Audio is a huge hobby. Most people like music and electronics is the key to enjoying it. Hobbyists buy stereo systems
mainly to listen to music and play around with speakers. A
great deal of the audio hobbying is in digital music, downloading music from the Internet, burning your own CDs, creating
files for your MP3 player, and so on.
Electronic music is big with lots of
folks owning electronic synthesizer
keyboards, as well as the hardware
and software for recording and
manipulating music with a computer.
There is still a good number of people that
do this. Mostly they buy commercial
receivers to listen to shortwave and broadcast bands or buy scanners to listen to local
police, fire, etc. They experiment with antennas mostly but rarely build anything.
Still one of the biggest electronic hobbies. Mostly hams buy
their equipment and experiment with antennas and high
power amplifiers. Many also build small projects that are
designed to enhance or supplement commercial equipment.
Lots of hams experiment with satellites, TV, microwaves, and
the new digital transmission modes.
There are some opportunities for circuit building but most hams still opt
for commercial gear and work at the
system level. The biggest exception
are the QRP (low power) enthusiasts
who do build receivers and transmitters because of their low cost and
simplicity. Much of the hobby is in
talking with others over the air.
Those who are not hams but are interested in communications participate in citizens band radio or use the new family
radio service (FRS). Again, commercial equipment dominates
but there is experimentation with
antennas, especially the CB type. CB
operators also emulate their ham counterparts by seeking long distance communications with others.
Another radio hobby. Again, most of the equipment is commercial but most of it requires manual labor on the mechanical front to mount it. A great deal of effort goes into building the model whether it is a plane, boat, or car.
This is one of the hottest and growing segments of the hobby
field. And because there are few commercial robot manufacturers serving this sector, most hobbyists build their own. A
great deal of it is mechanical and the electronics is relatively
simple. Motors and control circuits, embedded controllers,
sensors and the like are still manageable by a hobbyist.
The BattleBots of TV fame have created a hot new way to do
electronics as a hobby.
PCs have become appliances just like almost anything else. Yet
you can customize them to your needs such as music, gaming, video editing, home networking, or just programming.
Adding peripherals and add-in cards is where all the action is.
Data acquisition, virtual instruments,
video and still photography, and home
control are major applications. The
emphasis is still on the software, and
learning to program in C or Visual BASIC
is an excellent path for the experimenter.
Video and Cameras
This is a smaller segment but many like to
play with camcorders and digital cameras.
It is strictly an appliance hobby, but a creative one with definite system level action.
Another appliance hobby and an expensive one. But there is
lots to play with. Cable TV, satellite TV,
high definition TV, flat screens, VCRs, DVD
players and recorders, and personal video
recorders (TiVo, etc.). A hobby that the
whole family will benefit from.
Have you ever seen so many
electronic gadgets? There
seems to be a fringe faction
that loves these things. Perhaps
these gadgets can serve as the introduction to a more involved
electronics hobby effort. Just look at how many toys have electronics: animated dolls and animals, educational items, remote
controlled cars and boats, and of course, the many games. Then
there are the things like GPS receivers for navigation, wireless
temperature sensors and weather stations, and electronic clocks
and watches, and portable DVD and CD players. All of these
gadgets have one thing in common: they contain an embedded
controller that literally does everything. Most of these chips sell
for less than $1.00. Once you learn to work with these devices,
you can just about make anything electronic you want. It's a good
place to start learning and enjoying the hobby.