Electronic Design


Flashback > 10 Years Ago

NOVEMBER 2, 1992
With portability and ease-of-use unmatched by standard computers, pen-based PCs and digital assistants have made users stand up and take notice. However, the input portion of the system—a pen or stylus rather than a keyboard—brings a new set of design challenges as designers must evaluate a myriad of potential solutions.

To allay that problem, a recently developed chip set is designed to tie an electrostatic digitizing tablet and wireless or wired pen to a host computer. Although several pen-based system suppliers have developed custom solutions, the PiCK (pen interface controller kit) chip set is the first of its kind that's commercially available. Created by TriTech Microelectronics International, the set's three chips form a complete input when coupled with the Scriptel-style electrostatic tablet. A serial-I/O nonvolatile memory for holding digitizer correction-value updates supplements the chip set.

Two of the chips reside in the host—an analog front end and a digital back end—while the third resides in the remote pen or stylus.... The set will provide a resolution of 500 dots/in. at 200 coordinate points/s. (Product Innovation, p. 80)

Flashback > 25 Years Ago

OCTOBER 25, 1977
A special magnetic-tape transport system answers the need for a small, low-cost means of loading and storing data in microprocessor-controlled consumer products, such as programmable games. Only 1-in. high × 1.5-in. wide × 3-in. long, the transport uses an endlessloop tape that can store a half-million bits in a Microvox Tape Wafer cartridge that is slightly longer but thinner than a small book of matches.

To eliminate bit errors caused by tape-speed fluctuations encountered with simple, inexpensive transport designs—the Microvox transport has just three moving parts—a special motor-speed-control chip and a speed-tolerant data-encoding scheme are used.

What's more, mechanical keying provisions in the cartridge and transport inhibit the illegal duplication of program tapes.

In high-volume quantities, the transport mechanism of the Microvox system... costs about $15. The plastic cartridge, with 50 ft of 0.07-in.-wide tape, costs about $1.55 and is certified error-free for 2400 flux changes per inch. Because of the endless-tape configuration, the tape is certified after the cartridge is loaded and welded together. (News, p. 28)

Flashback > 40 Years Ago

OCTOBER 25, 1962
Design challenges in the space field—particularly in microminiaturization and in satellite-bounce and space communication—dominated papers presented at the 1962 National Symposium on Space Electronics and Telemetry....

A subminiature general-purpose computer weighing 20 lb, requiring 46 W and using a clock rate of 500 Kc was described by W.A. England of Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co.... A nondestructive readout ferrite-core Biax memory is used to prevent generation of accidental errors during a restore cycle and also to greatly increase readout speed.

The Biax cores are closed-flux-path devices that combine high output signal-to-noise ratio with low drive-current requirements, England said. Epitaxial, planar silicon transistors are combined with current-mode logic to reduce resistive losses and thus reduce operating power demands, he stated....

The complete package consists of a magnesium case with hinged trays, which open like the pages of a book.... The over-all volume of the computer is less than 700 in.3 (News, p. 8)

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