Doing the Hard Things

In a speech at Rice Stadium, President John F. Kennedy declared, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” In the same year, Telstar 1 relayed telephone calls, fax images, and the first live trans-Atlantic television signal. In addition, 90% of U.S. households had televisions, on which viewers could watch a new hit show called “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

The year was 1962, and that’s also the year Evaluation Engineering reached its first subscribers. The issue, based on a prototype developed in October 1961, carried a March 1962 date and included the article “Integrated Circuits—State of the Art.” Indeed they were. Telstar 1 included discrete transistors augmented by a traveling-wave-tube amplifier to reach the required 3-W transmit power.

I wasn’t a reader then. I was inventing excuses to stay home from school so I could watch Atlas boosters lift Mercury astronauts John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Wally Schirra into orbit. The space program instilled in me a lifelong fascination with technology. That led me to earn an E.E. degree at Penn State, after which I completed engineering stints at GE and Litton Industries.

But I also liked to write and had been the only engineering student working on Penn State’s Daily Collegian. So when a career opportunity in an electronics trade publication presented itself, I jumped at it, and I’ve been writing about technology ever since.

For 13 years I have studied Evaluation Engineering closely, viewing Senior Technical Editor Tom Lecklider, the inestimable Paul Milo, and the rest of the EE editorial team as worthy competitors. And with this issue, I am delighted to become part of that team.

You can still watch “Beverly Hillbillies” programs. But technology continues to change drastically. For NASA’s Mercury-era computers, IBM developed a real-time channel that could receive 1,000 bits per second. Today, consumer-grade ICs can receive and transmit gigabits of data per second. Telstar 1’s transistors succumbed to radiation within a few months. Russia has recently launched a communications satellite that should provide service for 15 years.

At Evaluation Engineering, our goal is to provide the information you need to effectively test and evaluate the electronic products that you design and manufacture as complexity grows. This issue provides examples of how we will continue to do that. In a special report on wireless test, Tom Lecklider maps out the road to LTE-Advanced and describes the test equipment that can help you travel that road quickly. In a feature on device programming, Michael J. Smith of Teradyne explains why you might want to program devices at in-circuit test, particularly as more designs incorporate temperature-sensitive phase-change memory. And of course, no product can ship until it complies with applicable regulations. In a feature on EMC test, Dennis Handlon of Agilent Technologies describes how precompliance testing can increase the likelihood of achieving full-compliance test success on the first try.

At a conference back in 2008 before that year’s presidential election, I heard Geoffrey C. Orsak, dean of the Southern Methodist University School of Engineering, question whether any candidate would dare echo President Kennedy’s call to Americans to do hard things. Maybe Americans in general don’t want to do the hard things anymore, but I’m convinced that engineers do. But the hard things shouldn’t be wrestling with your test equipment and struggling to get accurate measurements. We aim to give you the test and evaluation information you need so you can focus on the important hard things—from designing and manufacturing LTE-Advanced devices to exploring novel applications of phase-change memory. Let us know how we are doing.

Rick Nelson
Executive Editor
[email protected]

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