Five ‘80s Movies that Inspired Me to Become an Engineer

Jacob Beningo July 20, 20227 comments

Five ‘80s Movies that Inspired Me to Become an Engineer

Movies and pop culture can incredibly impact society, particularly children. However, we never really know what conversation, demonstration, or movie could inspire someone to become an engineer. Recently in the Beningo house, we ran out of the film to watch for movie night. In desperation, I decided to find great movies from my childhood in the 80s. To my surprise, I realized how influential several of these films inspired me to...

3 Overlooked Embedded Software Elements

Jacob Beningo July 9, 20224 comments

Have you ever wondered, while you and your team are busy writing software if the foundation of how embedded software systems are built has changed and left you in the dust? What if while you were busily focusing on getting your product out the door, fighting bugs, and dealing with supply issues, there were techniques and processes that you completely overlooked that could save the day? I’ve found three elements embedded software teams often underutilize that could dramatically improve...

Development of the MOS Technology 6502: A Historical Perspective

Jason Sachs June 18, 20223 comments

One ubiquitous microprocessor of the late 1970s and 1980s was the MOS Technology MCS 6502. I included a section on the development of the 6502 in Part 2 of Supply Chain Games, and have posted it as an excerpt here, as I believe it is deserving in its own right.

(Note: MOS Technology is pronounced with the individual letters M-O-S “em oh ess”,[1] not “moss”, and should not be confused with another semiconductor company,

Supply Chain Games: What Have We Learned From the Great Semiconductor Shortage of 2021? (Part 2)

Jason Sachs June 18, 20223 comments

Welcome back! Today we’re going to zoom around again in some odd directions, and give a roundabout introduction to the semiconductor industry, touching on some of the following questions:

  • How do semiconductors get designed and manufactured?
  • What is the business of semiconductor manufacturing like?
  • What are the different types of semiconductors, and how does that affect the business model of these manufacturers?
  • How has the semiconductor industry evolved over...

Patterns of Thinking: Metaphors in Programming

Miro Samek May 14, 20223 comments

Several years ago, I once attended an “Object-Oriented Analysis and Design” training. As most such courses go, the instructor began with brushing up on the fundamental OO concepts. When explaining inheritance, the instructor spontaneously compared inheriting from a class to passing traits from parents to the offspring in a family. At first, this “family tree” metaphor seemed to make a lot of sense and most attendees nodded approvingly. However, when the instructor discussed...

New Promo Video for the 2022 Embedded Online Conference

Stephane Boucher April 19, 2022

Less than a week to go before the conference! Check out our 2022 Embedded Online Conference promo video, featuring (in order of appearance) Helen Leigh, Peter McLaughlin, Jack Ganssle, Tyler Hoffman, Steve Branam, Colin O'Flynn, Miro Samek, Henk Muller, Jacob Beningo, Harrison Donahue, Kate Stewart, Clive (Max) Maxfield, Don Wilcher, Adam Taylor, and Jean Labrosse.

If you haven't registered for the conference yet, please consider doing so today.  Make sure to use the...

2022 Embedded Online Conference - Final Push!

Stephane Boucher April 8, 2022

With the Embedded Online Conference only a couple of weeks away, we are now doing a final push to ensure that as many engineers as possible who could benefit from the conference are aware of it. 

If you'd like to help us spread the word, not only will you make our day, but you'll also earn a chance to win one of TWO Saleae Logic Pro 8.     

Prize: TWO Saleae Logic Pro 8Raffle...

Reading and Understanding Profitability Metrics from Financial Statements

Jason Sachs March 29, 2022

Whoa! That has got to be the most serious-minded title I’ve ever written. Profitability Metrics from Financial Statements, indeed. I’m still writing Part 2 of my Supply Chain Games article, and I was about to mention something about whether a company is profitable, when I realized something that didn’t quite fit into the flow of things, so I thought I’d handle it separately: how are you supposed to know what I mean, when I say a company is profitable? And how am I...

A Second Look at Slew Rate Limiters

Jason Sachs January 14, 2022

I recently had to pick a slew rate for a current waveform, and I got this feeling of déjà vu… hadn’t I gone through this effort already? So I looked, and lo and behold, way back in 2014 I wrote an article titled Slew Rate Limiters: Nonlinear and Proud of It! where I explored the effects of two types of slew rate limiters, one feedforward and one feedback, given a particular slew rate \( R \).

