This is one of the most common introductions that we find from new visitors to the Element 14 web site. Inspirational programs like Ben Heck, Instructables, and many others are doing a good job of catching people's attention and interest. With each newly arrived member, we poke and prod to find out more about you and what basic knowledge you already have as well as what exactly are your interests and goals. You see, there is no one simple answer or formula that will fit everyone. You and your interests are unique.
I am a strong believer in self education. When someone tells me that they are interested in electronics or some other subject my first question is; what book are you currently reading or studying on this subject. There seems to be a misconception that you can learn electronics from watching U-Tube Videos. While it is better than nothing and I have seen how entertaining it is, many times the entertainment value trumps the educational content. So in my opinion, at least part of the time a book is necessary, and if you are really serious perhaps many books will be necessary. I will give you a couple of my favorite beginner books here shortly. If you ask ten different Electronics Guys you will get ten different lists of good books. There are just as many good and interesting electronics books out there as there are paths to your goal of being good at electronics.
The first book I will mention is:
Practical Electronics for Inventors Edition III by Paul Scherz and Simon Monk.
I mention this one because I liked the layout and the way it taught the basics, provided some exercises, and included circuits that were simple and able to be built. It also stopped short of too much complexity which made it easier to stay interested. I must mention that it is important to get the 3rd Edition as the Errata count is much lower than the 2nd edition. The reader must still be alert, however, for bad information and typos. It covers topics from simple components to microcomputers. If you become interested in a particular area you can branch off and find a book that goes into more detail.
If you like to learn off the Web here is a Site that is similiar to the book above.
This site provides a good selection of basic topics and exercises. An added plus is that the site master was taking and responding to questions from the visitors on each topic the last time I checked. I also liked that the example circuits were presented clearly enough that I could easily bread board them and made them work in my electronics shop.
Both of the fore mentioned learning resources are basic and will provide a foundation on electricity and electronic components. While there are ways to play with electronics and have a lot of fun without having to learn the basics or even understand what an electron is, if your goal is to be able to design, build, or hack the electronics around you then there is no substitute for an in depth understanding of electricity and how it interacts with the components that make up electronic circuitry.
Perhaps you are a programmer and all you want to do is apply your programming interest to some electronic circuits. You can of course begin without the foundational knowledge of electronics by using some of the many black box components that can be clipped together and programmed that will very quickly get you to some fun and practical results. Most of these projects come with good instructions that will tell you what to hook together to get the results that you want. Arduino is a good example of this type of component. I like to recommend the Arduino to the beginner as it has a large amount of resource material and accessories available for it. I also like that it is not too expensive.
Jeremy Blum has a great book out called "Exploring Arduino" http://exploringarduino.com/buy/
This book will take you on an interesting journey from the simple to some of the more complex capabilities of the Arduino. Along the way the participant gets to learn how to wire up simple circuits, program the Arduino, and enjoy seeing their projects come to life. Of course if you really want to know what is going on electronically you will have to go back to the basics and learn about electrons, capacitors, resistors, inductors, and all the other trons, ors, and ers that electronics involves. The book also has parts lists for all the experiments which can be purchased in kits from Newark Electronics.
Electronics as a subject is a vast ocean. You will explore and find many interesting things. Some people find an area of interest and become experts on that subject. This site has a wealth of experts on many different aspects of electronics. I have been exploring the ocean of electronics for 60 years now. When I first started the Vacuum tube was the dominant technology.
A lot has changed and a lot is changing everyday. Everyday is also a grand adventure. Sometimes I read the books on the subjects that are of interest to me at the time. Sometimes I build small circuits to test what I have learned the day before or perhaps to confirm that I really understand how to make a particular component work. Sometimes I like to disassemble and salvage components from old equipment and once in a while I will get an idea for a build and then I am off planning, and building until my idea sits in front of me in physical form.
You, as a new person to electronics, are in a very wonderful position. You have the greatest learning tool ever invented by mankind at your finger tips. With the internet and the search engines available, you can instantly call up information on just about anything and everything. You have resources available from fine companies like the one http://www.newark.com/ who sponsors this learning and sharing site E-14. If you find a question that you can't Google or if you just want some personal interaction you can post a question on the activity stream of this site. Choose the Discussion Icon and mark the Make This a Question Box. Then tell us about your project and the question that needs to be answered. Post as much background information as you can. Having been new to electronics, at one time, ourselves we will hopefully be able to interpret your question even if the terminology isn't exact. What we can't do is read your mind or see your schematic or project unless you post this information with your question. The discussion entry page has simple ways to add pictures and other information. If you are going to post programming code be sure to check out the options that open when you click the >> symbol.
Finally welcome to Electronics, an adventure which, if you embrace it and put the time in to learn it, will provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment and accomplishment.
I would welcome additional book and site recommendations for beginners looking for a starting point. If you have a favorite book or web site please post them as a reply. This thread can serve as a reference for future questions about where to find a starting point to learn electronics.
This Blog was edited for clarity and punctuation 11/4/15