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Thoughts and Observations on Mixed Signal Design | Cypress Semiconductor

Thoughts and Observations on Mixed Signal Design

A few years back I heard a keynote speech from Prof Mark Horowitz, now chair of the Sanford EE department.  He showed the advances that the digital IC design community had made in the last 30 years and compared to the analog IC design community.  Analog did not compare well.  Very bluntly the average digital designer has more control over 500,000 gates than the analog engineer has over 500 transistors. When the analog guys asked how they could leverage off the digital guys success, the answer was simple. “Make analog designs as digital as possible. I define mixed signal as the crappiest analog you can get away with, followed be digital to fix it up. Delta sigma ADCs are a good example, an analog modulator followed by digital filters. What Prof Horowitz said made perfect sense. What I found interesting was the response by the audience. 

About a third of the audience were digital designers and just really weren’t interested in analog matters. This was a good time to check their e-mail. Another third were analog designers that fundamentally rejected the idea of designing anything less than stellar analog. They want to design high performance, quality analog. Build the better filter, the better op amp and don’t see the beauty of a solution built with a process not really made for analog design. They had no interest in hearing what was said.  (It reminded me of when I was teaching electronics for technicians at the community college.  I had a group of technicians from a calculator company. The company had changed their designs from mechincal to electronic and they needed to retrain the technicians. The problem was that a good chunk of these guys were proud of their mechincal skill and just didn’t want to change.  It made for a very hard quarter.) The last group was those that could see the logic in this design approach and they can be thought of as mixed signal designers.
 
As Cypress follows it path of programmable mixed signal solutions, it will be interesting to see how it effect the designers.
 

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