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More Analog

There’s been a clear trend over the last decade or so: analog is succumbing to digital. More and more, the modus operandi has been, “Sample the analog world and convert it to digital as soon as possible, doing all of the signal processing in the digital domain.” So it’s natural to expect that, as we do more and more digitally, we will see less and less analog content in our systems.

Imagine my surprise, then, talking to Maxim at CES and learning that, in phones, despite all of the increased digital capabilities, the number of analog functions has increased from 42 to 82 – effectively double – between first- and third-generations.

Dig in a bit, and you find that this trend is actually consistent with the digital trend. It’s not that we’re ceding territory back to the analog domain: it’s that we’re doubling down on our interactions with the analog world. Screens are bigger, requiring more channels, and we have more and more sensors capturing analog information. All of this information will reside in that slim analog shell around the digital system, per the long-term trend.

Power also contributes: the proliferation of power rails and power switching has converted what used to be a relatively simple analog network into something much more complex.

This is good news, of course, for companies like Maxim that focus on analog as their value. While we know that analog will never completely go away, no matter how digital we go (unless we somehow convert the physical world into a digital avatar of itself), analog companies certainly like to hear that system trends will bring them along for the ride.

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