Many magicians have a fear of electronics, which is likely based on a lack of familiarity than anything else. Because the same magicians gladly relies on other technology that is a lot less surefire, while electronics is used in everything from fire alarms to space exploration.
One of the best introductions to traditional electronics for magicians is Jon Thompson’s serie of ebooks.
- Electronics for Magicians – In this first volume Jon Thompson introduce a cast of electronic components and show that they’re simple to understand. He then show you how to combine them into useful modules, and finally he present several full projects.
- Electronics for Magicians 2 (Part 1) – In this volume Jon introduces several complete modules that can detect sound, vibration and human touch, as well as modules to create timed outputs and to run external equipment, including a heating element for flash product users. These are then combined to create new effects.
- Electronics for Magicians 2 (Part 2) – This volume goes wireless! Delving into the world of electromagnetism to learn how to create, use and detect magnetic fields in your work, transmit ghostly voices, control props and much more.
Read some reviews here and here.
For the basics in soldering, there is no shortage on the internet. All from very basics to more advanced stuff. The electronics companies like AdaFruit (named after Ada Lovelace) have their own tutorials. And there are all sorts of tutorials on Youtube. Here’s a popular one in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
And here’s a particulary friendly one.
It becomes even more fun when you venture into the world of microprocessors. It sounds more advanced than it actually is – although it requires a lot of knowledge to construct a microprocessor, you don’t need to know very much to use a microprocessor in an effect. The most common processor is the Arduino Uno, and there’s a huge amount of informative articles you can read on internet.
In short, it’s a little gadget with inputs and outputs, and then you write instructions like “When something happens at input 1, wait three seconds and then start output 3”. Input 1 can then be connected to some sensor (which you can buy ready to use), perhaps a motion sensor or something that detects light, touch or magnets. Output 3 can be connected to a card fountain or electric lighter for flash paper or to a sound effect. All of this has become much easier now that ChatGPT exists, because now you can write in plain English exactly what you want your Arduino to do, and then ask ChatGPT to translate it into the Arduino’s programming language.
For ideas on what to do, look in the book “50 Years of Magical Creations by Anverdi” where a variety of electronic effects invented by the Dutch magician Anverdi are described. You can also look at old small parlour illusions that used clockworks, and update them with simple electronics instead. Robert Albo’s 11-book series describe an insane number of parlour illusions (the series is now also available as e-books). There’s tons of old magic to be updated! Have fun!