Analog Angle Blog

Go Offline & Crack Open a Design Book

Several years ago, I read about some educator who was oh-so-proud of his students. Rather than merely being taught the Pythagorean Theorem for right triangles (a2 + b2 = c2 ), his elementary-school students spent two weeks and re-discovered it for themselves. “They’ll never forget it,” or something like that, was his beaming boast.

I thought to myself, “That’s nice.” But will they next spend valuable time re-discovering all of algebra, geometry, and maybe even calculus? I surely hope not. What about all the physics, chemistry, and biology learning that has to be done? There’s not enough time to figure it all out by yourself, and when you’ve done it, you are still just at the level of what everyone else already knows.

Unglamorous as it sounds, sometimes the best way to learn something is to have it taught to you directly by someone who already knows it. It may not be as “satisfying” (whatever that means) or romantic as self-discovery, and it may clash with the educational establishment’s latest fad, but hey, that’s life.

The same guideline applies to professionals such as engineers. Circuit and system designers know that they need to leverage and build on what others have done, to avoid the problems that others have already encountered, and to not repeat mistakes others have made and fixed (usually at great cost in time and aggravation). The way many designers do this is via various web-based searches using key words and various social media resources, and that’s OK as a partial solution.

But an equally important part of being taught is to find some good books, whether in e-book or paper format. The right book gives you the broad scope you need, establishes context, and most importantly, addresses issues and questions you may not have even thought of searching for.

For analog designers or anyone who brushes against analog design issues (and who doesn’t?), Analog Circuit Design: A Tutorial Guide to Applications and Solutions coauthored by the late, sorely missed Jim Williams and Bob Dobkin (CTO of Linear Technology and designer of some of its most innovative ICs) is a great place to start.

Each time I look though this book, I get new insight and understanding based on the knowledge, experience, challenges, and mysteries the authors and other contributors bring. There are so many facets and perspectives to this book that when you are done with it, you wonder, “There can’t be more, can there?”

But there is . Just published is Analog Circuit Design Volume 2: Immersion in the Black Art of Analog Design , and it looks to be a continuation into the exploration of the subtleties of analog-design reality.

Given how many of today’s designs and products involve some sort of sensor/transducer input/output (whether it is immediately obvious such as with a temperature sensor, or not-so-obvious as with a touch screen) or analog “affects” impinging on high-speed digital circuits (signal integrity, ground currents, slew rates), books like this can help you get your job done faster and with fewer re-spins.

Who among you doesn’t want to avoid sleepless nights and long weekends at the test bench, or with the production or field-return folks? Let’s face it: there are plenty of good textbooks out there that present and discuss those all-important fundamental principles, theories, and equations. But those that get into the down-and-dirty reality are harder to find.

Are there any practical, hands-on books that have made a difference to you in your career?

18 comments on “Go Offline & Crack Open a Design Book

  1. goafrit2
    January 23, 2013

    >> Are there any practical, hands-on books that have made a difference to you in your career?

    The Art of Electronics belongs to that level for me. It is still one of the best books that got me into the field.  They need to make a mobile app version of it to help us carry it around easily. In analog design especially in CMOS, Jacob Baker is the leader of the world now. The days of Pual  Gray and other legends are gone. No one writes better in analog design that Baker. He is the one that keeps one connected in the game.

  2. Bill_Jaffa
    January 23, 2013

    Two other books I keep handy: Electrical Engineering 101: Everything you should have learned in school..but probably didn't , by Darren Ashby is one I lend to newer engineers or those with a digital-mostly education; and the always refreshing Debugging: The 9 Indispensible Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems , by David J. Agans–and believe me, while there aren't many books or articles out there about debugging–luckily, this one is excellent.

  3. goafrit2
    January 23, 2013

    For analog designers, this is one of the best platforms to learn today if you are working and have no time to go to school. Just go to Jaboc Baker's world on You will watch videos and other great contents free.

  4. DaveR1234
    January 23, 2013

    Anyone out there read Elements of Radio, by Marcus and Marcus?  That was the book I started reading when I was about ten.  I read most parts two or three times before it sank in.

  5. Bill_Jaffa
    January 23, 2013

    I'll be that it is not available as an e-book! But maybe someone can scan it in and make it available, if they get the copyright OK from the publisher (is it even still under copyright, I wonder?)

