Ten Electronics Things to be Thankful for in 2010
"Do they have 4th of July in Canada?" The Thanksgiving holiday is upon those of us here in the United States. It's been a bummer of a couple of years for a lot of the electronics world, but there's still plenty to be thankful for - and I think it's getting better. Well, "better" is a relative term, I guess. We at Screaming Circuits have gone from feeling the effects of the recession to being overwhelmed with work as people get back to designing stuff.
Here's my recommendations on what to be thankful of this holiday season. Feel free to come up with your own list. I won't look down on you if you don't use my exact list.
#10: SIlicon*. Because, while Germanium is a semiconductor, Silicon works much better. Germanium can't stand the heat and had to get out of the fire. *[I had originally used the term "Silicone", but as MightyOhm pointed out, the trailing "e" was there in error. No polymers here]
#9: Flip chips. They're so tiny and cute. And they have better thermal transfer properties than wire bonded chips. Not to mention improvements in inductance. And you can jam a whole lot more into the same space with little flip chips than you can with SOIC chips. Plus, if you run out of pepper, you can season your mashed potatoes with a bunch of spare flipchips. Just make sure they're lead-free.
#8: HASL. Yes. It's still around. And while it's not the best solution for the aforementioned flipchips, it is one of the most robust, easiest to store, handle and use when you're dealing with larger geometries. It's the way to go when hand soldering.
#7: ENIG and Immersion Silver. HASL may be my preference for hand-soldering, but when using big BGAs or lot's of small components, the bumpy surface of HASL can cause problems. That's when a nice planar surface such as ENIG or Immersion Silver makes life a lot easier.
#6: Open source hardware. Open source has been helping out the software industry for quite a while. It's about time hardware folks benefited from the concept. In some ways it seems a bit exploitive* of the designers, but as long as they are doing it voluntarily, I guess it's okay. Open source hardware gave us the Arduino which seems to have made micro controllers a lot more accessible. It gave us DIY Drones which seems to be proving that autonomy isn't just for big-iron. *[pt questioned me on the use of the concept of "exploitive". That word doesn't really capture what I was trying to say. I like open source a lot. I just feel bad for the community related to a couple of annoying open source software examples. Read my full opinion here.]
#5: mBed. This nice little ARM development board has taken a new approach to dramatically reducing the barriers to entry. With a complete online IDE and extremely easy start up and use, it will help a lot of people learn about advanced microcontrollers and will help a lot of people move from 8-bit up to the 32-bit ARM world. I don't think you could make it any easier than this.
#4: FTDI. They made USB easy to implement on just about any design. Cool.
#3: The Beagleboard-xM. Speaking of open source hardware, the Beagleboard came about a few years ago as the first (as far as I could tell) seriously powerful open source hardware platform. It brought open source out of the hobby garage and into corporate America. The New xM has made the design even more powerful and indicates Ti's commitment to the project.
#2: Quick-turn PCB fab and assembly houses. Like Screaming Circuits for assembly and our buddies at Sunstone for the PCB fab, so you can get your prototypes built up a lot faster. Okay. Yes, I know this one is self-serving. But, you know, these guys pay my salary and I really believe in what we do here.
#1: Drum roll please...
#1: Caffeine. It helps us keep designing into the wee hours of the night. Then it helps us get back to designing early in the morning when we should be sleeping because we stayed up to late the night before. Caffeine is the fuel that powers our economic engine, so that's my #1 thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. There is a part of me, however, that suspects that due to caffeine, we might just be doing this all wrong. Maybe we should, instead, try actually sleeping the proper number of hours per night. Just a thought.
Wikipedia says caffeine is a natural pesticide. Hmmm...
Well, at least it's natural.