for AM broadcast; it used PLLs to generate and decode an FM carrier (in the LF radio band I believe).  The intended purpose was for a remote loudspeaker.

    And now today, we have the power companies trying to do PLC, the 21st century version of carrier-current … attempting to put the Internet on the power lines, for the “last mile” delivery to homes not served by cable or fiber or DSL.  Your power utility becomes your ISP.

    All those RF signals on the power lines don't bother most appliances, but they do significantly raise the background noise level and kind of make listening to shortwave radio completely impossible.


  29. mediatechnology
    May 22, 2013

    antedeluvian Sounds like you are several years ahead of me on your scanning project. I have a 10×20 foot warehouse full of old databooks that I frequently return to.

    I would be willing to host the collection on my website which is

    I have the beginnings of the collection there. I've found that there are lots of eBay listings for old databooks but few actual sales.

    Send me a PM for an e-mail address. I can send you a drive or just pay you for a drive and upload them.


    Wayne Kirkwood

  30. antedeluvian2
    May 22, 2013


    Send me a PM for an e-mail address.


    You can't PM here unfortunately so here goes:

    my address is akagan at emphatec dot com

  31. RedDerek
    May 22, 2013

    There have been times I was looking for old datasheets and now they are on the web at a few sites. Having the books up would be great because of the classic, but still practical knowledge in many of them. Since this is an analog forum, maybe Brad can see about finding a nice spot here on Planet Analog to be a depository of the scanned books. I for one would like to be able to see what is in your collection. I have several old books as well I probably should scan before the pages turn too yellow and brittle.

  32. antedeluvian2
    May 22, 2013


    maybe Brad can see about finding a nice spot here on Planet Analog to be a depository of the scanned books.

    As I said, I tried several places- maybe the time is right.

    FWIW these guys have some data, although the lean towards old computer stuff




  33. RedDerek
    May 22, 2013

    Checked out the site. Many items bring back memories – Osborne, Prime, IBM 370, etc. Though mostly digital information, still good and relevant. I have bookmarked the site. Now to start scanning in my old analog book stuff – in my copius spare time, haha.

  34. antedeluvian2
    May 22, 2013

    There is another site I forgot to mention


  35. Brad Albing
    May 27, 2013

    That reminds me of the Burr-Brown books authored by Jerald Graeme, et al. Those are great reference books for analog design.

  36. SunitaT
    May 31, 2013

    One of my all time favourite book is : “Integrated Electronics” by Jacob Millman and Halkais. It was one of the first books which I referred when I joined electroincs field.

  37. David Maciel Silva
    May 31, 2013

    One of my favorites: Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory, Robert L. of Boylestad

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