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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


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

Your Mileage (and Other Things) May Vary Barry Manz
The practice of taking liberties with performance specifications to show a product in its best light is obviously nothing new in the electronics industry, and many others as well. If you’re old enough to remember, the output of stereo amplifiers and receivers was rated as “peak power”, which is typically five or six times higher than RMS power, but for the anointed it certainly makes the amplifier appear to be a real powerhouse. The output power of RF power transistors is even today sometimes specified at a single frequency where it’s highest, even though it falls off below and above it. And so on.

Terrorists Take to the Skies Barry Manz
Like most people, I suspect, when quadcopters first appeared my first thoughts were about how totally cool they are followed by, “Gee, what could I do with one?” So it’s not surprising that terrorists have asked the same question and have come up with an obvious answer: Make flying Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (RC-IEDs), which the U.S. Central Command believes they are already working on and have possibly developed.

5G: Tall Order or Tall Tale? Barry Manz
If you believe what the wireless industry is saying about 5G, the fifth generation of cellular technology, you’d think it was the equivalent of landing a man on the moon. Not only will we have lightning-quick data rates and expanded coverage, 5G will make it possible to connect everyone with every “thing” that needs to be connected. That’s a tall order that could wind up being a tall tale, for several reasons.

5G: Not Your Average Upgrade Barry Manz
The evolution of wireless (that is, cellular) capability has promised more than its predecessor. At a high level, 2G transitioned from analog to digital modulation and added modest data to voice capability, 3G added a faster but still iffy data rates, and 4G (LTE) represented a massive improvement in speed with data rates adequate for streaming video without hiccups.

Why the Auto Industry Will Drive the Fortunes of the Microwave Industry Barry Manz
The RF and microwave industry faces the same uncertainties and volatility as its more visible counterparts, but when the future has looked uncertain, a new market has serendipitously appeared to save the day. This time, although the industry overall is robust, a huge new market is beginning to emerge in the form of vehicle autonomy that will be much broader in scope than what IoT will bring. Driverless vehicle ubiquity is at least a decade or more away, but in the meantime RF and microwave hardware will be needed in steadily increasing amounts.

The Truth Is Still Out There. And We’re Still Looking. Barry Manz
Contact is one of my favorite films, based on Carl Sagan’s book of that name, in which a great cast searches for and (thanks to scientist Jodie Foster) finds proof of alien life. There’s lots of cool RF stuff in that movie, and in many respects it pretty accurately depicts technology in action. You may have to forgive the formulaic “true believer bests the bureaucracy” element of the film. Of course, neither before nor since the film’s 1997 release has the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) found anything approaching “proof” of alien life.

Still Great Reasons to Become a Microwave Designer Barry Manz
When I first started writing about RF and microwave technology back in the 1980s, one of the first things I heard was that the industry suffered from a shortage of RF and microwave engineers and that the situation was becoming increasingly dire. As the story went, engineering students avoided the discipline because it was perceived as more difficult than others, that universities were not encouraging students to pursue it (and few even offered it), and that the “real money-making engineering opportunities” lay elsewhere. I still hear this story today from company presidents and engineering managers, so a quarter-century later I would assume that the situation would have risen from dire to catastrophic.

Bringing RF into the Embedded World: It’s Time Barry Manz
Embedded systems have been almost entirely digital throughout their long history, while RF and microwave technologies were separate subsystems with no effective interface between the two. For many reasons, this “RF/digital divide” should finally be connected.

Smart Cooking with RF Energy Rudy Ramos
With the exception of changes to the exterior design, to match the flavor of the decade’s décor and the addition of digital readouts, the microwave oven has pretty much remained the same since its inception. That is, until now, with the advent of new high-power LDMOS RF transistor technology, that outdated kitchen appliance we’ve all come to depend on for heating up our lunches might just be getting a new lease on life.

Tek Ups the Bar in USB-Powered Spec Analyzers Barry Manz
USB-powered spectrum analyzers aren’t new and some are truly tiny -- just a bit bigger than a flash drive. Some have surprisingly good performance over very wide frequency ranges. The least expensive of these “instruments in a stick” is less than $100. However, every once in a while one comes along that reshuffles the deck, and the latest is the RSA306 from Tektronix. While I rarely extol the virtues of any signal product in these blogs, this one has some features that make it very interesting and suited for applications that are way beyond what instruments like this are typically used for.

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