Here was one figure I published at the time:


Using a RTLSDR dongle to validate NRF905 configuration

Fabien Le Mentec January 27, 20146 comments
I am currently working on a system to monitor the garage door status from my flat. Both places are 7 floors apart, and I need to send the data wirelessly. I chose to operate on the 433MHz carrier, and I ordered 2 PTR8000 modules: http://www.electrodragon.com/w/NRF905_Transceiver_433MHz-Wireless_ModuleThe PTR8000 is based on the dual band sub 1GHz NRF905 chipset from NORDICSEMI: http://www.nordicsemi.com/eng/Products/Sub-1-GHz-RF/nRF905I...

Signal Processing Contest in Python (PREVIEW): The Worst Encoder in the World

Jason Sachs September 7, 20136 comments

When I posted an article on estimating velocity from a position encoder, I got a number of responses. A few of them were of the form "Well, it's an interesting article, but at slow speeds why can't you just take the time between the encoder edges, and then...." My point was that there are lots of people out there which take this approach, and don't take into account that the time between encoder edges varies due to manufacturing errors in the encoder. For some reason this is a hard concept...

Coding - Step 0: Setting Up a Development Environment

Stephen Friederichs November 25, 20145 comments

Articles in this series:

You can easily find a million articles out there discussing compiler nuances, weighing the pros and cons of various data structures or discussing the  optimization of databases. Those sorts of articles are fascinating reads for advanced programmers but...

Introduction to Microcontrollers - Adding Some Real-World Hardware

Mike Silva October 8, 20132 comments

When 2 LEDs Just Don't Cut It Anymore

So far, we've done everything in this series using two LEDs and one button.  I'm guessing that the thrill of blinking an LED has worn off by now, hard as that is to imagine.  What's more, we've just about reached the limits of what we can learn with such limited I/O.  We have come to the point where we need to add some hardware to our setup to continue with additional concepts and microcontroller...

Donald Knuth Is the Root of All Premature Optimization

Jason Sachs April 17, 20172 comments

This article is about something profound that a brilliant young professor at Stanford wrote nearly 45 years ago, and now we’re all stuck with it.


The idea, basically, is that even though optimization of computer software to execute faster is a noble goal, with tangible benefits, this costs time and effort up front, and therefore the decision to do so should not be made on whims and intuition, but instead should be made after some kind of analysis to show that it has net...

Digital PLL's -- Part 2

Neil Robertson June 15, 20165 comments

In Part 1, we found the time response of a 2nd order PLL with a proportional + integral (lead-lag) loop filter.  Now let’s look at this PLL in the Z-domain [1, 2].  We will find that the response is characterized by a loop natural frequency ωn and damping coefficient ζ. 

Having a Z-domain model of the DPLL will allow us to do three things:

Compute the values of loop filter proportional gain KL and integrator gain KI that give the desired loop natural...

Bad Hash Functions and Other Stories: Trapped in a Cage of Irresponsibility and Garden Rakes

Jason Sachs January 28, 20141 comment

I was recently using the publish() function in MATLAB to develop some documentation, and I ran into a problem caused by a bad hash function.

In a resource-limited embedded system, you aren't likely to run into hash functions. They have three major applications: cryptography, data integrity, and data structures. In all these cases, hash functions are used to take some type of data, and deterministically boil it down to a fixed-size "fingerprint" or "hash" of the original data, such that...

StrangeCPU #2. Sliding Window Token Machines

Victor Yurkovsky March 5, 201313 comments

An in-depth exploration of Sliding Window Token Machines; ARM notes.

Table of Contents:

Using XML to describe embedded devices (and speak to them)

Martin Strubel October 12, 20111 comment

This article discusses one of the typical development cycles in embedded device and communication design and presents a possible, light weight solution using the free DClib/netpp framework.

The challenge

Assume we're faced with the design of an embedded device, be it a simple SoC unit or a more complex, uC controlled engine with various attached peripherals. From first prototype to the market, the following development cycle is typically walked through:

10 More (Obscure) Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs February 5, 20121 comment

The interest in my previous article on obscure but useful electronics parts, "10 Circuit Components You Should Know" was encouraging enough that I thought I would write a followup. So here are another 10:

1. "Ideal Diode" controllers

Load-sharing circuits use diodes tied together at their cathode terminal to take the most positive voltage among the sources and connect it to a load. Works great: you have a DC/DC power supply, a battery, and a solar cell, and it will use whichever output is...