The Future of Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) Technology

The historical growth of IC computing power has profoundly changed the way we create, process, communicate, and store information. The engine of this phenomenal growth is the ability to shrink transistor dimensions every few years. This trend, known as Moore’s law, has continued for the past 50 years. The predicted demise of Moore’s law has been repeatedly proven wrong thanks to technological breakthroughs (e.g., optical resolution enhancement techniques, high-k metal gates, multi-gate transistors, fully depleted ultra-thin body technology, and 3-D wafer stacking). However, it is projected that in one or two decades, transistor dimensions will reach a point where it will become uneconomical to shrink them any further, which will eventually result in the end of the CMOS scaling roadmap. This essay discusses the potential and limitations of several post-CMOS candidates currently being pursued by the device community.

Steep transistors: The ability to scale a transistor’s supply voltage is determined by the minimum voltage required to switch the device between an on- and an off-state. The sub-threshold slope (SS) is the measure used to indicate this property. For instance, a smaller SS means the transistor can be turned on using a smaller supply voltage while meeting the same off current. For MOSFETs, the SS has to be greater than ln(10) × kT/q where k is the Boltzmann constant, T is the absolute temperature, and q is the electron charge. This fundamental constraint arises from the thermionic nature of the MOSFET conduction mechanism and leads to a fundamental power/performance tradeoff, which could be overcome if SS values significantly lower than the theoretical 60-mV/decade limit could be achieved. Many device types have been proposed that could produce steep SS values, including tunneling field-effect transistors (TFETs), nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) devices, ferroelectric-gate FETs, and impact ionization MOSFETs. Several recent papers have reported experimental observation of SS values in TFETs as low as 40 mV/decade at room temperature. These so-called “steep” devices’ main limitations are their low mobility, asymmetric drive current, bias dependent SS, and larger statistical variations in comparison to traditional MOSFETs.

Spin devices: Spintronics is a technology that utilizes nano magnets’ spin direction as the state variable. Spintronics has unique properties over CMOS, including nonvolatility, lower device count, and the potential for non-Boolean computing architectures. Spintronics devices’ nonvolatility enables instant processor wake-up and power-down that could dramatically reduce the static power consumption. Furthermore, it can enable novel processor-in-memory or logic-in-memory architectures that are not possible with silicon technology. Although in its infancy, research in spintronics has been gaining momentum over the past decade, as these devices could potentially overcome the power bottleneck of CMOS scaling by offering a completely new computing paradigm. In recent years, progress has been made toward demonstration of various post-CMOS spintronic devices including all-spin logic, spin wave devices, domain wall magnets for logic applications, and spin transfer torque magnetoresistive RAM (STT-MRAM) and spin-Hall torque (SHT) MRAM for memory applications. However, for spintronics technology to become a viable post-CMOS device platform, researchers must find ways to eliminate the transistors required to drive the clock and power supply signals. Otherwise, the performance will always be limited by CMOS technology. Other remaining challenges for spintronics devices include their relatively high active power, short interconnect distance, and complex fabrication process.

Flexible electronics: Distributed large area (cm2-to-m2) electronic systems based on flexible thin-film-transistor (TFT) technology are drawing much attention due to unique properties such as mechanical conformability, low temperature processability, large area coverage, and low fabrication costs. Various forms of flexible TFTs can either enable applications that were not achievable using traditional silicon based technology, or surpass them in terms of cost per area. Flexible electronics cannot match the performance of silicon-based ICs due to the low carrier mobility. Instead, this technology is meant to complement them by enabling distributed sensor systems over a large area with moderate performance (less than 1 MHz). Development of inkjet or roll-to-roll printing techniques for flexible TFTs is underway for low-cost manufacturing, making product-level implementations feasible. Despite these encouraging new developments, the low mobility and high sensitivity to processing parameters present major fabrication challenges for realizing flexible electronic systems.

CMOS scaling is coming to an end, but no single technology has emerged as a clear successor to silicon. The urgent need for post-CMOS alternatives will continue to drive high-risk, high-payoff research on novel device technologies. Replicating silicon’s success might sound like a pipe dream. But with the world’s best and brightest minds at work, we have reasons to be optimistic.

Author’s Note: I’d like to acknowledge the work of PhD students Ayan Paul and Jongyeon Kim.

DEFCON for Kids—Giving Kids the r00tz to Learn

This summer may be coming to an end, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. If you have children between the ages of 8 and 18, you may be planning another year of summer camp. And, if you’re an engineer whose children are interested in electronics, figuring out how things work, and learning how to break things, r00tz Asylum may be the perfect fit.

r00tz Asylum (formerly known as DEFCON Kids) is a part of the widely attended DEFCON hacker convention, which takes place annually in Las Vegas, NV. Parents who attend DEFCON can bring their children to r00tz Asylum sessions where they can learn about white-hat hacking.

