Screaming Circuits: Top Ten Reasons Electronics is Like The Flu


Top Ten Reasons Electronics is Like The Flu

Frequently when I go to a tradeshow, I come back with a cold virus. I was bound and determined not to with this last trip to ESC, and I almost did or mostly did. I got back home last Wednesday night and I was fine until this Monday. Now I'm all virused up. I sit in a back corner cube so the chances of me infecting everyone else is probably fairly low. And I don't have a fever assuring that it's not the Bovine Flu, so here I am at the office regardless.

Packed in tight

In my semi-repressed-brain state - there's not a lot of activity going on upstairs at the moment - I keep drifting from actual work to strange thoughts, like chips and viruses (as opposed to chips and salsa). Mmmmm Salsa... Software, is of course susceptible to it's own form of virus, but what about hardware? It's not the same thing. But maybe the hardware is more like the virus rather then being the victim of the virus?

#10. The number ten reason that electronics is like the flu: Just when you think you've got it nailed, it all changes. Think the project is done? Oops, there's a bug or some feature creep and you're suddenly sucked back into it again.

#7. Even the same part can come in a large number of different variants and each of those in a large number of different packages.

#6. One vaccine to cure them all? People ask us about stocking standard parts. Like: "don't we have a standard set of passives that we can just pull from because everyone uses the same basic set?" That's a bit like asking why one vaccine doesn't cure all flu types. Let's just look at a .01uf cap. Pretty standard stuff. Right? Well, Digi-Key lists hundreds of varieties of .01 uf cap. What's the voltage? What's the temperature range? What's the tolerance? What's the ESR? What's the package? It's pretty simple - if WE wanted to tell you which cap is best for your design, then, okay, we'd do that. But, we don't know your design. Only you do, so we can't make that decision. We can get the parts here overnight, but we'll only get the exact parts that YOU want us to get.

#5. You need a microscope to see it. Well, we're not quite at the virus size-scale, but it seems to be Flu_und_legende_color_cgetting closer every year. 20 nm etch processes and all. Even the parts are getting close to being not visible by the naked eye. All these 01005 passives and super-micro chip scale BGAs don't look like much more then dust and dust can certainly irritate the respiratory system.

#4. They both make you sweat. Yeah, the old influenza virus will jack up your body temp and make you sweat and ache. So will a tough design on tight deadline. One week to go and you need that proto built up, tested, verified and put into the marketing geek's hands for the press event - that'll cause cold sweats in just about any design engineer just as quick.

#3. Dim the lights. If you've got the flu, you need your rest, so turn off the lights and stay focused on getting well. Staring at your monitor all day, swimming in schematic or PCB layout, all those lights in the background and the glare can make your headache worse. A lot of engineers that I know like to work with the lights down for just that reason.

#2. Drink lot's of fluids. Dehydration is never a good thing. Whether it's dehydration due to the effects of a virus raging through your body or dehydration due to inattention to physiological needs while deep into some VHDL morass. I've heard urban legend of gamers starving to death because they didn't want to drop their guard. I don't know of any stories of design engineers doing the same, but I know how long hours can pass without leaving the chair when stuck on a particularly challenging design problem. Get something to drink! It will keep your mind fresh.

#1. And the number one reason why electronics is like the flu... Full immersion. When you've got the flu, your whole being is immersed in getting through it and giving the virus the boot. When you're deep into a serious electronic design cycle, you're fully immersed into it. The outside world pretty much ceases to exist until you get past the current tough spot.

Duane Benson
I know. I've done the Octal thing before. It's an old joke, but that's what I've got today

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