Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Bill Martin, E-System Design President & VP of Engineering, sent the following essay detailing 4 Generations in the History of Electronics, including the Last/Lost Generation …
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
Isaac Newton, 5 February 16761
1st Generation (1940-1960s): Vacuum tubes and possibilities
The start of the electrical computer age produced first generation electrical computers that required large rooms to contain them. These computers were large, heavy, power-consuming devices that had poor reliability (mean time between failures, MTBF): nothing like today’s handheld consumer devices that are more powerful, fit in your pocket, easily connect wirelessly to networks and can last 4+ hours on a single charge.
A few smart engineers realized that larger systems could not be built unless higher levels of integration were possible, helping to improve MTBF, size, weight, power and cost: a recurring theme for each generation that followed.
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Was just trying to get downtown in time for happy hour at my favorite wine bar tonight, when what should I stumble upon but the ribbon cutting for Draper University.
The new darling of downtown San Mateo, this one-off school of entrepreneurialism is housed in the iconic Ben Franklin Hotel, which has stood as art-deco sentinel over the historic center of San Mateo for nine decades. Now re-painted, spruced-up, and re-named Draper U, the folks founding this trendy school have closed the entire block of 3rd Avenue this evening in order to celebrate their launch.
No matter that the 3rd Ave Sports Bar, Kaffeehaus, or Masu Japanese Bistro – not to mention the original Amicia’s Pizza – might want to draw in their own Thursday evening foot traffic, Draper University is King of the Hill here this evening. A way-hip band blares away mid-block to pump up the crowd, enormous oversized beach balls roll up and down the suddenly-pedestrian-only street, and a 2-story climbing tower can be spotted above the noisy, shifting crowds.
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
There are a lot of things about life in the 21st century that are annoying, things related to our environment being super-saturated with technology. Electronic stuff around the house that never goes dark so you have to cover them with an old sock to get some shut-eye; wireless devices that send out vibes that tingle in your hands and wrists when they power up; kids who respond to text messages but not voice, kids who respond to voice messages but not text; and the pile of old cellphones and PDAs holed up in a dark corner of that drawer in the kitchen.
For the sake of this blog post, however, a specific bucket of annoying has been chosen for special shout out. Listed in no particular order, all of them show up with sufficient frequency to make you wonder if we’re really making progress here.
Thursday, September 26th, 2013
A Professor, a Sage, and a Guru walked into a bar. Brian the Bartender, greeted them: “What’ll it be, boys?”
The Professor said, “We need some help, Brian, settling an argument.”
“No problema,” Brian the Bartender said. “I’ve got an answer for everything.”
“Well,” the Professor said, “I think ESL’s not going to happen in our lifetime, but the Guru here says it’s just around the corner now that he and his have finally got all the pieces of the flow in place.”
Brian the Bartender laughed, “Yeah, the Guru’s been saying that since the dawn of mankind!”
“Exactly,” the Professor said.
Again Brian the Bartender laughed, “Guru, can you defend yourself? And don’t even think about plunking your wordy White Paper down on the bar. This is a public house, not a public library.”
Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Mentor Graphics has thrilled once again. This past Monday, they hosted one of their periodic Silicon Valley dinners for customers, press and analysts where they include a physicist on the menu along with a gourmet meal and lots of fine reds and whites. The physicist de jour on September 16th was Cal Tech celeb Sean Carroll, author of the best selling book, The Particle at the End of the Universe.
An excellent speaker, gifted and glib, Carroll walked his audience of 75+ through stuff they once knew but had forgotten, or never knew at all – the history of the science of particle physics, the evolution of field theory, and the importance of Geneva-based CERN and its still-wet-behind-the-ears Large Hadron Collider [LHC], which last year on July 4th validated its $9 billion+ price tag by smashing things around a bit and creating the first observable Higgs boson.
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Several weeks ago on a warm, sunny day in New York City, we took the subway south from mid-town Manhattan to return to the World Trade Center after a 10-year hiatus.
The last time we were there in 2003, the skies were gray, the rain intermittent, and the enormous site still cordoned off by an endless chain-link fence. With thousands of other silent tourists, we wandered way around the soggy gaping hole, crossed a covered catwalk, and were channeled into the lobby of the World Financial Center to see models of proposals for the site – a range of different commercial towers combined with various concepts of memorials that might be incorporated into the rebuilt complex.
