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The most important changes in electronic design over the past 25 years?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by blackhead, Jan 30, 2013.

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  1. blackhead

    blackhead Guest

    Flicking through modern text books for undergraduate students, I find
    it startling that little seems to have changed in the way of
    electronic design. Can anyone think of obvious examples?

    Regards, Larry.
  2. Perhaps you need some newer text books? :)

    I guess textbooks teach the "fundamentals", which indeed do not
    change. But there have been enormous changes in the *practice* of

    Obvious ones would be

    - the transition to surface mount for most applications.

    - ubiquity of cheap, powerful microcontrollers. Meaning more and more
    of the functionality of a design is software.

    - Complete subsystems now available as single-chip "building blocks",
    e.g. A/D convertors that connect direct to transducers, digital
    isolators, power supply sequencers.

    - low cost or free development tools for microcontrollers. No more $5k
    in-circuit emulators or logic analysers.

    - easy, online searching and availability of information, samples and
    production parts.

    Etc etc

  3. AoE probably :)
  4. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    There have been major changes. In contrast to 25 years ago I nowadays do
    almost complete designs on the simulator and then in real life they come
    out almost verbatim the same. This was theoretically possible back then
    as well, and I did use ECA224 in the late 80's and PSpice in the early
    90's, but the available computing horsepower was not even remotely
    sufficient. Now it is, and that has changed things fundamentally. At
    least for me.
  5. <ouch>
  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    All it takes is one election gone wrong and then they do :)

    CD4000 series ICs make nice analog CMOS amps and were available. Same
    for the 74C-series but I've never used those on account of their high
    prices in Europe back then.

    It's the same in code. I could do reasonable circuit simulation in 640k
    of RAM in the 80's. Now you need a minimum of 1G of RAM and three dozen
    concurrently running processes just to be able to write "Hello World".

  7. [...]
    Cool, I found a price of $141,000 for the 780 in 1977.

    The VAX 11/780 appears to be the standard machine on which all the
    "MIPS" benchmarks are based. So a VAX 11/780 is a "1 MIPS" machine.

    I have a $4 STM32F4 microcontroller on a $15 eval board on my desk right
    now. It is 210 MIPS :)
  8. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    I am not this old but I did write my schematics as text, netlist style,
    for PSpice entry. Kept doing that until too many people razzed me about
    the fact that nobody else could "see" the circuit that way. "Hey, we've
    got Edison electric light in here, you know?".

    Very same setup here, except I opted for the Cyrix math co-processor.
    Paid an arm and a leg but that felt like I had installed a
    turbo-charger. I still have the two cloth-covered Microsim binders, with
    pouches. I also still have the co-processor. Maybe it rises in value
    when it gets to be an antique?

  9. :)

    No insider knowledge, but I suspect Wins problem is that he is trying to
    cover the whole field, and it is advancing faster than he is writing...
  10. Computer simulations have replaced bench testing.

    The design rules are unlikely to change, but the implementation might.
  11. Excellent,

    I want to add the great analog parts now availble for cheap
    low noise opamps
    0.1% resistors
    ceramic caps
    (what else do I need?)

    George H.
  12. Yeah, digital continues to swallow more and more of the world.

    George H.
  13. Guest

    Of course FPGAs grew out of PLDs and FPLAs, which had been around a
    decade by then. I used a register with an FPLA in the feedback to
    build my own controller in the mid-'70s (it was the "brains" for what
    was essentially a DVM).
  14. Tim Williams

    Tim Williams Guest

    Using AoE2 as an example, the only glaring omissions I recall are:

    1. Besides Larkin, who actually uses 68k anymore? Yeah, a few, but
    PIC/AVR and ARM pretty much dominate today. (Indeed, the 68k dominated in
    its time, but that time has passed. That said, perhaps the PIC/AVR/ARM
    market is mature and, by the time most people read the next editions of
    these textbooks, will be obsolete!) Few use MSI anymore; CPLDs and FPGAs
    are so much easier.

    2. High performance parts. GaAs, GaN, PHEMTs, and for power, SiC too.
    Even superjunction devices didn't exist at the time.

    3. High bandwidth signaling standards; signal integrity. Highly important
    today (you can't get too much out of the FPGA from #1 without using up all
    your pins, unless you use LVDS or PECL or..), and forms an intersection
    between analog and digital which one cannot ignore.

    Anecdote regarding #3: at school, I once attended a recruitment
    presentation from Plexus. The speaker asked us, "Does anyone know about
    signal integrity? If so raise your hand." Out of the about 100 EE
    students in the room, I was the only one. Needless to say, signal
    integrity is not covered in any undergrad courses.

  15. brent

    brent Guest

    Printed circuit board fabrication techniques and the software to
    design printed circuit boards.
  16. Guest

    Assimilate. You will be...

  17. Liquid Immersion Lithography.

    The move to HDTV and digital broadcasting.

    High bandwidth wired connectivity for the masses.

    Large form factor fast refresh LCD displays with LED backlighting at a
    reasonable price.

    And finally... all the Dick Tracy Wrist Radios folks all have now.
    just a bit too big for the wrist. And we still call the "phones".
  18. Bill Sloman

    Bill Sloman Guest

    We had Racal-Redac software for digitally generating printed circuit
    artwork at EMI Central Research back on 1978, which is almost 35 years
    ago. It wasn't user friendly, and the draftsmen that drove it needed a
    refresher course if they'd been doing something else for more than a
    week, but it was a relatively quick way of generating artwork for
    digital circuits, if too clunky for analog layouts.

    It was probably the Racal-Redac MAXI PCB package which was introduced
    around then, but I never actually saw it in operation though - IIRR -
    we did check out one of the layouts it produced for us before sending
    it out to get turned into a board.
  19. Nico Coesel

    Nico Coesel Guest

    The biggest change is not needing a huge library with datasheet books
    due to internet. Ohm's law won't change for at least another 50 years
  20. Grin... do I have any choice?

    I went to a local maker-place for electronics night.
    I brought my Rigol scope and DMM.
    Everyone else there took out their lap tops,
    and started tapping keys.

    I'm thinking I should bring my soldering iron next time,
    I've got a few 'kit' projects I can work on. :^)

    George H.
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