A short while ago. I mentioned a company called Testonica (see One More Step to Unstoppable Killer Robots). As you may recall, I’m looking forward to meeting these folks when I give the keynote presentation at the FPGA Forum in February 2022 (see Norway & FPGA Forum, Here I Come!)
Well, I just posted a column about Testonica on EEJournal.com (see Got FPGA? Got Test!). In a nutshell, many modern boards have an FPGA as their central processing element. This FPGA has access to all of the other components on the board, including memory devices, peripheral functions, and communications interfaces.
The guys and gals at Testonica have created a technology called Quick Instruments, which features a library of pre-created test elements for all of the major devices you might use on your board. All you have to do is send them a schematic, tell them the type/family of the FPGA, and provide them with things like the system’s register map, and they will return a firmware image for you to load into the FPGA that will perform a full built-in self-test (BIST) on the board. (There’s a lot more to it than this, so if you are interested, please bounce over to the aforementioned column.)
As I mentioned in that column, in order to establish my bona fides in test space (where no one can hear you scream), I mentioned how I used to create what are known as “guided probe” test programs in the 1980s. Sad to relate, the folks from Testonica looked at each other, and then one of them said, “We heard about that in school.” I felt soooo old (LOL).
The reason I’m waffling on about this here is that, while I was writing that column, I started to think about all of the things I’ve forgotten over the years. For example, I vaguely remember that the first ASICs I designed in 1980 were from Fujitsu at the 5 micron technology node, but is “5 microns” correct? I used to tell people that these ASICs had only 2,000 equivalent logic gates, but my old mentor Dave Potts recently reminded me that they in fact contained only 200 gates. All I can say is that I wish I’d made notes of EVERYTHING I did and saw when it was going on so I could refer back to those notes now.
Something else that just popped into my mind is that I have a nebulous memory of the first time I saw an email address shown on the bottom of a TV screen as part of a news program. I also remember that the news anchors paused to explain what it was, and they ended up in a debate as to how to pronounce the ‘@’ symbol. I remember much the same thing with regard to the first web address I saw associated with a news program. This time, they spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain terms like the “World Wide Web,” which was interesting because they really didn’t have a clue.
When did these events occur? I don’t know. I’m guessing sometime circa 1993 shortly after the Mosaic web browser first made an appearance on the scene, but who can tell? Not that it’s important, but — when I’m writing a column — it would be great to be able to say something like, “I remember that the first time I saw an email address on the television was associated with the NBC evening news program at 6:10pm on Wednesday the 12th of October 1993.”
Another thing I wish I’d done was to take lots and lots of photos. In my Testonica column, I explained how, when writing a program to test a PCB, I would have page-after-page of gate-level schematics attached to a large cork-board-covered wall. I used green, red, and yellow pins to indicate logic 0, logic 1, and tri-state conditions. For each new test vector as I captured the program, I would reposition the pins to show the current state of play. Also, I would use colored markers to indicate which tracks and which logical functions had been covered by the tests. Why, oh why didn’t I take photographs of one of these walls at the start, middle, and end of that test program’s creation?
Of course, we didn’t have smartphones capable of taking high-resolution photos back then. In those days, the best we could hope for was a disposable 35 mm camera loaded with a 24 or 36 exposure film. When you’d finished, you took it to the local “Boots the Chemist” (pharmacy in the USA), and they sent it off to be processed for you. A week or two later, you got to see your latest and greatest collection of under-exposed and over-exposed photos of your thumb (I’m speaking from experience here). This was an expensive hobby for a young engineer. If only I’d had one of today’s smartphones back in those days of yore.
There’s so much that I wish I’d written down or otherwise recorded. One of the biggest things would be to have a collection of short (say 2-minute) videos from when I was 14, 16, 18, 20… all through my life, now I come to think about it. I would love to be able to watch such videos of my friends when we were hanging out, like Little Steve, Shears, Blond-Haired Keith, Fuzzy-Haired Mick, John Alflat, Zero Keith…
If I could go back in time, I can imagine loaning my young self my iPhone, showing him/me how to use it, and saying, “Go up to each person and ask them to talk for two minutes saying who they are, what they are doing, and what their plans are for the future.”
How about you? Is your memory still 100%, or have you — like me — started to feel like things are fading away at the edges, as it were? Also, if you could do it all again, is there anything in particular you would record in words or photos?