There are electronic parts in just about every single device we own or operate. We take from granted that flicking a switch or pushing a button makes something happen: a light go own, a radiator to heat, a car to start but give very little thought to the many thousands of individual parts that produce the desired effects.
Those that studied and investigated electricity over the centuries would have had no idea of its eventual impact on everyday life. Modern society is so dependent on it that we literally come to a standstill when supplies are interrupted – this is evidenced by our panicked reaction when a power cut hits. How on earth did people manage before electricity flowed through the cables?
Thus it’s about time we developed a greater appreciation for electricity and its component parts and as such, here are a few examples of common electronic parts:
Classified under the semiconductor banner, transistors are what’s known as ‘active components’. This means that they only work if connected to an energy source and can provide power into circuits. Essentially, transistors are switches that turn some other element of the circuit on, when it receives enough power – they control the flow of current within a device. Their invention changed the face of electronic circuits as they are so very small and inexpensive.
Transistors are used in almost every electrical device, from computers to radio frequency transmitters. They are also commonly found in pacemakers, LEDs and cooling fans, to name but just a handful of uses.
Resistors are passive components. Unlike transmitters, they cannot generate power into a circuit and they do not rely on a power source. Rather, they oppose – or resist – the flow of current, thereby helping to control it. Their overall purpose is usually to stop devices from overload or overheating.
That’s why resistors are always found within electrical items that become very hot: irons, toasters, hair dryers, electric hobs and heaters, for example.
The humble switch is classed as an electromechanical component, which uses moving parts or electrical connections to carry out electrical actions. By pressing ‘open’ a current can pass through and by ‘closing’, it can be shut off. We’re all familiar with switches, but they take many forms.
In addition to the manually operated light, TV and plug socket switches, there are also pushbutton keypad switches (which you might see on a mobile phone), thermostats (which react depending on heat) and circuit breakers (which open when too much current is being used, resetting a fuse). These are the customer-facing, if you like, of all electronic components.
There you have it: some of the world’s most common electronic parts and their uses. Given that some of the parts are tiny, complex and exceptionally delicate, it’s amazing to think that any electrical mechanisms work at all. At every stage, someone has had to consider and invent the parts, refining them so that combined, all the parts do as they were intended. The intricacy of electronic parts and their absolute intrinsic necessity for day to day life really does make you appreciate them a bit more. Doesn’t it?