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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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


Barry Manz is president of Manz Communications, Inc., a technical media relations agency he founded in 1987. He has since worked with more than 100 companies in the RF and microwave, defense, test and measurement, semiconductor, embedded systems, lightwave, and other markets. Barry writes articles for print and online trade publications, as well as white papers, application notes, symposium papers, technical references guides, and Web content. He is also a contributing editor for the Journal of Electronic Defense, editor of Military Microwave Digest, co-founder of MilCOTS Digest magazine, and was editor in chief of Microwaves & RF magazine.


LED Headlights…Coming Soon the Masses! Barry Manz
As High Intensity Discharge (HID, xenon) and LED technologies are the only truly modern vehicle light sources, unless you own a luxury vehicle chances are you (like me) are missing out actually being able to see well into the night. The difference between what these two technologies and 50-year-old quartz-halogen bulbs deliver is like night and day. Fortunately, thanks to the dramatic advances and reduced cost of high-brightness LEDs, high-performance forward lighting is now about to be available to the rest of us.

Wireless Charging: What You Need To Know Barry Manz
Charging the batteries of smartphones, tablets, and other battery-operated products is a bit of pain especially if you’re “heavy user”. And how many times do you succeed the first time in correctly plugging in that micro-USB connector on our Android phone? So you would think wireless (inductive) charging would have taken off like a rocket, but it hasn’t for the usual reason: a battle between incompatible standards, with the typical consumer confusion as a result. If you haven’t delved into this area, here’s where wireless charging currently stands.

Audiophiles: The Battles Rage On Barry Manz
I’ve always been fascinated by the audiophile community, as it strives to achieve the absolute best possible audio fidelity, and in the late ‘60s and ‘70s I read magazines like Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and yes, Stereo Review and High Fidelity cover to cover. I marveled at the insanely-expensive equipment I couldn’t possibly afford but did everything I could within my severely restricted budget to create a system that delivered high-quality audio. I treated my (now-scorned) Shure V15 Type IV cartridge and records like they were gold, built my own speakers, and performed rudimentary testing on them. I was in pseudo-audiophile heaven.

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.

Girls and Engineering: They’re Interested, but Their Parents… Barry Manz
If you’re wondering why there are so few female engineers, you don’t have to look far for answer: Ask mom and dad. That was one of the takeaways from a study conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in the U.K as part of its Engineering a Better World campaign, and reported in the IET’s Engineering and Technology magazine on March 30. The IET’s research focused on parental perceptions and their relevance to the low percentage of the UK’s female engineers (6%) and 4% of its technicians.

Google Finally Lands Squarely in the IoT Domain Barry Manz
Not much has been heard about IoT from Google after it acquired Nest (and its thermostat, smoke detector and Dropcam connected security cameras) but that came to an end in May. At the Google I/O developer’s conference, the company announced the Android-based Brillo operating system and the protocol Weave that will let Brillo-enabled devices communicate with each other. A developer preview of Brillo is coming in the third quarter and Wave in the fourth quarter. In case you’re wondering, Google chose the name Brillo as it’s a “scrubbed” version of Android. As Google always thinks big, the idea is that your “smart home” will be controlled by Android devices that talk to each other and have access to servers in the cloud.

The “Hotspotization” of America Barry Manz
About a year ago when I was helping my son set up his new life in Nashville, one of the things I chose to do was set up his cable/Internet/phone account. I found it curious that the cable company was offering its most sophisticated set-top box with integrated wireless access point and DVR for $1 less per month than its cheapest version.

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.

Weird RF Part 3: Communication with Submerged Subs Barry Manz
There is no shortage of stories about bizarre Department of Defense programs, but this one is surely in the top tier. Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) signal propagation (we’re talking 3 to 30Hz) allows signals to pass through the earth and throughout the oceans to depths of several hundred feet, allowing a system at a single location to communicate nearly anywhere on the planet. This made it rather appealing for communicating with submerged submarines and might be able to function in the event of a nuclear strike. The idea was championed not just by the U.S., but by the Soviet Union and India as well. Signals degrade rapidly in the ocean, so when a submarine is submerged, it is less likely to receive communication. The purpose of Elf was to reach deeply submerged subs sufficiently to let them know to surface to receive communications through normal (and better) radio communications.

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.

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