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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


John Donovan is editor/publisher of www.low-powerdesign.com and ex-Editor-in-Chief of Portable Design, Managing Editor of EDN Asia, and Asian editor of Circuits Assembly and Printed Circuit Fabrication. He has 30 years experience as a technical writer, editor and semiconductor PR flack, having survived earlier careers as a C programmer and microwave technician.


OTA Software Updates for Your Car?! John Donovan
Now here’s a scary thought: You’re driving down the freeway in heavy traffic when the LCD screen in your dashboard that was previously displaying a song title suddenly informs you that the firmware for your car’s 100+ electronic control units (ECUs) has been updated wirelessly and you need to reboot your car for them to take effect. What happens if you’re distracted and don’t press the No button soon enough? If your car were my PC it would reboot automatically. Not so good at 70 mph.

My Two Bits About 8 Bits John Donovan
OK, time to own up: With 32-bit MCUs becoming so inexpensive as well as capable, I figured 8-bit MCUs were hanging in there for extended legacy designs. I mean, who would base a new design on a 35-year old 8051 architecture? As it turns out, plenty of people.

Build Your Own Personal Drone John Donovan
When I was a boy I loved flying model airplanes. I’d laboriously build them from balsawood kits; cover them with tissue; and add a noisy .049 gas engine. Then I’d go to the neighborhood schoolyard and get dizzy flying them in endless circles at the end of control cables. Today for under $100 you can buy a Styrofoam plane with a battery-powered engine and wireless remote control—a cheap radio-controlled (RC) aircraft.

New Ultra-Low-Power Benchmark John Donovan
As an editor I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of specmanship, which is why I always look to datasheets, though meaningful comparisons of seemingly similar MCUs between different vendors are hard to construct, especially since overall energy consumption is so application specific. As Markus Levy of the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC) remarked to me last week, “Datasheets don’t lie, they just present [information] the way they want to present it.”

Computers on Wheels John Donovan
In 1984 John Gage at Sun Microsystems promoted the idea that “the network is the computer.” Gage was a bit ahead of his time; the Internet was just getting off ground—TCP/IP had only been standardized two years earlier—and the Netscape Navigator browser didn’t debut for another 10 years. Today virtually every computer in the world is part of the Internet.

Doing the Low-Power Limbo John Donovan
Back when they still made vinyl records the Limbo was a popular dance craze. Imported from the Caribbean via Chubby Checker, you’d try to dance yourself under a horizontal bar without falling flat on your back. The lower the bar went the more people would clap—up until the point where you crashed out and everyone laughed. The challenge was, “How low can you go?”

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