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Intel’s x86 Turns 40: Full of Vigor or Doddering Retiree?

Forty years ago, the calendar on the kitchen wall said it was 1978. People were taping All in the Family on their Betamax VCRs, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Animal House and Jaws 2 were filling movie theaters, and the Western world was, to its everlasting shame, in the grip of disco music.

Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, … Read More → "Intel’s x86 Turns 40: Full of Vigor or Doddering Retiree?"

Goodbye to All This

This is a part of my goodbye to an active role in the world of electronics, a world I have been a part of, as a PR person and a journalist, for nearly 40 years and, if you add on previous use of computers, including using teletypes on ARPANET, for nearly 50. In a few days, I will close down my commercial activities, and, although I will be looking at writing a book on an aspect of electronics history, I will no longer be an active player.

I am going to use … Read More → "Goodbye to All This"

Microchip Makes Two Small Firsts

“Roses are red / Violets are blue / I’m schizophrenic / And so am I” – Oscar Levant

Two heads are better than one, and everyone’s stuck their head into the multicore business. Even little $1 microcontrollers have dual processor cores now, including those from MCU titan Microchip.
Just this week, Microchip announced two new (and unrelated) devices, both of which can claim a small first in the industry. One, the dsPIC33CH, is the company’s first dsPIC device to have two cores. Previously, all dsPIC chips were single-core only. Over on the other side of … Read More → "Microchip Makes Two Small Firsts"

The EDA Enigma

The fifty-fifth Design Automation Conference (DAC) is underway in San Francisco this week. Just let that number settle in for a minute or two. That’s right, EDA existed before Moore’s Law. Back when folks could cram only a handful of transistors on an integrated circuit, there was already a conference dedicated to the development of software tools to design them.

That’s how important design automation is.

The Moore’s Law miracle – five decades of exponential … Read More → "The EDA Enigma"

MEMS Design Contest Winners

Two years ago at the annual DATE conference in Europe, a MEMS design contest was announced. Sponsored by Reutlingen University, Coventor, X-Fab, and Cadence, the goal was to stimulate creative ideas for MEMS technology. The sponsors each had a part: Coventor and Cadence provided tools for the design process, and X-Fab signed up to build the winning design. Reutlingen University helped with the organizing efforts.

Well, the winners were recently announced, and we’re going to look through the projects of the top … Read More → "MEMS Design Contest Winners"

Programmable Pile of Parts

FPGAs were conceived as “do anything” chips – Jacks of all Trades. Sure, they were crazy expensive for the number of effective gates they offered, they were a lot slower than custom logic doing the same task, and they drank copious quantities of coulombs getting the job done, but they could be programmed to do exactly your bidding. In a lot of designs, that made the FPGA the no-longer-missing link – the glue that connected the other components together. Need two incompatible interfaces bridged? Throw in an FPGA. Need an IO that wasn’t provided by your SoC? FPGA saves the … Read More → "Programmable Pile of Parts"

Zap! Zap! Zap! GlobalFoundries’ UHV 180nm Process Hits 700V

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. – Mark Twain

With all the media hype and heavy emphasis on the leading-edge semiconductor process technologies that will soon reach single-digit nanometer numbers, working-class process technologies often get no respect. That’s why I was so pleased to learn that GlobalFoundries announced at the end of May that the Ultra High Voltage (UHV) variant of its 180nm ASIC semiconductor process … Read More → "Zap! Zap! Zap! GlobalFoundries’ UHV 180nm Process Hits 700V"

Amazon and Google in the RTOS World

“One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Monkey see, monkey do. Google acquired Android years ago and turned it into a hugely successful tool for embedded programmers. Now, Amazon has taken over FreeRTOS. Will it become the next Android, a de facto standard for real-time software that wipes all the other RTOSen off the map?

Or is our embedded world just too chaotic for that?

Read More → "Amazon and Google in the RTOS World"

An MRAM Cell that Competes with SRAM?

Anything you do can be done efficiently or not. Whether it’s driving (mpg?), playing sportsball (results/energy spent?), or walking the dog (who pulls whom?), you can be efficient or not. Obviously, higher efficiency is better – assuming you care (sometimes spending energy worrying about efficiency can be inefficient). So… what if you could identify an improvement for an activity you care about that, by itself, would increase your efficiency by almost 50%?

That’s what Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) is Read More → "An MRAM Cell that Competes with SRAM?"

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