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How the FPGA Came To Be, Part 6: Actel’s FPGA Story

Late in 2021, I published a five-part series titled “How the FPGA Came To Be” (referenced below). That series chronicled the development of programmable logic from the earliest days of Harris Semiconductor’s programmable diode arrays and continued through the development of bipolar PROMs, the Signetics 82S100 FPLA, MMI’s original bipolar PALs, CMOS PAL devices from Altera and Lattice Semiconductor, and finally the introduction of the first FPGA by Xilinx in 1985. However, that series omitted one important player in the FPGA game that was founded in 1985: Actel. I recently had the opportunity to interview one of … Read More → "How the FPGA Came To Be, Part 6: Actel’s FPGA Story"

Open-Source AutoML for Edge AI/ML Development

I was just cogitating and ruminating on the futuristic technologies to which I was exposed when “Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)” first graced our television screens in 1966. Things like the flip-open communicators, which predated the launch of the world’s first flip phone by 30 years.

Also, there was artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) of a form. However, in hindsight (the one exact science), the greatest machine intelligence on Star Trek TOS was exhibited by the doors, which opened only when someone was walking towards them but not … Read More → "Open-Source AutoML for Edge AI/ML Development"

ChatGPT will not replace me – yet

An EEJournal reader recently suggested, eagerly I might add, that ChatGPT can already replace me. This statement was made even before OpenAI announced ChatGPT 4o. It’s not something that particularly worries me, knowing how these chatbots are trained. You can try to dump the entire Internet into a chatbot training session, but that does not give the chatbot wisdom, nor will it transform the chatbot into the Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia because these online encyclopedias are updated daily with fresh information, sometimes even properly curated information.

However, as an … Read More → "ChatGPT will not replace me – yet"

Building A Semiconductor Fab? I Have Awesome News (Exclamation Mark)

I’ve been informed by the punctuation police that I am no longer allowed to employ exclamation marks in my column titles. That’s like asking me to write while hopping up and down on one leg with one arm tied behind my back, but I’ll try to be brave and soldier on. Suffice it to say that for anyone building a semiconductor fab who wants to save time and money while reducing risk, this column is for you!!! (You’re welcome!!!)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m incredibly lucky. We … Read More → "Building A Semiconductor Fab? I Have Awesome News (Exclamation Mark)"

Awesome Retro Displays and Computers

In retrospect, it’s been a funny old day with respect to retro displays and computers, starting with Numitron tubes (which use seven incandescent filaments arranged to form a seven-segment display) and ending with an 8-bit computer implemented using 1950s thermionic valves (vacuum tubes).

Now, I want you to be honest with me… am I alone in loving the technologies of yesteryear? For example, is it just me, or do you also feel that older display technologies have a soupçon of style coupled with a modicum of gravitas?

Read More → "Awesome Retro Displays and Computers"

Old Electronics Terms Show Language Drift Over the Decades

A recent video appearing on Laurence Brown’s “Lost in the Pond” YouTube channel discusses six English words brought to America in the 1600s, during its colony days. Many of these words can be traced to the plays of William Shakespeare and were therefore used in England during the late 1500s and early 1600s. Although the use of these words died out in England four centuries ago, they are still somewhat common in the United States. The six words from … Read More → "Old Electronics Terms Show Language Drift Over the Decades"

A Brief History of PCBs: Where did printed circuit boards come from?

While writing my recent 8-part EDA history (listed below), I became acutely aware that most of the effort devoted to EDA tool development has been aimed at IC design. A much smaller level of effort was devoted to developing printed circuit board (PCB) tools. The reason is simple, I think. IC design tools sell for far more money. While IC design tools cost upwards of six and seven figures for the most complex tools, PCB design tools sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Never mind that the market for PCB design tools is two or three … Read More → "A Brief History of PCBs: Where did printed circuit boards come from?"

Lynn Conway, 1938-2024: The Computer Architect Who Helped to Revolutionize Digital IC Design

Lynn Conway is best known for her collaboration with Carver Mead that resulted in the Mead-Conway design methodology for VLSI chip design, which triggered a renaissance in IC development and spurred the growth of commercial EDA. While working on IBM’s Advanced Computer System (ACS) project in the 1960s, Conway conceived of Dynamic Instruction Scheduling (DIS), one of the fundamental innovations needed for out-of-order (OOO) instruction execution by superscalar processors, which is now commonly implemented in all high-end microprocessors. She joined the Department of Engineering’s faculty at the University of Michigan in 1985 as a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and Associate Dean of Engineering and retired in 1998, taking the title of Professor Emerita. … Read More → "Lynn Conway, 1938-2024: The Computer Architect Who Helped to Revolutionize Digital IC Design"

Who Invented the Johnson Decade Counter (and Why)?

I love digital logic. I love solving digital logic conundrums. And I especially love discovering interesting and unusual ways of doing things while also learning more about the people who came up with these ideas in the first place. Take Gray codes, for example. These were named after Frank Gray, who was a physicist and researcher at Bell Labs.

The Gray code, or reflected binary code (RBC), which first appeared in a 1953 patent, is a binary numeral system that is often used in electronics, but that also has many applications in mathematics. Consider … Read More → "Who Invented the Johnson Decade Counter (and Why)?"

O-M-G! 100 More Captivating Columns

I simply cannot believe that I recently penned and posted my three hundredth column here at EEJournal. I think my columns average out at around 1,500 words apiece, which means we are talking about (pause while I launch my calculator app) 450,000 words!

The really sad thing is that when I was 16 years old circa 1973, my dear old mom did everything but beg me to do two things: (1) Learn to touch type and (b) Learn to use Read More → "O-M-G! 100 More Captivating Columns"

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