An important concept in electronic circuits is that of feedback. Feedback occurs when an output signal is fed around a device to contribute to the input of the device. Consequently, when positive feedback occurs, that is, when the output signal returns to reinforce itself upon being fed back, it can lead to the generation of signals which may or may not be wanted. Circuit designers need to be conscious of all possible feedback paths that are present in their circuits so that they can ensure that unwanted oscillations do not occur. In the case of negative feedback, that is, when the output signal returns to weaken itself, then a number of improvements in circuit performance often ensue; for example, the circuit can be made less sensitive to changes in the environment or element variations, and deleterious nonlinear effects can be minimized.
Electric circuit theory includes the study of all aspects of electric circuits, including analysis, design, and application. In electric circuit theory the fundamental quantities are the potential differences (voltages) in volts between various points, the electric currents in amperes flowing in the several paths, and the parameters in ohms or mhos which describe the passive elements. Other important circuit quantities such as power, energy, and time constants may be calculated from the fundamental variables. For a discussion of these parameters.
Besides biasing of the junctions for linear operation, any state of the two junctions can occur. For example, both junctions might be forward-biased, in which case the transistor is said to be in saturation and acts nearly as a short circuit between E-C, while if the junctions are simultaneously back-biased the transistor is said to be cut off and acts as an open circuit between all terminals. The transistor can be controlled between saturation and cutoff to make it act as an electronically controlled switch. This mode of operation is especially useful for binary arithmetic, as used by almost all digital computers, where 0 and 1 logic levels are represented by the saturation and cutoff transistor states.
The active elements are the sources of electric energy for the circuit; they may be batteries, direct-current generators, or alternating-current generators. The passive elements are resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The electric circuit is described by a circuit diagram or map showing the active and passive elements and their connecting conducting paths.