Leveraging Physics for the Betterment of Humankind
“Reality is that which, if you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick
We all work with the same laws of physics. That’s why they’re laws, not guidelines. We deal with Ohm’s Law, Shannon’s Law, Cole’s Law (thinly sliced cabbage), and others. And one of the immutable laws of electronics is that power consumption is proportional to voltage. Raise the voltage, and you raise the power consumption, all other things being equal. And of course, that works the other way, too. Lower voltages reduce power. Very tidy.
So why, oh why, do chipmakers have such a hard time reducing the power consumption of their microprocessors, microcontrollers, DRAMs, and other devices? Just lower the voltage! Did you not attend Electronics 101? How hard can that be?
The Mire of Modern System Verification
If a clock tree fails in a forest, and there are no vectors to catch it…
Verification has always been the black sheep of the engineering family, and for understandable reasons. Design teams are made up of intelligent, capable, and - dare we say occasionally arrogant - types who don’t take kindly to the notion that their work contains errors. Yet, we have verification teams who make their entire career finding the bugs in the work of designers.
Does this sound like a recipe for peace and harmony?
As system complexity has exploded, design productivity has largely kept pace. There is, of course, the ubiquitous EDA marketing slide - a graph over time showing an expanding “gap” between the number of gates we can design and the number of gates Moore’s Law will allow us to put on a chip.
A Flavor of Single-Electron Transistor Algorithms
A few weeks back, we tackled the concept of a single-electron transistor (SET). And we saw how they could be arranged in a hexagonal form for use as a non-volatile programmable fabric. The whole topic originated for me in an ICCAD paper that discussed EDA algorithms for implementing logic in such a device. Well, before discussing that, we needed to introduce SETs. So, having done that, we now return to the originating topic: how do you take random logic and implement it in a SET fabric?
Have We Lost The "Wow" Factor?
At a recent semi-social, semi-business function, I was asked what I thought the highlights were in electronics in 2014. I was stumped. Not only could I not think of a highlight then, I still can not think of anything that really stuck out in the year.
I've sat through many new product presentations and press briefings and received many more press releases, and there is a lot of creative thinking and very good solid engineering going on, resulting in good solid products that are meeting customer needs. I've written about some of them and hope to write about more some time later in the year. There have also been some things that have been a complete waste of time – but I have been moderately successful in trying to wipe those from my memory.
Telecom Company Turns its Attention to Games, Cars, and Tablets
Conexant is one of those companies that used to be big. Like Polaroid, Pan Am, Commodore, Westinghouse, or Life magazine, it carries a once-proud brand name that belies its current station. The company was spun off from mighty Rockwell International 15 years ago during the height of the networking boom, and it has steadily decimated itself since. A string of divestitures capped by a complete Chapter 11 reorganization two years ago have seen the one-time telecom darling reduced to a private firm with about $120 million in total sales.
That’s not to say that Conexant isn’t successful. And with over 300 employees drawing a paycheck, Conexant is no hole-in-the-wall outfit. But it’s not… y’know… a big deal.
An In-Depth Interview with Kevin Morris
Time to break out the sparklers, the bailing wire, and your best O-scope. We’re having an EE party In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Moore’s Law. In this week’s Fish Fry, we investigate how Gordon Moore's legendary 1965 article in Electronics Magazine set the stage for a remarkable half-century of innovation in our industry. We also look at how (and why) Moore's Law may not mean as much going forward as it has in the past. My guest is Kevin Morris, editor-in-chief of EE Journal. Kevin is here to chat with me about how the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law plays into the future of electronic design, his FORTRAN days, the learning curve of FPGA design, and even a little bit about his favorite project of all time.
Hazy Predictions for the Coming Year in Technology
With a quick polish of the crystal ball (okay, it’s a snow globe) and a tip of the hat to Scott Hilburn, I do hereby make my official and semi-seriously considered prognostications for The Year in Technology, 2015 Edition.
- Tesla Motors will reject separate takeover offers from Daimler Benz, BMW, and Nissan/Renault. The battery-car manufacturer has been flying high lately, even becoming the #1 selling car – of any kind – in the country of Norway. That success has attracted interested suitors eager to learn about Tesla’s battery technology and/or to co-opt the brand’s shine. Tesla is nevertheless likely to spurn all outside offers, remaining steadfastly independent. You will be able to buy Tesla batteries for other devices/appliances before long, however.
You May Be Surprised at What Crooks Will Try
There’s the textbook version of the tech business, where hard-working innovators push the edges of technology, bringing ever-more-efficient products into a free market where consumers reward those who best meet consumer needs.
And then there’s the real world, where “innovation” can sometimes mean finding the cleverest ways to cheat.
I mean, yeah, I know that bad guys are out there trying to steal our identities and more. And that shortcuts will always be taken by some. But I have to admit that, as I sat through an ICCAD session on hardware security, the scale of things surprised me.
Kaufmann Award Winner Shares His Thoughts
So you’ve been toiling away in the depths of the EDA world and you are struck by an idea of monumental brilliance and potential. You drop what you’re doing and go off into a cave for a while to flesh it out to the point where you can solicit a hearty investment by a forward-thinking manager of an aggressive investment fund.
What are your chances?
It certainly won’t come as a surprise that you’ve got more than one roadblock to get by. It’s not an easy investment environment out there – for high tech in general (at least for anything you can actually put your hands on). Even tougher for EDA.
EDA Past, Present, and Future with Lucio Lanza
He's toiled at this project for years - dreamt about it, laid awake at night thinking about it, and even built a lab in his basement to test it. Eventually he brought in friends (from work mostly) to fill in the missing pieces, and before he knew it they really had something. We all know this story. It has played out time and time again. It's the story of the startup, and today's Fish Fry celebrates the men and women who work every day with innovation in their hearts and minds. My distinguished guest is Lucio Lanza, an EDA mentor, venture capitalist, and believer in startup innovation. Lucio is here to explain why funding startups is so crucial in today's EE ecosystem and where he thinks EDA is headed in the future. Also this week, we check out a brand new way to get that semiconductor quote you've been looking for without giving you a headache or breaking your fax machine.