Top positive review
An old friend, rejuvenated.
Reviewed in the United States on April 5, 2015
Since the publishing of the acclaimed second edition, the field of electronics has witnessed a few (ahem) little advancements. Switching power supplies have conquered the world (also polluting it with all sorts of electrical noise), voltages have gone way down, frequencies have gone up through the roof, data communications have turned seriously serial and computers are no longer a goal, but a means to embed and distribute intelligence in all sorts of devices. An update of what is deemed to be the single tome "Bible of Electronics" was thus in order. It took a couple of decades to complete, but now the wait is over: Horowitz and Hill are back!
The first question that comes to mind is "what has changed from the second to the third edition?"
The short answer is: an awful lot.
The more I read it, the more I realize this is a completely different book. In the way it appears, to begin with: the wider pages, the smaller fonts and the uniform-styled pictures do away with the informal textbook style and make it look more like a deluxe encyclopedia. The writing style is still the same, though: informal, clear and to the point (I believe this to be the only university level textbook I know to use the word "bulls***" right in the preface). As an aside, the new format allows for some 33% more text per page, so know that had this book been printed with the same typeface and layout of the second edition, it would span some 1500 pages.
One word on the pictures: device characteristics are handed out by the dozen on each diagram for ease of comparison. While this was known to happen in the previous edition too, it is now the norm throughout the whole textbook.
And this is a reflection of what I perceive as the real aim of this book: giving designers a means to find the optimal, yet pragmatic, solution for *real world* circuits. The Art of Electronics plays the role of the senior designer in a R&D department, the one who is always busy giving advice on how to turn circuits made of ink on paper into real working hardware.
In this third edition Horowitz and Hill have not only greatly expanded the application topics, but have also managed to bring them to a higher level altogether. The topics are more logically laid out and real world top-notch examples ("Designs by the Masters") are used to drive home key concepts in electronic design. The old friend I knew as TAoE2 has not only rejuvenated, but it has also matured to a level it will take me time to fully comprehend.
As a quick aid for the owners of the previous edition, here's the list of chapters along with a *very rough* indication of their changes with respect to TAoE2 (= means "roughly equivalent", the numbers tell which chapter treated the same material in the previous edition, with a and b to signify chapter splitting; a "+" means a different or greatly revisited chapter)
Chapter Title Differences wrt 2nd Ed.
ONE: Foundations (=)
TWO: Bipolar Transistors (=)
THREE: Field-Effect Transistors (=)
FOUR: Operational Amplifiers (=)
FIVE: Precision Circuits (7a+)
SIX: Filters (5a+)
SEVEN: Oscillators and Timers (5b+)
EIGHT: Low-Noise Techniques (7b+)
NINE: Voltage Regulation and Power Conversion (6+)
TEN: Digital Logic (8)
ELEVEN: Programmable Logic Devices (+)
TWELVE: Logic Interfacing (9a+)
THIRTEEN: Digital meets Analog (9b+)
FOURTEEN: Computers, Controllers, and Data Links (10+)
FIFTEEN: Microcontrollers (+)
The first four basic chapters have retained their pedagogical structure. They have been updated to reflect the disappearance of obsolete and discontinued devices (uA741, anyone?) and the introduction of new, better or more widely available components. Something has been changed, something has been moved to other more specific chapters (for example, Comparators have moved from the Op Amp chapter to the Logic Interfacing chapter). Personally, I kind of miss the very extensive table 4.1 that concentrated in a single point (well, if it's possible to call 'point' a dozen pages) the basic features of scores of op amps. It appears that content of this type will be made available in the upcoming addendum "The X chapters" (more on that later). Oh, well, in the meantime there are other, more specialized tables in the applicative chapters and then, I still have the second edition...
The "old" 5th chapter ("Active filters and oscillators") has been split into the two distinct and enhanced chapters six: "Filters" and seven: "Oscillators and timers". Likewise, the "old" 7th chapter ("Precision circuits and low-noise techniques" has doubled up into chapter five: "Precision circuits" and chapter eight :"Low-noise Techniques". These two chapters alone are worth buying the book.
