Engineering Conspiracy

Volkswagen and Beyond

by Kevin Morris

We must not do this.

We are not soldiers.

We are not slaves.

Engineers are not mindless minions, obligated to serve at the whims of oppressive overlords. We are among the best and the brightest of humanity. For engineering is the one vocation that most separates humans from other species wandering the planet. Engineers are an exclusive and privileged fraternity instilled with the knowledge, skills, and passion to solve problems, to create things that have not existed before, and to make the world a better place.


Cheat Codes for Your Car

Volkswagen’s Firmware Kerfuffle Highlights Engineering Responsibilities

by Jim Turley

“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” – King Henry II [1133 – 1189], referring to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

In Grand Theft Auto V you can press LB, LT, RB, RT, Left, Right, Left, Right, Right to fly like Superman. Or, in Plants vs. Zombies, you can type the word “future” to give the zombies funny 3D glasses. If you enter the correct cheat code on your PlayStation 4 you can change the players’ jerseys in NBA2K14. But on a Volkswagen Jetta you just have to take it to the shop to get smog tested.

Too soon?


Boning Up on Analog

Which Designers Need to be Schooled?

by Bryon Moyer

A simple, straightforward EDA whitepaper recently got me asking some demographic questions. The answers say something about where analog and digital designs are being done – and where they’re coming together. (And yes – sorry, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is involved.)

Whitepapers are popular these days. Nothing new about the whitepaper concept, but how many of them get written during a given period of time (shall we call it the “whitepaper density”?) varies with the economic cycle. And the density is high at the moment.

Whitepapers can be a really useful way to get a technical message out without it sounding like marketing – if done right. You can talk about your product, unlike in an editorial article. But if you keep the tone analytical and professional, it doesn’t come across as marketing. You hold back on the, “OUR PRODUCT EFFING ROCKS” enthusiasm. More like, “Given these numbers and the trends in the industry, there’s a high likelihood that our product would be perceived as effing rocking.”


Just a Second

What Is a Second and How Do You Measure It?

by Dick Selwood

What is a second and how do you measure it?

It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg question. Do we improve accuracy in time-keeping in response to the needs of a new technology, or do we get new technologies because we can be more accurate in measuring time?

Early rural societies didn't need accuracy much greater than morning, afternoon, dinnertime, etc. As things got more sophisticated, accuracy became more important. Urban societies required more co-ordination, and so public clocks, often with bells to toll the hour and later the quarter hour, were set up. Long sea journeys, particularly driven by the commercial and military needs of North America, drove the improvement in chronometers, where accuracy of ± 2 seconds a day was sufficient to avoid shipwreck.


The PC Is Dead! Long Live the PC!

Microchip’s MEC1418 Keeps Old Interfaces Alive In New Ways

by Jim Turley

Yesterday I dusted off some old floppy disks – literally blew dust off of them – so that I could salvage their data while there was still time. Trouble was, I didn’t have a computer with a floppy drive. How to read the disks?

Ironically, the only reason I even had these old floppies lying around was because they were supposed to be my super-safe backups. Apparently sometime in the 1990s I figured that 3.25” floppy disks would be the eternal medium for safeguarding my most precious digital data, which evidently included saved games from Quake II and some 320x240 JPEGs from my first digital camera. Sheesh.


Prototyping the Next Generation

Synopsys Introduces HAPS-80

by Kevin Morris

Moore’s Law, Moore’s Law, Moore’s Law... Up and to the right on a log scale. More of everything forever. Constantly getting bigger, faster and better; more complex, harder to design, more expensive to build, and… way, way harder to verify and debug.

Moore’s Law can make you dizzy standing still.

One thing we have learned in the past couple of decades is that prototyping complex systems before committing to silicon is basically mandatory. And programmable logic is by far the best and most widely accepted underlying technology for hardware prototyping. For most of the history of FPGA-based prototyping, the majority of companies have either built their own prototypes from scratch using off-the-shelf FPGAs on boards they develop in-house, or with ad-hoc solutions comprised of pre-made hardware from one company, design software from other companies, and the remainder of the bits and pieces scrounged together from whatever source was available.

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