August 2016 Analog Dialogue Note from the Editor

Blog Post created by jsur on Aug 1, 2016

August always makes me a little anxious—I think it’s a flashback from school days: summer’s almost over and it will soon be time to hit the books. That got me thinking about today’s electrical/electronics engineering students. I’ve heard comments and opinions about how engineering students aren’t interested in analog design anymore, and how schools don’t teach the analog/linear fundamentals like they used to.


I did an informal online survey of the curricula at a number of the major engineering schools in the US, and it sure looks like analog/mixed signal engineering is alive and well there. Stanford has the Murmann Mixed-Signal Group, innovating analog-to-digital interface circuits. From the photo on their site, it looks like they have a healthy group of grad students. Texas is apparently a hotbed of analog design learning and research, with the Texas Analog Center of Excellence at the University of Texas, Dallas. They claim to be “the largest international, university-based analog technology center,” creating design innovations to improve health care, energy efficiency, and public safety. About 200 miles to the south, Texas A&M has their Analog and Mixed-Signal Center, for “the education and training of highly qualified engineers for design and manufacturability of analog and mixed-signal integrated systems.” And of course MIT weighs in. According to the online description of their EE curriculum, “a focus is digital and analog signal processing with emphasis on design and practical implementation.” All of the university curricula I looked at—and it was a lot of them—still have the  analog/linear circuit fundamentals, along with numerous specialized analog/mixed-signal design courses at both the undergrad and graduate levels. I found that reassuring. We here at Analog Devices know that analog technology is a flourishing, vital, and exciting field—we just need to make sure that fact is communicated to today’s students. Attention EE students: analog rocks!


Speaking of state-of-the-art analog electronics, the article in this month’s issue by Umesh Jayahoman explains how the high bandwidth sampling core and the digital downconverter options contained in the new generation of RF ADCs (aka GSPS ADCs) enable design innovation in communications infrastructure. This mixed-signal technology offers a flexible pathway to rethink and redefine the radio architectures that will cater to the growing demands of consumers. The Capacitive Programmable-Gain Amplifier device is the subject of the second article by Miguel Usach and Gerard Mora. Our two engineers provide a look into the circuit architecture, describe the amplifier’s advantages in certain applications over the resistive PGA, and compare some of the critical specifications of the two amplifier topologies. Daniel Burton tells us we "must trust Goldilocks" when choosing a precision op amp in his RAQ article. You can read it all here.


So happy reading and please enjoy the rest of your summer, and if you’re an EE student, get ready to dive into those (hopefully) analog and mixed-signal design courses. The real world anxiously awaits your innovation.