Electrical engineer Joe Grand is a former member of the well-known hacker collective L0pht Heavy Industries and now runs product development firm Grand Idea Studio. Grand instructs hardware hacking classes for computer security researchers and has taken a subset of that work to share with r00tz Asylum kids.

“I enjoy teaching kids because of the direct connection you have with them,” Grand said. “When you talk to them normally and explain things in simple ways, they get it!” he added. “It’s fun to see their eyes light up.”

But is teaching kids hacking a good thing? “Naysayers don’t understand the hacking mindset, which is about free thinking, circumventing limitations, and creating elegant solutions to tricky problems” Grand said. “Teaching kids to hack gives them super powers—with guidance.”

r00tz Asylum agrees. According its website, “Hacking gives you super-human powers. You can travel time and space. It is your responsibility to use these powers for good and only good.”

Teaching kids about white-hat hacking helps them learn to solve problems, be aware of the law, and understand the consequences for breaking it. And that’s where instruction in a positive and supportive environment comes in.

“Technology isn’t going away. We’re only going to become more immersed in it,” Grand said. “Kids need to be exposed to new things. It’s important to give them an environment where it’s okay to break things, that it’s okay if things fail.” But he stressed that, “Kids need boundaries. It’s our responsibility to teach them right from wrong.”

In addition to various classes, r00tz Asylum attendees have access to a hangout space of sorts with a soldering station and other resources. Last year the space featured a MakerBot 3-D printer, this year an Eggbot open-source art robot was available.

I asked Grand if either of his children would be attending r00tz Asylum in the future. He said he recently watched DEFCON: The Documentary with his four year old. When they watched the part about DEFCON Kids, his son’s reaction was: “I want to go!”

For more information about r00tz Asylum visit www.r00tz.org

Laurent Haas Wins the CC Code Challenge (Week 11)

We have a winner of last week’s CC Weekly Code Challenge, sponsored by IAR Systems! We posted a code snippet with an error and challenged the engineering community to find the mistake!

Congratulations to Laurent Haas of Paris, France for winning the CC Weekly Code Challenge for Week 11! Laurent will receive CC T-shirt and The CC25 Anniversary Edition.

Laurent’s correct answer was randomly selected from the pool of responses that correctly identified an error in the code. Laurent answered:

Line 6: reverse must be initialized to 0 => int reverse = 0;

You can see the complete list of weekly winners and code challenges here.

What is the CC Weekly Code Challenge?
Each week, Circuit Cellar’s technical editors purposely insert an error in a snippet of code. It could be a semantic error, a syntax error, a design error, a spelling error, or another bug the editors slip in. You are challenged to find the error.Once the submission deadline passes, Circuit Cellar will randomly select one winner from the group of respondents who submit the correct answer.

Inspired? Want to try this week’s challenge? Get started!

Submission Deadline: The deadline for each week’s challenge is Sunday, 12 PM ESTRefer to the Rules, Terms & Conditions for information about eligibility and prizes.

Multiband 4G LTE-Only Modules

The TOBY-L1 series is u-blox’s latest line of ultra-compact long-term evolution (LTE) modules. The TOBY-L100 and its European version, the TOBY-L110, are suitable for tablets, mobile routers, set-top boxes, and high-speed machine-to-machine (M2M) applications (e.g., digital signage, mobile health, and security systems).

Compared with multi-mode modules, LTE-only modules offer cost advantages. Therefore, the TOBY-L1 works well in networks with advanced LTE deployment applications.

The LTE modules are available in two versions: the TOBY-L100 for the US (bands 4 and 13 for Verizon) and the TOBY-L110 for Europe (bands 3, 7, and 20 for EU operators). Contained in a compact 152-pin LGA module, the TOBY-L1 series is layout-compatible with u-blox’s SARA Global System for Mobile (GSM) and LISA Universal Mobile Telecommunications System/Code Division Multiple Access (UMTS/CDMA) module series to facilitate easy product migration and low-cost regional end-device adaptation.

The TOBY-L1 modules are based on u-blox’s LTE protocol stack. The modules support smooth migration between 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies and feature small packaging and comprehensive support tools. The TOBY-L1 LGA modules measure 2.8 mm × 24.8 mm × 35.6 mm, which enables them to easily mount on any application board.

The modules support USB 2.0 and firmware update over the air (FOTA) technology. The TOBY-L1 series delivers ultra-fast data rates and operates from –40°C to 85°C. USB drivers for Windows XP and 7 plus Radio Interface Layer (RIL) software for Android 4.0 and 4.2 are available free of charge.

Contact u-blox for pricing.

u-blox
www.u-blox.com

AAR Arduino Autonomous Mobile Robot

The AAR Arduino Robot is a small autonomous mobile robot designed for those new to robotics and for experienced Arduino designers. The robot is well suited for hobbyists and school projects. Designed in the Arduino open-source prototyping platform, the robot is easy to program and run.

