Open Circuits Book Review: Electronics Components in All Their Glory
May 24, 2023
Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you’re an engineer or other technically interested individual. You’ve probably even taken apart several things over your lifetime to observe the electronic workings inside. Open Circuits, by Eric Schlaepfer and Windell H. Oskay, is a celebration of this hidden world and a tool that will expand your knowledge of everything from resistors, to SOCs, Nixie tubes, and more.
(Image Credit: opencircuitsbook)
The book itself is massive, with roughly 300 pages full of brilliantly photographed components and electronic devices in various states of disassembly. These images are accompanied by explanatory text about their use and manufacturing. While this book is something of an encyclopedia or coffee table tome, I found it hard to put down at times, the next page often revealing a familiar component.
(Caption: Small power supply transformer, Image Credit: opencircuitsbook)
As a reference, everything is laid out nicely, ready for you to access at a moment’s notice. Seeing things disassembled gives you insight into how they work, in a similar manner to taking them apart yourself.
Who is This Book For?
(Image Credit: opencircuitsbook)
Anyone interested in electronics and/or macrophotography will enjoy this book from both an aesthetic and informational standpoint, and there's even a section about how the images were made. This would be a great reference for taking creative up-close pictures yourself (electronics or otherwise).
Besides being a great technical reference, it could be an excellent tool for introducing kids (or anyone else) to the fascinating and beautiful world of electronics. I was pleased to see my son leafing through the book by himself, which reminded me of how I used to read Popular Science and the like as a child. This helped to stoke my interest in engineering and technology that continues to this day.
The Authors and Process
(Caption: A few components were photographed intact, Image Credit: opencircuitsbook)
If you’ve followed the maker/electronics/retro/hacking community for any length of time, you’ve probably come across one or both of the authors: Eric Schlaepfer (@TubeTimeUS) and Windell H. Oskay (of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories @EMSL). Adding on to these credentials, Ken Shirriff (@kenshirriff) acted as the technical reviewer for this book, and the acknowledgements section lists several other notable people.
The book, as you might assume, was a massive undertaking. It took two years of work to complete, plus a pause year during COVID. At less than $30 on Amazon as of this writing, I’d consider it a bargain, and you can find many purchase options on opencircuitsbook.com.
Some of the fantastic pictures contained in the book are found there as well, plus a section of outtake images which didn’t make the cut. The outtakes are interesting in and of themselves, but they speak to just how good the book is if those impressive photos weren’t included.
For a bit more insight into the writing of this book, I interviewed author Windell H. Oskay on the Create/Invent podcast. Audio is on major streaming platforms (e.g. Spotify) and the YouTube clip with video is embedded below. If nothing else, you’ll want to check out Windell’s massive cat seen just after the 47:40 mark:
Note that I was sent this book for review by No Starch Press. As an encyclopedia-like volume, I sampled its pages, but did not read it cover-to-cover. That being said, it’s hard not to gush about just how cool this book is. It’s truly a technological and photographic masterpiece.