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Is circuits, amplifier, BJT applicable in current market?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Jeffrey Chee, Sep 18, 2003.

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  1. Jeffrey Chee

    Jeffrey Chee Guest

    Hi there.

    I have gradated last with a Bachelor Degree in Electronics
    Engineering. After joining the work force, I find that those analogue
    stuff, circuits analysis stuff are not as useful or important as I
    thought. Is that true?

    I see many things are done by programming. MCU, DSP, FPGA and Visual
    Basic, C++. I see some people don't really border much about circuits
    and mostly don't really know much about it, or not border to go

    I am interested in circuits and electrical signal because I think it
    is the most basic element that connects. But looking at the industry,
    more functions can only implemented by having Know How on MCU and
    other programmable stuff. And that doesn't really need very deep
    understanding on circuits, as the supplier and vendor could provide
    help, application notes and others. So the value that we can add is
    programming, I assume.

    Is that true? What do you think and do you have any doubts as I do?

  2. I preseume you meat " last with..."
    Depends on what you mean by important. Of course analogue is important.
    Nothing would exist without analogue design. Its all analogue (QM
    excluded). However, the % of analogue work is very low.
    Thats right. Analogue is a very specialised discipline. There is no need
    for millions of them, as is the case for software engineers.

    Kevin Aylward
    SuperSpice, a very affordable Mixed-Mode
    Windows Simulator with Schematic Capture,
    Waveform Display, FFT's and Filter Design.
  3. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    For a very large number of electrical engineering students, yes, this is
    true. As Kevin already mentioned, there's far more need for people who can
    write software, do a little digital design, etc. than there is for people
    who can do 'real' analog design. In fact, I'd even venture that a lot of
    'engineering' jobs could be done by modestly talented individuals with far
    less than a four (or five!) year degree, just as successfully. In the U.S.
    these days it's almost taken for granted that everyone is 'supposed' to go
    to college... so colleges oblige and fill up the years with classes that may
    or may not be relevant to what 90+% of their students will end up needing in
    Keep in mind that there are some very challenging problems within each of
    those areas -- digital signal processing can become quite involved,
    especially if you're the guy implementing low level subroutines and have to
    understand what's actually going on. FPGAs are often a prime candidate for
    very high speed signal processing, and of course high-level software is used
    to tie it all together (see Ray Andraka's web site,,
    for a good example of some very impressive DSP work in FPGAs). Although
    many people programming in VB or VC++ are just implementing starightfotward
    applications, there certainly is the person who gets to implement programs
    that handle, e.g., machine vision (more signal processing!), high end
    databases (some of those guys who wrote MS SQL Server are pretty sharp),
    circuit simulators (there's of course Kevin -- and Nagel et al. who started
    SPICE way back when at Berkeley), electromagnetics simulators (as complex as
    you'd like it to be), and even just compilers (highly optimizing compilers
    are tricky to get right).

    I'd venture that a lot of the people who are tackling those more challenging
    problems with software could have done pretty well as circuits designers
    too -- it's just that there's far more 'interesting' problems to solve than
    anyone can do in one lifetime, coupled with the reality of where one can
    find or create a job.
    Here's a little secret that isn't advertised too prominently: A lot of the
    guys who used to connect up all those discrete circuits at the board level
    became chip designers. There are tons of people at National Semiconductor,
    Analog Devices, Maxim, etc. who never touch a soldering iron, yet they're
    very much doing analog circuit design.

    As far as advice goes -- I think it's important to sit around with discrete
    circuits and connect them up and see how they behave. While it's still on a
    breadboard that you can poke around at, it provides more confidence that
    everything is really working the way it's supposed to (at least for me it
    does... I built this huge breadboard once of a large digital circuit design,
    got the thing to work, and since then have had the confidence to never
    breadboarded another digital circuit -- I just got straight to laying out
    the PCB). There's a certain amount of faith involved in doing a chip design
    that's only ever been simulated in SPICE and spending the tens of thousands
    of dollars to have it made and hoping that it'll work the same way in
    reality as it did in the simulator. This is more faith than is required
    with digital designs in FPGAs or standard cell ASICs -- if your VHDL or
    Verilog or whatever simulates correctly there and meets timing, you're about
    99.99% assured the chip will work, since some ANALOG GUY sat around and
    designed and characterized all the gates within the FPGA to come up with the
    timing models.

    'Board-level' analog design is a small niche -- and it's becoming smaller.
    For any application where the expected volume is large, someone (an analog
    person!) will design a chip to do the job (e.g., look at all the single
    chip... radios, audio amplifiers, micronctrollers with gobs of I/O and
    analog linterfacing, network interface ICs, etc. -- devices that used to
    require tons of discrete components). My impression is that many of the
    board-level analog designers hanging out in this newsgroup tend to work at
    Universities, labs, or other research centers where novel, high-performance
    analog designs are necessary that you can't buy off the shelf -- but the
    expected volume for the product is low. These guys are worth their weight
    in gold, I imagine, since I think it's easier to take a really good
    board-level analog guy and make him a chip designer than it is the other way
    around -- especially for items such as RF circuitry, where suddenly
    distributed effects become very significant!

    And as long as I'm on my soapbox here (aka, 'sure to annoy everyone')...
    I've often felt that the decline in interest in designing and building your
    own amateur radio devices is partially due to the fact that it is so
    difficult to compete with on-chip solutions with board-level design. There
    are many exceptions to see (see for a
    beautiful product); I'm just speaking generally. I'm confident that a lot
    of the RF designers in the amateur radio community could have designed their
    own cell phone-like systems (yes, I know about autopathces, but this isn't
    as sophisticated), IEEE 802.11b wireless networking systems (packet radio
    doesn't cut it), etc. years ago, yet it tended not to happen because the
    costs involved in a board-level design were prohibitive compared to the cost
    of an on-chip design (...there aren't many ICs in a wireless network card,
    nor a cell phone any more!).

    Well... that's my opinion... now I need to get back to work... which for
    today is... MCU programming. :) If you're interested in analog design,
    however, by all means pursue it -- there is plenty of industry demand for
    good analog designers, and even always have the option to fall back to
    software or digital design if you can't immediately find anything in analog
    you'd like to do.

    ---Joel Kolstad
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