The AAR, which is delivered fully assembled, comes with a comprehensive CD that includes all the software needed to write, compile, and upload programs to your robot. It also includes a firmware and hardware self test. For wireless control, the robot features optional Bluetooth technology and a 433-MHz RF.

The AAR robot’s features include an Atmel ATmega328P 8-bit AVR-RISC processor with a 16-MHz clock, Arduino open-source software, two independently controlled 3-VDC motors, an I2C bus, 14 digital I/Os on the processor, eight analog input lines, USB interface programming, an on-board odometer sensor on both wheels, a line tracker sensor, and an ISP connector for bootloader programming.

The AAR’s many example programs help you get your robot up and running. With many expansion kits available, your creativity is unlimited.

Contact Global Specialties for pricing.

Global Specialties
http://globalspecialties.com

Video: 3-D Printing with Liquid Metals and Flexible Electronics

In the October issue of Circuit Cellar, Collin Ladd and Dr. Michael Dickey will be writing an essay about a North Carolina State University group’s fascinating research into 3-D printing with liquid metals.

“Most 3-D printers currently pattern plastics, but printing metal objects is of particular interest because of metal’s physical strength and electrical conductivity,”  Ladd and Dickey say in their essay.

The process involves a needle that dispenses an alloy of gallium and indium, which in turn enables the 3-D printing of metals at room temperature. These flexible, bendable  structures hold their shape and hold promise for uses including wires, antennas,  flexible displays, wearable sensors, and skin substitutes on prosthetics. They can even “heal” themselves, the researchers say.

“Using our approach, we can direct print freestanding wire bonds or circuit traces to directly connect components—without etching or solder—at room temperature. Encasing these structures in polymer enables these interconnects to be stretched tenfold without losing electrical conductivity. Liquid metal wires also have been shown to be self-healing, even after being completely severed. Our group has demonstrated several applications of the liquid metal in soft, stretchable components including deformable antennas, soft-memory devices, ultra-stretchable wires, and soft optical components,” according to the essay.

But like many advances in technology, there was a certain amount of simple good luck in the pace of their research. That luck involved the introduction of Dr. Dickey to undergraduate student Ladd, whom Dickey credits for playing a key role:

“Collin worked in my lab as an undergraduate for almost three years and recently graduated. During that time, he was an undergraduate with unusual talent. He built the 3-D printer in our lab from spare parts. He got the machine to work and did a lot of the measurements that led to the (published research) paper. He also created the incredible video that is posted on YouTube.

“I first met Collin when he was a student in my class. He was one of those rare students who was a genuinely curious learner, but with no real concerns about grades. I found that refreshing. He came to my office one day and I found out that he was doing experiments in his apartment!  I told him he should really be working in the lab, and the rest is history.”

So even though you won’t be seeing the research team’s full essay until Circuit Cellar‘s October issue is available online and in print, we thought we would share Ladd’s “incredible video” of the team’s work.

We’d also like to add that no insect was harmed in the making of this video (the bug receiving a pair of liquid metal antennae in the final footage had previously met its demise at the “hands” of a spider).

Client Profile: MicroDigital, Inc.

Micro Digital, Inc.
2900 Bristol Street, G 204,
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

www.smxrtos.com

Contact: David Moore

MDIEmbedded Products/Services: SMX® RTOS is a modular Real Time Operating System designed to meet the needs of small to medium-size embedded systems. It offers these modules: Preemptive multitasking kernel, TCP/IP dual IPv4/IPv6, 802.11a/b/g/i/n WiFi, USB Host/Device/OTG, flash file systems, GUI, security, IEEE 754 floating point, and more. Each is a strong product on its own, and all are tightly integrated to work well together. It offers good support for the latest ARM, Cortex, and ColdFire processors. See www.smxrtos.com/rtos and www.smxrtos.com/processors.

SMX® RTOS offers a broad selection of middleware modules, optional protocols, and drivers for the latest embedded processors. All are tightly integrated and work well together, so you can spend your time developing your product rather than gathering components from all over the Internet and integrating them. All are strong products on their own. SMX comes with full source code and simple, unambiguous, royalty-free licensing. You are free to modify our products in any way you wish and need not return changes to us.

 


Circuit Cellar prides itself on presenting readers with information about innovative companies, organizations, products, and services relating to embedded technologies. This space is where Circuit Cellar enables clients to present readers useful information, special deals, and more.

Client Profile: Netburner, Inc

NetBurner, Inc.
5405 Morehouse Drive
San Diego, CA 92121

www.netburner.com

Contact: sales@netburner.com

Embedded Products/Services: The NetBurner solution provides hardware, software, and tools to network enable new and existing products. All components are integrated and fully functional, so you can immediately begin working on your application.

