Lessons from popular electronics magazines and books

January 03, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Dennis Feucht considers that publishers from the 1950s and 1960s that bridged the gaps between hobbyist, technician and engineer provided, and can still can provide, great service but that finding their like and quality on the Internet can be challenging.

In the 20th century there have been three main American publishers of popular electronics books and magazines. All were founded by individuals who published material that bridged the hobbyist-technician-engineer gap:

1. John F. Rider

2. Howard W. Sams

3. Hugo Gernsbach

I won't recount the history of each here except to say that the first two published reverse-engineered consumer electronics circuit diagrams for radio-TV repair shops. These shops were plentiful in my youth (the 1960s) but have since gone away in the US (and presumably elsewhere) as low-cost Asian consumer electronics has dominated the marketplace. With throw-away electronics and surface-mount parts, repair is no longer in vogue. Gernsbach published Popular Electronics and other widely-circulated hobbyist and radio amateur electronics magazines in the US.

All three published paperback books on basic electronics theory that were intended for those interested in electronics over a wide range of skill levels, from hobbyists to technicians and even engineers. They were sometimes light (pre-technician) and were rarely deep into engineering (rarely invoking the s-domain). A wide range of people interested in electronics could pull something out of them. They were also artistically illustrated, and the illustrations drove the text rather than the other way around - a storyboard format that script-writers use. Perhaps a resurgence of these kinds of books is possible. Netherlands-based Elektor sells them in Europe. Sadly, interested youth would have a hard time today finding this kind of literature in the local neighborhood grocery stores. The last time I was in the United States (a decade ago) I found no electronics magazines on the racks. There was marketing-oriented user-level electronics for mass consumption but not technical material with circuit diagrams - not even Nuts and Volts.