Engineering, we would argue, falls closer to the right-brain domain. While we technically-trained engineers may have always associated ourselves more closely with the study of science, our discipline actually has more in common with art. Mobile phones, MP3 players, and digital cameras are hardly universal truths waiting to be discovered. Those devices and systems are incremental evolutionary steps atop innovative ideas hatched by the creative minds of engineers. While we engineers are always trying to solve problems, the nature of our solutions is often well-distilled creativity. A problem may represent a universal truth, but normally an optimal solution does … Read More → "The Art of Embedded Design"
Geologic time is difficult for humans to visualize. Great continents slamming into each other with epic force, reshaping the earth’s surface, don’t seem so impressive when the movement is slowed down to an almost imperceptible rate. The only time we notice the effect is when transients like earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions hint at the unwavering determination of the underlying forces. As electronic designers, however, we have some facility in dealing with alternate orders of magnitude in the time scale. We understand that nanoseconds and milliseconds are worlds apart, even though, as humans, we can& … Read More → "Tale of the Tools"
The truth is, our fifth-grader has become the equivalent of a live-in Support Desk. True, my husband and I are the designers of the entertainment system. We did all the research and navigated the DLP, plasma, HDTV decision process. We determined the optimal configuration for the accompanying sound system, exercising liberal design reuse (read: we kept our old stereo equipment). But our kid is the one who has really taken the time to make everything sing. He challenges the performance potential of the system and identifies bugs (he’s the one who figured out the work-around for our & … Read More → "Remote Possibilities"
In the rough-and-tumble, day-to-day, my-chip’s-bigger-than-your-chip schoolyard scrap that characterizes the top tier of the FPGA industry, a glimpse of vision, long-term insight and strategy are a rare breath of fresh air. We often feel that the two toughest competitors in the business spend too much time staring each other down and not enough time strategizing on how to conquer more of the vast landscape of logic design opportunity waiting patiently at the forefronts of their fiefdoms. However, when we sat down this week with Danny Biran, Altera’s Vice President of Product and Corporate Marketing, vision … Read More → "Altera Looks Forward"
Every year, FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal has conducted a survey of design teams that have recently completed projects using FPGAs. We collect and analyze a large volume of responses from readers regarding their completed projects, and we publish and sell a detailed report to companies that have a vested interest in gathering data about the current behaviors of FPGA design teams. This is nothing unusual, as many media companies perform similar research and offer similar studies to their customers. This time, however, we noticed one thing that was unusual. There seems to be a shift that … Read More → "Bundling Performance"
If all of this is seems a bit confusing, you might want to re-read part one of this series – “Tyranny of the Metaphor,” (read) where we discussed the problems with planning software projects using conventional methods like PERT charts and Gantt diagrams. This time, however, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and start solving the problem one piece at a time. As with almost any good therapy, we need to look deep inside ourselves first. As a group, … Read More → "Tyranny Take Two"
In a traditional FPGA design flow, crafting the hardware architecture and writing VHDL or Verilog for RTL synthesis requires considerable effort. The code must follow a synthesis standard, meet timing, implement the interface specification, and function correctly. Given enough time, a design team is capable of meeting all these constraints. However, time is one thing that is always in short supply. Deadlines imposed by time to market pressures often force designers to compromise, resulting in them to settle for ‘good enough’ by re-using blocks and IP that are over designed for their application.
Price, Performance, and Power – the three Ps of Moore’s Law — have fueled four decades of technological fury. Each new process node brought us more gates per square meter of silicon, reducing price. Each shrink of the gate also brought us faster toggle rates, giving higher performance, and each narrowing also gave us the opportunity to operate at lower supply voltages, giving less dynamic power consumption. It seemed as if everything would improve exponentially forever.
Of course, nothing is free. There has always been another exponential curve at work as well – that … Read More → "More and Moore"