The old chapter 6 is now the ninth chapter "Voltage regulation and power conversion". This is the sample chapter that can be downloaded from the publisher's website. It has been expanded and rewritten, and switching power supplies are treated in detail.
Let's hope that having this chapter available for free worldwide will somehow help in reducing the number of awfully badly designed wall-warts.
The universe of digital electronics has changed a lot since the age of 8 bit microprocessors and so have the part of The Art of Electronics devoted to it. While the "fundamentals chapter" on Digital Logic has remained essentially the same, the old chapter 9 of the 2nd edition, "Digital meets Analog", has now been split into chapter twelve "Logic interfacing" and the greatly enhanced chapter thirteen - still named "Digital meets Analog" - that touches all kind of ADCs you can dream of (oh, yes, it still contains sections on PLLs and random noise generators).
The treatment of the digital part of The Art of Electronics is now no longer focused on microprocessors, but has widened to embrace PLDs and microcontrollers, each of which earn a dedicated chapter. Gone is the Microprocessor chapter on the venerable 68008 (and its elegant instruction set), and a new conclusive chapter on microcontrollers highlights the increasingly important role of these devices "at the heart of today's  electronics products" (to quote note 1 of chapter fifteen, in turn quoting Maxim's application note 3967).
Possibly even more important - and in some way a tad less prone to obsolescence - is the electronics that allows these systems to speak with each other and with their sensors and actuators. And so, in chapter fourteen, after the description of the basic principles of computer architecture, some twenty pages are devoted to discussing the various parallel and serial buses that make up today's computers and controllers networks (from SPI to Ethernet, passing through PC104 and CAN). And let's not forget chapter twelve (Logic Interfacing) and appendix H on Transmission Lines and Impedance Matching.
Chapter fifteen, "Microcontrollers" wraps up the tome and leaves the reader begging for more. It appears the final chapters of the second edition that did not make it into this massive 1100 pages (excluding the appendices) tome, will remain frozen in their 1989 timeframe. While few might miss the old twelfth chapter ("Electronic construction techniques"), I bet there could be a market for what were chapter 13 ("High-frequency and high-speed techniques"), chapter 14 ("Low-power design") and chapter 15 ("Measurements and signal processing"). Should they get the same fattening treatment the other 'applicative' chapters have undergone, they would make a nice addition - a gospel, perhaps? - to this Bible.
In the preface to the third edition, the authors mention the forthcoming publishing of an upcoming volume titled "The Art of Electronics: The X-Chapters" that will include, and I quote, "some additional related material that [the authors] had hoped to include in this volume (on real-world properties of components and advanced topics in BJTs, FETs, op-amps and power control)". Publication date for this work is still fuzzy (it might take years, if it follows the example of the main text).
The student manual for the third edition, instead, has already been published with the title "Learning the Art of Electronics".
According to what is written in the preface, the "Circuit Ideas and Bad Circuits" grayed sections of the book will be available on the updated book's website along with the (sadly for first printing owners) extensive errata and a searchable pdf index. This is a first useful step toward a search function that will make up for the lack of an electronic edition of the third 'installment' of this Bible. A simple web search engine where one could search the entire body of text for a given string would be even better. I can even see an App for "Search TAoE": flipping through the index is so last century...
In conclusion, this third edition of The Art of Electronics is definitely worth buying even if you already have the second edition (but a reader who managed to read this far already knew that from the start). Besides, from the way is has changed (they did add and subtract!), it appears it will peacefully coexist with its older sibling on my bookshelf.
As a conclusive note, the book opens with a dedication to the memory of the late Jim Williams.
A suggestion for the rookies: kids, if you are new to the field of electronics, look him up on the Web - just type "Reading Jim Williams" in the search field and then download the freely available application notes he authored. There's a lot to learn from him.
And while you are at it, look up Bob Pease (R.A.P.), too. You won't regret it.
One more thing.
The yellow triangle on the cover.
What the heck were they thinking?
(*Edited to expand a few points, correct some (but not all of the) grammar and acknowledge the points made by one of the authors in the comments below - further edited with the same aim*)