Up one level (Projects and circuits)
How to construct electronic circuits
This is a text about how to construct electronic projects. As a new electronics hobbyist, it might be a hard decision finding out how to construct these circuits. Is it really necessary to invest in a PCB production system?
There are different ways we can put circuits together. Here I will discuss some of them. There are two very distinct kind of circuits. Those which will need to handle high frequencies and those which will not. That fact will in general decide which method is preferred. For circuits that must be able to handle high frequencies (frequencies at MHz and GHz), the physical placement of the components may play a huge role. That fact especially comes true when you have GHz frequencies, where the circuit design itself may create a lot of "invisible" components.
If you are going to make a digital circuit your options get much wider. Now you don't have to take into account the physical placement, as long as the digital circuit will not operate at a extreamly high frequency. Digital signals are signals that only switch between on and off, and that makes it a lot easier.
Ugly bug construction is when you solder your components in the air. It has got its name because after your circuit gets bigger and bigger, it will more and more look just like a really ugly bug. It is possible to take a piece of wood, put some nails in it, and solder your components between those nails. Then it will look very nostalgic. It will be similar to our grandfathers' homemade radio receivers back in the old days.
Breadboard with holes
If you make digital circuits with perhaps microcontrollers, I will say this is the best way of them all to connect things together. A circuit may be made in minuts. You don't even have to warm up your soldering iron. But it is in general only suitable for temporary circuits.
On copper boards
Making radio circuits is easiest done on a copper board. You do not need to etch a PCB design on it. You can use the copper as a ground plane and solder the other connections in the air. Or you can clip small PCB-card strips and glue them to the board. Then you can make some nice boards that will handle moderately high frequencies very well. It is suitable for HF/VHF-filters, oscillators and amplifiers.
Veroboard is a kind of Printed Circuit board (PCB) which has already been etched. The copper tracks are usually laid out in a specific way, so that you can put your components in a convenient way. It is nice to use this if you want to do it in a way between soldering ugly-bug and etching your own PCB.
PCB-design is more of the professional way of doing things. But it doesn't have to be that hard. You can buy PCBs which you can draw your layout with a pen and put it in an etching solution. But in reality you can make most circuits as good and much easier by using any of the other mentioned methods. PCB-design is only very good if you want to make many of the same type, you want to sell it, or you just want it to look professional.
Surface mount design
Surface mount components are very small components. Some ICs are only delivered in surface mount packages. This makes things a lot harder for the hobbyist. In this case you almost have to make a PCB. You will need special solder to do it too, and some extra practising. But it is not impossible. It only needs a little bit more planning.