Electronic Design


Real World Demands Beyond Basics
In response to "How to Improve Our Universities: Or, The Tale Of Two Frauds" \[May 1, p. 154\], I agree that U.S. universities aren't teaching engineering students the skills they need to work and succeed in the real world.

Our facility is looking for production engineers, those who can give support to production, maintenance, etc. What do the applicants want to do? Research, or design ICs. When I ask them what their hobbies are, the answer almost always is computer related. A few admit to watching videos. Did they ever build an audio amplifier, a TV, or a ham rig? No. Did they ever tear down a lawn mower engine, perform a brake job on a car, or repair a toaster? No. What can they do on a computer? Word, Excel, maybe Autocad, or a little bit of C++. When I talk the basics of electronics with them, they don't know diodes from SCRs, PID loops from current loops, or anything about shielding.

Folks, these young women and men are coming out of college with the equivalent of what a poor tenth-grade education was in the '40s or '50s. They don't have their engineering basics down cold, they don't know basic math or English, and they can't "get across" ideas beyond the simplest. They took engineering because "that's where the money is," not because they "just HAD to be an engineer." Woe is us!
Forest P. Clark

Setting The Record Straight
This is an unpleasant letter to write, but the circumstances are extreme, and I am left with little choice. The Idea For Design in your June 26 issue, "Fast, Stable Wideband FET Amplifier," by Frantisek Michele is not Mr. Michele's original work. He plagiarized the schematic diagram and large sections of the text, verbatim, from p. 2 through 5 of Linear Technology Corp. Application Note 21, "Composite Amplifiers," dated July 1986.

This is not the first time Frantisek Michele has published our circuit and associated text under his name. The very same circuit appeared, under Mr. Michele's name, in the August 1998 issue of Electronics World, a U.K. publication. I was notified by a reader, and my response appeared in a subsequent issue of that magazine. My printed reply stopped short of accusation. But, I thought, clearly it indicated my displeasure. I assumed exposing him would be enough. I was wrong. Mr. Michele requires more pointed remedies.

What Frantisek Michele did is theft, and that is the gentlest descriptive I can summon. He violated his publication agreement with Electronic Design, he stole my company's copyrighted material, and he appropriated, without permission or reference, my authorship.

Legalities aside, his actions are beyond reprehensible. They abuse the essence of authorship and transgress the editorial process. It seems appropriate that Electronic Design and all other publications refuse Frantisek Michele's future submissions. This is severe censure, but the offense justifies it.
Jim Williams
Staff Scientist
Linear Technology Corp.

A Little Mix-Up With A Narrow Trace
I have enjoyed your articles on reducing noise/jitter for ADCs and clocks. I do have one question. In the article "Attack The Noise Gremlins That Plague High-Speed ADCs" \[Dec. 17, 1999, p. 107\], you reference a "narrow trace" between analog and digital ground planes. Yet in the following paragraph, you mention that 2 to 3 cm works well for the conditions noted.... This isn't a "narrow trace," and it isn't consistent with your figures. Is this value supposed to be 2 to 3 mm?
Dr. Christopher G. Braun
Principal Engineer
Mantech Real-Time System Laboratory

Yes, that 2 to 3 cm was a misprint. It should have been 2 to 3 mm. I hope you also enjoyed the two follow-up articles of mine; "Maintaining Signal Integrity Enhances ADC Circuit Performance," May 1, p. 115, and "Pay Attention To The Clock And Output Bus To Improve High-Speed ADC Designs," June 26, p. 137. These three articles together give a lot of insight on obtaining the best performance from high-speed ADCs. I will admit, however, that there are other issues for undersampling conditions and for speeds above 50 Msamples/s that I haven't covered. I hope to cover those in future articles, but that will be after I do the necessary bench studies.
Nicholas Gray
Staff Applications Engineer
National Semiconductor Corp.

Correction On Clock Trace Analysis
Your article "Pay Attention To The Clock And Output Bus To Improve High-Speed ADC Designs" \[June 26, p. 137\] was good, but the recommendation to treat the trace as a transmission line if the length was greater than 1/8 wavelength of the clock frequency doesn't take into account the clock waveform. After discussing this with my colleagues, we feel a more correct statement would be to relate the trace length to the clock signal rise-time or highest-frequency component of the clock signal. This would take into account clock waveforms other than sinusoidal. Also, it might be even more correct to allow for the rise-time of signals coupled onto the clock trace as well. If you have a slow clock edge, a long trace might seem okay (a wire), but not to coupled signals with high edge rates—you will get reflections.
Dan Prysby and Yuri Fridman
Motorola Advanced Radio Technology Group

You are absolutely correct. After reading my published article I realized this error. As for signals coupled into the clock line, the goal is to keep them out because these produce clock jitter at the ADC clock pin, resulting in a degradation of SNR.
Nicholas Gray

Entertainment In The Classroom
I was greatly pleased to see that someone views the Internet in the classroom with as much dismay as myself \["A Contrarian View Of The Internet: Newer Tech Is Not Always Better," July 10, p. 159\]. I can't imagine a bigger time-wasting distraction being allowed in the classroom. Cable TV and video games wouldn't be tolerated, but how are they much different?

A few years back, I remarked to a close friend on how I would rip out every Internet connection in our local schools if I was on the school board. "Pat, you should run for the school board....on second thought, maybe not. People are afraid of the truth." It's worthwhile to point out that his wife was instrumental in getting computers into the Dallas schools in the '70s. She reluctantly admitted that one of the reasons she left was because she realized that computers in the classrooms amounted to nothing more than an electronic game that students could use to entertain themselves while they completed another failing exam.
Pat Di Giacomo
Analog Research

Let The Dreams Continue
In your editorial "Can Computers Be Made As Easy To Use As Appliances?" \[May 29, p. 46\], you made a very precise description of an existing computer: No ISA bus, no parallel or serial port, just PCI and USB. Environment completely configured....(you didn't mention No Fan!)....It's an iMac. What should I add? Yes, we are all dreaming about 1- to 3-s setup time, 1- to 3-s Internet connection set-up time, and crash-proof. Maybe for next Apple Expo....let the dreaming go on! Ah, I forgot: low-cost! Why should we pay more for a computer than for a portable phone?
Michel Chevroulet
Product Marketing Manager

The Fire Ignites Offshore
In response to "Does The Fire Burn And The Wonder Still Exist?" \[May 15, p. 52\], I'm nearly 50 years old and still have more ideas that I'd like to implement or produce than I have time and resources. I wouldn't know how to discontinue from engineering design because it's so much a part of who I am.

About five years ago, events outside the lab finally got my attention and jolted me. I consequently spent about a year coming up to speed on economic, social, political, and financial trends. The result isn't encouraging for the development world. In an environment of overabundance and degenerative distractions, youthful motivations that lead to great engineers are attenuated. Suburbs, for instance, are sterile environments, devoid of interest-generating scraps and devices from industry that attract youth into building techno-projects.

It's in the developing countries that youth is eager to learn and become productive. These great engineers of the future are not satiated with technology to the point of disinterest. The fire burns offshore. In Central America and the Caribbean, the fire is igniting and the wonder is beginning to manifest itself.
Dennis L. Feucht

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.