The Undervalued Profession
I decided to go into engineering to do something that I really liked—to learn what made things work and how to create things myself \["Engineering Expertise: Leveraging Global Resources," Aug. 20, p. 24\]. I was the kid who took every toy he owned apart to see how it worked.
I don't think that engineering has lost its appeal to young adults picking careers. If anything, the focus on science that young children receive today should increase interest. But the difference is what today's society values. As we all know, if one wants to make any real money, engineering isn't the place. Why is that? After all, engineers create just about everything in today's society. We're the ones that actually add value through our work. We create the objects on which everyone else in the world can have the possibility of making a living! We are the foundation of the pyramid, without which there would be no technology, and no technologically advanced (easy life) society today!
So why does society show us little or no value? Doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, and so on make the big bucks! And for what? Anybody with a good memory can become a doctor. The vast majority become nothing more than glorified mechanics for the body, part swappers, not truly understanding why the body functions the way it does. How many doctors do you know that actually analyze and understand the root cause of someone's illness? Most lawyers spend their lives figuring out how to swindle even more money from other peoples' misfortune. Investment bankers are paid a lot of money just for handling other peoples' hard-earned money. Is much real value added there? I don't think so.
Back to the question at hand. Very few people hear about or see engineers driving around in their fancy Mercedes, or living in their swank half-million dollar loft downtown. I'm sure that the doctors, lawyers, and bankers are all quite intelligent and that's probably why they ended up in those careers. I'm also sure that many of them could have made at least halfway decent engineers. There aren't enough engineers because society undervalues the people who put the most value into society.
Roman V. Goluch
It Comes Down To Money
I don't believe there's a great shortage of engineers in this country \["Engineering Expertise: Leveraging Global Re-sources"\]. I think that the industry demand for foreign work visas is really about getting cheaper labor. So far, this strategy has kept engineering wages down and allowed the corporations to avoid hiring older engineers at generally more expensive wages and benefits.
Yes, engineering has lost its appeal. The corporations can thank themselves for that. The effort, knowledge, and perseverance required isn't rewarded very well. My friend's girlfriend sells cell phones. It requires no serious education, yet she makes $75K. The manager of the men's department at J.C. Penney also makes much more than the average engineer. Neither profession carries as heavy a responsibility as engineering. So why would students at a university want to train for a profession that requires hard education and heavy responsibility, has grueling conditions, and pays rather poorly?
I'm an electrical engineer. For the last few years I have been designing embedded control system circuits and writing the firmware. I'm not paid anything like what I should be paid. I have thought of finding a new career, but I love to invent things, so I stay in the business. Still, I frequently think about quitting engineering. When people ask me about becoming an engineer, I tell them there are much easier careers in which they can make better money with less grief.
Microns Versus Micrometers
After reading "System Verifies, Emulates Monster ICs In A Flash"\[Aug. 20, p. 52\], I wanted to write to you and mention the error: "With 0.13-µm processes coming online." Did you really write 0.13 Micron? I continued reading Electronic Design and was amazed to find similar errors on p. 32, 44, and 56. It appears as if a proofreader went through the Aug. 20 issue and changed every reference of "Microns" to micrometers (µm), but failed to change the size of each nomenclature, i.e., 0.13 "Micron" = 130 "nm." My hat's off to whomever did that. It's about time that technical writers use metric measurements instead of that dumb avoirdupois "Micron."
Joseph C. Kish
Author's response: The third edition of The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms states that a "micrometer" is "a unit of length equal to one-millionth of a meter, abbreviated µm \[with that µ understood to be a Greek lower-case mu\], also known as a micron." What the above means to me is that they're the same thing (micron = micrometer = 1 meter × 10−6). Thus, we refer to submicron semiconductor geometries as fractions of a micron. Is 0.13 microns (or micrometers) not the same thing as 130 nanometers?
This is standard semiconductor industry nomenclature, as well as the standard style here at Electronic Design. We in the technical press, as well as our friends in the semiconductor industry, routinely refer to "deep submicron process technology." But you'll never see references to "nanometer process technology." For an example, I refer you to the TSMC Web site at www.tsmc.com/technology/index_cl013.html.
EDA Technology Editor