Open Circuits - Eric Schlaepfer and Windell H. Oskay

The danger of following interesting people on Twitter is that occasionally they'll publish a book. This is just such a case. Open Circuits is a collection of... well, component tear-downs, really. An extension of the kind of things they'd post to Twitter, it's a collection of glossy pictures of cross-sections of components.

This sounds so trivial, but it works incredibly well; it's so much more than the description makes it sound. By pulling apart electronic components, the black box is broken. The structure of simple components is revealed, and the complexity of complexs components exposed. The engineering involved in these components becomes apparent, how they're not just delivering the abstract value of "resistance", "capacitance" and "induction", say, but how they're physically laid out, and the quirks of how they're manufactured.

Covering a range of components, boards, cables, connectors, sensors and displays running from the historic(al) to cutting edge is fascinating - seeing the tiny slivers of semiconductor in discrete transistors and LEDs, the complex structure of flip-chips and modern PCBs, the detail present in modern cables and connectors, all fascinating.

The pictures are all lovely, and as the book is by expert amateur engineers, you assume there's engineering behind how they made the cross-sections. Of course there is, and there's an appendix on how they got the pictures; no hidden magic here.

The book is a joy. It has a coffee-table book quality, but surprisingly educational. It reveals a hidden world. It strangely reminds me of Underground by David Macaulay (more famously known for The Way Things Work). Lovely.

Posted 2023-01-14.