  6. eafpres
    January 23, 2013

    Hi Bill–your sentence “Given how many of today's designs and products involve some sort of sensor/transducer input/output” rang a bell in my head.  I worked in part of the M2M (machine to machine) industry, and one time I diagrammed the layers of an M2M ecosystem, and the bottom layer I called “sensors”.  Basically, in the IOT (Internet of Things) many of those things are sensors, just as you say.  So although the wireless M2M part is both analog & digital, most of what it is connected to is analog.  In theory, the (alleged) explosion of M2M and the IOT will create lots of demand for analog work.

  7. Bill_Jaffa
    January 24, 2013

    That's the “secret” that smart investors eventually figure out, and good EES already know, and silicon vendors also know–every processor adds to the demand for sensor I/O, When basic uCs started to become cheap and convenient, there was a huge increase in use of basic sensors and their conditioning, for temp, flow, pressure, etc.

  8. WireMan
    January 24, 2013

    I would say the articles by Don Lancaster in Popular Electronics magazine gave me a good understanding of digital electronics and encouraged me to buy some components and do experiments that went beyond the scope of Don's articles. The TTL Cookbook also provided a lot of inspiration. Guess I have dated myself here. The Analog Devices book, Analog-Digital Conversion Handbook still has a place on my bookshelf, along with the many good measurement-related paperbacks from Keithley.

  9. jbuckf50
    January 24, 2013

    Books I've found handy for reference-

    Henry Ott – Noise Reduction Systems…

    G.B. Clayton – Operational Amplifiers

    Franco – Design w/ Operational Amplifiers & Integrated Circuits

    The Howard Johnson & Mark Montrose signal & power integrity books.



  10. CougFan
    January 25, 2013

    I total agree with your point that there just isn't enough time in the day to “re-learn” everything.  BUT it is important to take time to teach HOW to solve problems.  By that teacher going back and having the students figure out that a2+b2=c2 is just as important as how they figured that out.  To me, that is critical in teaching any young engineer to be.  How to learn and solve problems is just as important as teaching the classics.

  11. jkvasan
    January 28, 2013

    I agree fully on Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz. It gave interesting and fresh insights on already known concepts and still part of my arsenal.

    Another important book for me would be Electronic Principles by Alfred Paul Malvino.

    These two books shaped my understanding about electronics.


  12. goafrit2
    February 1, 2013

    >> That was the book I started reading when I was about ten.

    Do you know if they have updated the version? I will like to send it as a gift to a cousin. I have no idea how good the book is but I can always count you like it.

  13. goafrit2
    February 1, 2013

    >> Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz.

    In the annals of electronics, Horowitz's book is timeless. It is relevant today as it was in 1980 when he wrote it in Harvard.

  14. goafrit2
    February 1, 2013

    >>  How to learn and solve problems is just as important as teaching the classics.

    In the top global management consulting firms like Mckiney, they ask you questions that have no real answers. They just want to see how you think through the cases during interviews. Imagine someone asking you to divide 1 by 0 and give you ten minutes to solve it! Sure, you can say infinity, but why?

  15. goafrit2
    February 1, 2013

    Application Notes especially before the companies start explaining the applications with their products are very useful. If you have access to those notes, you can learn a lot quicker than going through textbooks.

  16. goafrit2
    February 1, 2013

    >> In theory, the (alleged) explosion of M2M and the IOT will create lots of demand for analog work.

    That is the paradox – people think we will have more digital without realizing that the world itself is analog. Analog is not going away. We will have more and more of it as you noted. As digital expands, so will the analog systems.

  17. Brad Albing
    March 28, 2013

    The Audiocyclopedia

    Reference Data for Radio Engineers

    Basic Telephone Switching Systems

    May 16, 2013

    I did a file wipe about 6 months ago. I had about 3 drawer full of hanging files that had articles and sample parts that I collected over a 20+ year period. Many of these parts have been obsolete for over a decade.

    However, the general content is still useful in some cases, and thus I kept a few. In fact, I actually scanned and generated PDFs of some stuff.

    Now my issue is finding what I want to know. In a way, the file is bigger than the brain. 🙂

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