Drawing of sailor looking at a schematic.


Before a current can flow, a CLOSED and COMPLETE path must be present for the electrons to follow. The path must extend from the source of emf through elements in the circuit and back to the source.

You have had some experience with circuits already, and you know something of their characteristics. As an example, when you flip a switch to turn on an electric light, you closed a circuit. And when you throw the switch in the opposite direction, you turn off the light by breaking the circuit.

A string of lights on a Christmas tree is an example of another type of circuit. If all the lights are good, and none are turned out of their sockets, all will remain lighted. But if one is burned out or loose in its socket, all will be out.



You know too, that if a fuse in a circuit is burned out, the electrical device, what ever it may be, will be dead. And before the device can operate, the fuse must be replaced. Thus in any electrical circuit, a CLOSED AND COMPLETE PATH from the source of emf through the electrical device and back to the source MUST BE PRESENT if the device is to operate.

Look at figure 21. A COMPLETE PATH is present from the negative terminal, through the lamp, and back to the

A simple circuit.
Figure 21.-A simple circuit.
positive pole of the battery. It is complete and without breaks.

If one clamp is removed from the battery, a conductor broken. or the lamp removed from the socket, the CIRCUIT


IS BROKEN, because a complete path is not present for the electrons to follow.

SWITCHES are placed in circuits to provide a safe and convenient way of making and breaking the paths. When the switch is closed, the circuit is complete, but when the switch is opened, the path is broken, and current ceases to flow.


Few electrical circuits are as simple as the one indicated in figure 21. Most radios contain hundreds of elements, but before the circuit will function, a CLOSED and COMPLETE path through all the elements must be present for the electrons to follow.

A complex circuit.
Figure 22.-A complex circuit.
Figure 22 is a complex circuit of the type you will find in some radios. Right now it may not make sense, but it does show the difference between the simple and complex types.

If you wish to see a really complex circuit, get a schematic diagram of an RBA or RAL receiver.


In spite of the complex nature of any circuit, all are just combinations of two basic types, SERIES and PARALLEL. The lamps in figure 23A illustrate a SERIES circuit, those in 23B a PARALLEL circuit.


In the series circuit, the current that flows through L1 also flows through L2. But in the paralleled circuit, the current divides at point X, part flowing through L1 and the rest L2. At point Y, the current combines and returns to the battery. Thus the current is the same at all points of a series circuit, while in a parallel circuit it is DIVIDED among the various branches.

If the resistances of the lamps in a parallel circuit are EQUAL, the CURRENT THROUGH EACH LEG will also be

Series and parallel circuits.
Figure 23.-Series and parallel circuits.
EQUAL. But if the resistance of ONE is LARGER than the other, the current will be UNEQUAL, with the LARGER PORTION of the current flowing through the SMALLER resistance.

The VOLTAGE DISTRIBUTION is also different in series and parallel circuits. In figure 23A, if 10 volts is applied to the lamps, and the resistances of the lamps are equal, half the voltage (5 volts) will appear across each. But if the resistance of one lamp is greater than the other, the LARGER portion of the voltage will appear across the LARGER RESISTANCE.

Actually the voltage distribution across the lamps is PROPORTIONAL to their resistances. As an example, if the resistance are 200 ohms in L1 and 100 ohms in L2, two-thirds of the applied voltage will appear across L1 and one-third across L2.

In PARALLEL CIRCUITS the voltage across ALL elements is EQUAL. In figure 23B, for example, the voltage across


L1 and L2 will be equal, even if the resistance of one is 100 times the other.


Resistances connected in series are just like a sequence of ladders connecting the lower decks with those topside. If you wish to go from the fourth deck to the first, it will be necessary for you to climb each ladder from 4th to 3rd, 3rd to 2nd, and 2nd to 1st.

The ladders are obstacles, or resistances, to be overcome-one after the other in series. Thus by the time you reach the first deck, the total opposition to your climb would be equal to the sum of all the individual obstacles.

Resistances in series.
Figure 24.-Resistances in series.
In a series circuit you have the same story. The current flowing through the circuit in figure 24 must move through each resistor in series. Therefore the total opposition (resistance) to the flow of current is equal to the sum of all the INDIVIDUAL resistances, or-

RT = R1 + R2 + R3 = 100 + 350 + 25 = 475 ohms


Resistances in parallel are like the SEVERAL ladders connecting any two decks. Suppose you have four ladders connecting the second deck to the first. The four ladders are ALTERNATE PATHS you may use to go topside.


If you are the only person desiring to go up, it will make little difference which ladder you use. But if you are having a drill to abandon ship so that everyone wants to get on deck in a hurry, the four ladders will allow four times as many to get on deck as would be possible with only one ladder.

If all ladders are the same width, four ladders will offer just 1/4 the resistance of one. If six ladders of equal width are present, the resistance will be 1/6 the resistance of one.

Resistances in parallel.
Figure 25.-Resistances in parallel.
Electrical resistances in parallel work the same way. Suppose the four resistances in figure 25 are of 100 ohms each. The total resistance of the circuit will be 1/4 of 100, or 25 ohms. The total opposition will be only 1/4 that of a single resistor.
Two unequal resistances in parallel.
Figure 26.-Two unequal resistances in parallel.

Unfortunately, the resistances in parallel circuits are frequently not equal. Look at figure 26. Two UNEQUAL values are indicated.

Since R1 is 100 ohms and R2 50, the total resistance naturally will be less than the smaller-but how much?

There are several ways of finding the total resistance, but the easiest is to use the following formula-

RT = (R1 X R2) / (R1 + R2)

RT = (100 x 50) / (100 + 50) = 5,000/150 = 33.3 ohms

Sometimes you will find three or more unequal resistances in parallel. To find the total resistance in such a circuit, proceed as indicated in figure 27.

Three unequal resistances in parallel.
Figure 27.-Three unequal resistances in parallel.
First, find the combined resistance of R1 and R2. This gives you the sub-total, RX, equal to 120 ohms. Then combine RX with R3 in the same manner to obtain RT of 54.5 ohms.

Previous Chapter
Previous Chapter
Radio Home Page
Radio Home Page
Next Chapter
Next Chapter


Copyright © 1997-2010, Historic Naval Ships Association.
All Rights Reserved.
Legal Notices and Privacy Policy
Version 3.01