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Are the Glory Days of Analog Engineering Over? 236

An anonymous reader writes with this article about the future of the analog engineer. Some say technology advancements are obsoleting the need for analog engineers, while others say that good, experienced analog designers will always be needed and currently are in short supply. After years spent encouraging engineering students to focus on software and digital electronics, some people say the day of reckoning appears to be drawing near: Many analog mixed-signal design jobs now stay open longer or are simply going unfilled, say recruiters, with some engineers even unable to retire because they can't find a suitable replacement. On the one hand, some people blame the shift from analog to digital, which produced a generation of engineers who speak the language of code, not circuit schematics. On the other hand, others say that with the advent of systems-on-chip, the easy availability of free circuits, pioneered by companies like TSMC, and software tools to verify designs, there is simply less need for analog designers.
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Are the Glory Days of Analog Engineering Over?

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  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:14AM (#47228765) Homepage
    Analog circuits are always going to be faster, more accurate per area of silicon, and less deterministic than digital circuits. They're also always going to be harder to understand than digital circuits for anyone who isn't a wizard. There's less need for analog circuit wizards than there is for digital circuit designers just the same way there's less need for deep embedded software wizards than there is for your garden-variety software engineers. It hurts to say it but technology is advancing to the point where it's less important to get 100% out of our current technology than it is to get 25% out of it in a manner that mere mortals can understand.

    There'll always be a place for analog design but it will be confined to an ever-shrinking niche on the cutting edge where, as bogglingly capable as it is, our digital technology just isn't quite up to the task.
  • Re:Probably. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nerdbert ( 71656 ) on Friday June 13, 2014 @10:37AM (#47229747)

    The real world is analog, so interfacing to that will never go away. And there are times when the "digital" level of abstraction just doesn't hold, even inside a "digital circuit."

    True story: I joined a huge company as an analog chip engineer. But on day one they loaned me out to a digital team that couldn't figure out why their circuits were failing because I actually knew how to drive analog tools and I was the least valuable analog guy being "the new one." I found the problem, learned enough VHDL to fix the circuit the idiot compiler generated and rather than being returned to my analog group I got caught up in figuring out why their clock distribution network wasn't working. It took a couple of years to escape doing "analog" tasks for a digital group and I had to quit the company to get back to doing what I wanted to do and not what the company wanted me to do. (And yes, I turned down some pretty hefty raises and awards the company offered to get me to stay, but while what I was doing was considered analog by digital guys, it wasn't real analog design and I wasn't happy doing what I was doing. If I'd been in the group I had originally been hired for I would have been happy, but the digital group had more influence up the chain of command and wouldn't let me switch.)

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra