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The basic purpose of training is to impart complex knowledge to people who don’t have it. The source of that knowledge is, almost by definition, the Subject Matter Expert, or SME. The job of a training developer is to take information from an SME and create training. The idea that the SME can develop training by virtue of his expertise ignores the skills inherent in training. To understand why this is true, ask yourself why elite athletes in individual sports have personal coaches. If there’s someone who can help Tiger Woods be a better golfer, why isn’t this person out on the tour beating Tiger Woods? Read the rest of this entry »

The target audience for this article is digital system designers or students who are unfamiliar with basic elements of design for test.

The two essential parameters of an effective test with high fault coverage are controllability and observability. Scan test is a means of increasing both in a sequential digital IC design. Read the rest of this entry »

A lecture or seminar can’t go on forever, although I’ve seen people try. The normal recommendation is to take a ten to fifteen minute break every forty minutes to one hour, but those breaks can be so boring, and letting everyone know how much time is left and getting them to return is never easy. As a free service to any presenters out there, I offer the following tool,  a web-based break timer that displays the words, “Time remaining until next lecture:” and a randomly selected quotation from my ever-expanding collection. More instructions on additional features below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

“A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.”
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

It’s always valuable to keep in mind the point of view of your customer, but sometimes we fail to appreciate exactly who the customer is. In chip design, it’s easy to overlook the fact that before the fruits of your labor end up in a computer or an MP3 player or a cell phone, they pass through the hands of another “customer,” an engineer who, if all goes well, you will never meet. Read the rest of this entry »

A great deal of effort is spent in some design teams to achieve high fault coverage test programs in pursuit of enhanced reliability. While this is a laudable goal, one must understand the difference between a fault and a defect to avoid unnecessary and unproductive effort. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the most important tasks for an instructor in a classroom setting is to gain credibility with the students, and one of the simplest things an instructor can do to help himself in this regard is to dress appropriately. Of course, one must dress in a businesslike manner, but “appropriate” means different things to different audiences. This is especially true with an audience of engineers. An instructor dressed “too well” looks like someone from marketing. If you walk into the room in a shirt and tie, you must earn your credibility. For an engineering audience, a polo shirt and Dockers is almost an unofficial uniform. Dress right, and credibility is yours to loose.

Computers operate by Boolean logic, invented by the 19th century English mathematician George Boole. Everything is done with base 2, so there are only the numerals one and zero, or true and false. The three basic operations are invert (the output is the opposite of the input), AND (true only if all inputs are true), and OR (true if any input is true). It’s possible to express any arithmetic function in terms of Boolean logic, and to translate back and forth from base two to base ten. From the biggest computer to the smallest calculator, this is what’s happening behind the scenes.
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Transistors are formed by diffusing different dopants into silicon in specific patterns. Circuits are formed by connecting transistors to one another with wires. Integrated circuits are single pieces of silicon having many transistors with networks of aluminum or copper traces acting as wires to connect them. The transistors and wires are formed by laying down patterns of different substances, layer upon layer. Read the rest of this entry »

A transistor is often described as a switch, but this is only partially true. It’s more like a valve or a faucet. If your faucet has only two choices, “on” and “off,” then it behaves as a switch, but most faucets have a range in the middle, and so do most transistors. If the range in the middle is used, we say the transistor circuit is analog. If all that’s used is “on” and “off” then it’s digital. Read the rest of this entry »

Silicon is an element, like oxygen or gold. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (after oxygen and ahead of aluminum). Things like sand and rocks are largely silicon dioxide. “Silicone” is rubber; silicon and silicone are not the same thing at all. Read the rest of this entry »