Sometime during the 1930's electric guitars were introduced onto the music scene, which began a revolution in sound and technology that continues to this day. After Rock and Roll was born in the 1950's, it didn't take very long for electric guitars to grow in popularity and become one of the most coveted instruments of all time. Things really began to take off when the Beatles turned the world on its ear in 1964 by "invading America". Soon to follow were groups like the Rolling Stones, Cream, and the The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Music was forever changed and today electric guitars dominate the scene.
Originally these guitars were made with only a single pick-up. Now they usually come with two or three, thus creating a more versatile instrument. One is placed near the bridge, the other toward the base of the neck, and a middle, or third, is often added between the other two. Having these additional pickups provides the guitarist with more options for producing various dimensions of tonal quality. They can be used independently or in combination with each other and adjusted to achieve just the right volume or effect for either lead or rhythm guitar playing. Pickups are strategically set on electric guitars in order to "pickup" and produce the best sound.
There are generally two basic types of electric guitar: hollow-bodied and solid-bodied. Hollow-bodied guitars are often used by Jazz enthusiasts. Rock guitarists tend to prefer the solid-bodied guitars overall.
If you are in the market for an electric guitar there are a few things you should keep in mind. First of all, take into consideration the kind of music you want to play. Are you looking for a smooth, mellow sound, or do you prefer more of a raunchy sound with an edge? If the former is true, then you'll gravitate toward the hollow-bodied guitars; if the later, then the solid-bodied is your best bet. Now, you could compromise and go for a "semi-solid" electric guitar, which combines the characteristics of both. These have a solid center block which creates the sustain of a solid body along with the "f" hole design which allows for the acoustic quality too.
One other thing to keep in mind. When you purchase an electric guitar you will also need to have other equipment, most importantly, an amplifier and a chord! If you're on a tight budget you might consider buying a package deal. These usually include the guitar, a small amp and a chord. Some also include picks, strap and a case. If you have money to blow, then do some research on amps and effects ahead of time so that you can be sure to have the equipment that will produce the sound you're after. You can also ask the store management for permission to test their different amps and effects while your in the store looking around. If you don't know how to play the guitar yet, ask if they have someone who could play a demonstration for you.
My final advise, before you buy your electric guitar, is to take your time and shop around. Ask a lot of questions. When you listen to music, take mental notes of the sounds you like and share your thoughts, ideas and questions with other guitar players. Then, go for it!