Gas station without pumps

2012 August 21

Possible textbook, Horowitz and Hill

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:54
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Having rejected Medical Instrumentation: Application and Design, 4th Edition. ISBN-10: 047167600 as being unsuitable for the circuits class, despite some relevant material, I decided to start looking from a different angle.  Instead of looking for a text targeted at bioengineers that talks about circuits for EKGs, I decided to look for one that covered basic circuits material with the appropriate applied emphasis, even if the application were different.

I started by looking at a classic EE textbook, The Art of Electronics, 2nd edition by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill (copyright 1989) ISBN-10: 0-521-37095-7 hardback 0-521-42228-0 paperback.  Amazingly this 23-year-old electronics book is still in print and still sells at high prices  ($97 new and $70 used at Amazon). I was rather hoping that such an ancient book would have gotten cheap by now, but it seems to have retained its value better than just about any other EE I’ve heard of.

I understand that a third edition was scheduled for March 2012 and is now expected in early 2013.  Given the extensive lists of parts in the book, many of which are long gone from the market, such an overhaul is way overdue.  Perhaps the best thing they could do is throw out Chapters 10 and 11 (on microcomputers and microprocessors) as impossible to maintain and concentrate on the stuff that remains more stable for decades, since the 3rd edition is undoubtedly going to be the last one.

I’ve read the first 30 pages of Chapter 1: Foundations, and it seems to have exactly the right mix of practical advice with theoretical underpinnings for the applied circuits course.  It even starts with exactly the topics we thought to start with—resistance and voltage dividers, followed by impedance and generalized voltage dividers.

We can’t use all of the book in a 10-week course, but it looks like we can skip Chapters 2 and 3 (on bipolar and FET transistors respectively) and jump immediately to Chapter 4 on op amps.  I think that we should also use scattered sections from later in the book (like on voltage references, instrumentation amplifiers, and noise in amplifiers).  I’ll have to go through the book carefully to figure out how much of it we can use, and whether that is enough to justify the $70–100 price to the students.  Based on a quick look through today and reviews by people who have used the book, it seems likely that this is a book to encourage students to buy and keep.

There are a number of Amazon reviewers who disliked the book—most were trying to teach themselves electronics using the book and found the explanations too terse without a professor or TA to answer questions and expand on the material. Since we will be available, those criticisms are not really relevant for a course textbook, though it is good to know that some students find even the intro material daunting, and so we should have a slower-paced, more tutorial option available for such students.

Before I dive too deeply into Horowitz and Hill, I’ll also look into the recommendations of intro books by “Wise Warthog”, who gives a number of different suggestions for people with different needs.  He recommends a free e-book Lessons In Electric Circuits  by Kuphaldt for those just getting started, but warns that it may be too slow for some people, and suggests alternatives.




  1. […] Possible textbook, Horowitz and Hill […]

    Pingback by Blogoversary 3 | Gas station without pumps — 2013 June 1 @ 20:01 | Reply

  2. If you skip -any- of Howitzer & Hill… you might miss the best parts of thee fields ;)


    Comment by thee.aldeen — 2013 August 15 @ 06:16 | Reply

    • I decided not to use Horowitz and Hill. Though they have good explanations of op amps, much of their material is too dated (talking about long-discontinued parts), and much of it too advanced for the course. I think that they should throw out the digital portion of the book (or split it off into a different book) and just bring the analog part up to date with newer low-voltage, single-power-supply parts.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2013 August 15 @ 10:26 | Reply

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