Potentiometers, sometimes called pots, are relatively simple devices. One terminal of the potentiometer is connected to a power source, and another is hooked up to a ground — a point with no voltage or resistance and which serves as a neutral reference point. The third terminal slides across a strip of resistive material. This resistive strip generally has a low resistance at one end, and its resistance gradually increases to a maximum resistance at the other end. The third terminal serves as the connection between the power source and ground, and it usually is operated by the user through the use of a knob or lever.
The user can adjust the position of the third terminal along the resistive strip to manually increase or decrease resistance. The amount of resistance determines how much current flows through a circuit. When used to regulate current, the potentiometer is limited by the maximum resistivity of the strip.