Returning now in 2013, we did not know what to expect; we were only vaguely aware of how the place is being brought back to life. Had a stranger on the subway not told us, we would not have known that you need tickets to get into the site, that the ticket office is several blocks away from the entrance, and that you will be assigned an entry time that may be hours away. We decided to try to go anyway.
Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Herb Reiter, founder and president of eda2asic, has been in the semiconductor and EDA industry for 30+ years, including stints at Barcelona Design, Viewlogic, Synopsys, VLSI Technology, and National Semiconductor. In the last few years, Reiter’s work has focused on SOI, 2.5/3D ICs, and FinFET topics in semiconductor design and manufacturing. Straightforward enough, until you realize that these are significantly different ‘3D’ technologies, where ‘3D’ means different things to different people.
In a recent phone call, I asked Reiter to distinguish between what he calls the “three legs” of technology choices and to weigh in on which “leg” is most likely to succeed.
Fully-depleted SOI …
Per Reiter, “The original technology was partially-depleted SOI, a fairly thin film of silicon on top of a thin insulating layer. IBM came up with the idea, because substrate capacitance was slowing their chips down. They realized if they put in the insulating layer, they wouldn’t have to worry about substrate capacitance, because the oxide layer would insulate things.
“The planar transistor gate cannot reach all of the electrons in an 80-nanometer channel, cannot fully control the flow, and causes what we called ‘body-effect’ and ‘kink-effect’ design challenges. That’s why partially-depleted SOI was not widely used. So fully-depleted silicon on insulator, FDSOI, was introduced. It only has about a 20-nanometer active film on top of the oxide layer. The gate is sitting on top of the active film and can control all of the electrons passing through the source/drain channel, which is why it’s called fully-depleted SOI.
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Perfectly suited by nature to teaching, when affable Cliff Cummings steps up to conduct his Verilog course, the class is in for a treat. From the get-go, Cliff establishes a tone of respect, humor, and openness to questions of any kind. He encourages students to interrupt when they don’t understand, to stand up, sit down, resort to coffee and/or carbs, and in all ways to relax and enjoy the learning experience.
There’s something additional, however, that Cliff brings to his inspired task of teaching and that’s his decades of involvement with the Verilog language, its evolution, standards, and implementation. What Cliff Cummings doesn’t know about Verilog and SystemVerilog, isn’t worth knowing. Period.
This week, Cliff is teaching Verilog-2001 Design & Best Coding Practices in Silicon Valley – specifically, in the offices of EDA Direct – and I’ve been lucky enough to attend. Not being a Verilog expert, I approached the class with some trepidation, but found to my delight that I was not the only one among the 8 engineers in the room “new” to the language. We’re all engineers, but we’re not all Verilog designers and hence it’s a class perfectly suited to our skills, interests, and goals.
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Kevin Steptoe is VP of Engineering at Sondrel, a global chip-design consultancy based in Reading, U.K. We spoke this morning by phone about the future of FinFETs, in particular Steptoe’s reaction to my blog posted earlier this month, FinFETs: Yes, No, Maybe.
Steptoe said there’s nothing maybe about FinFETs. They are most definitely “an absolute yes” – revolutionary and disruptive as they may be – and offer great promise for the future of chip design, manufacturing, and deployment. And he said, his enthusiasm for the technology is not just from Sondrel’s point of view, but from his own personal involvement in the industry that extends back several decades.
Per Steptoe: “As the world’s increasingly insatiable demand for mobile, tablet-based, higher frequency devices ramps up, the predominant challenges for engineers and designers translate into fears of leakage power and performance. The FinFET, in its construction, addresses these challenges and makes mobile devices dramatically more possible.
“[In fact], the control of the short-channel affect and suppression of leakage actually simplifies things, so engineers will have the opportunity to achieve much higher [transistor] density, much lower power, and similar-or-increased performance levels. We see FinFETs as a win all the way around, a no-brainer that will fully live up to what it says on the tin: With FinFETS you will design ever larger devices with an ever higher power profile.”