Product Categories:

  • Serial to Ethernet: Modules can be used out of the box with no programming, or you can use a development kit to create your own custom applications. Hardware ranges from a single chip to small modules with many features.
  • Core Modules: Typically used as the core processing module in a design, core modules include the processor, flash, RAM and on-board network capability. The processor pins are brought out to connectors and include functions such as SPI, I2C, address/data bus, ADC, DAC, UARTs, digital I/O, PWM, and CAN.
  • Development Kits: Development kits can be used to customize any of NetBurner’s Serial-to-Ethernet or Core Modules. Kits include the Eclipse IDE, a C/C++ compiler/linker, a debugger, a RTOS, a TCP/IP stack, and board support packages.

Product Information: The MOD54415 and the NANO54415 modules provide 250-MHz processor, up to 32 MB flash, 64 MB DDR, ADC, DAC, eight UARTs, four I2C, three SPI, 1-wire, microSD flash socket, five PWM, and up to 44 digital I/O.

Exclusive Offer: Receive 15% off on select development kits. Promo code: CIRCUITCELLAR


Circuit Cellar prides itself on presenting readers with information about innovative companies, organizations, products, and services relating to embedded technologies. This space is where Circuit Cellar enables clients to present readers useful information, special deals, and more.

A Well-Lighted Basement Workspace

Tom Kibalo, who has four decades of engineering experience with a number of companies in the Washington, D.C., area, has developed a wide range of interests—including microcontrollers, robotics, embedded programming, and wireless applications. It almost seems too much to fit into a basement workspace, but he somehow does it. The key for Tom is having adequate light and keeping his scopes, probes, and other tools close at hand.

Tom, who is principal engineer of a large defense firm and CEO of KibaCorp, a Microchip Design Partner, recently shared with Circuit Cellar a photo and a description of his home workspace in Annapolis, MD. Here is what he says about his creative space.

This is my basement lab. My test gear is on the main bench. I believe in lots of light. There is a series of power supplies, an arbitrary signal generator, a digital scope and a DVM. The scope, probes, and hand tools are kept handy, both on the sides and in the multi-drawer cabinet. The laptops , one open and the other closed on right, are used for software debugging, datasheet retrieval, and waveform capture. 

On the bench is a new product for insertion onto a Raspberry Pi. The other side bench is my solder rework station, a SMT pick and place, and a stereo microscope for inspection. On the far left is a closet with storage shelves for parts and working prototypes.

Almost all of the projects are microcontroller-based applications. 

One of Tom’s projects was the focus of a “robot-boot camp” series he posted in Circuit Cellar late last year. His two installments, Autonomous Mobile Robot (Part 1): Overview & Hardware, and Autonomous Mobile Robot (Part 2): Software & Operation, explained how to utilize a basic mobile machine, a few sensors, and behavioral programming techniques in a robot design.

Tom wanted to build a robot that could independently cruise, avoid collisions, and track a light source. The result was his TOMBOT, based on a Microchip Technology PIC32 microcontroller, a PICkit 3 programmer/debugger, and a free Microchip IDE and 32-bit complier.

“A colleague came up with the name TOMBOT in honor of its inventor, and the name kind of stuck,’’ Tom said at the time.

TOMBOT occupies a spot in Tom’s workspace, right under the bench on the right.

That’s only one of the interesting ideas that have come out of Tom’s workspace. And it’s obvious he is planning more. In a Member Profile published earlier this year, he told Circuit Cellar about his latest project―a battery-powered Wi-Fi  sensor network that uses low-power Microchip Technology PIC32 components. He has since completed and tested a prototype.

 

Do you want to share photos of your personal electronics workspace, hackspace, or “circuit cellar”? Do you have an article or tutorial you’d Circuit Cellar to consider for publication? Click here to submit your proposal or write-up and photos. Write “Submission” or “Proposal” in the subject line of your email.

CC 277: Using Files in Concurrent Linux Designs

In the August issue of Circuit Cellar, columnist Robert Japenga, who has been designing embedded systems since 1973, wraps up his eight-part series on the benefits and challenges of designing concurrency into your systems and some of the specific tools Linux provides for IPC.

His final installment discusses file usage. It also recounts how the development of read/write nonvolatile memory (i.e., flash technology) enabled embedded systems to contain cost-competitive file systems.

“Disk drives in the early days were too big and weren’t reliable enough for embedded systems. The first real disk drive I used in 1975 was a Digital Equipment RK-05 for a PDP-11 that held an amazing 2.5 MB of data,” Japenga says in his column. “The RK-05 was released in 1972. It initially weighed 100 lbs. The $74 monthly maintenance cost would buy a 1-TB drive today or 12 per year.

In 1972, a Digital Equipment RK-05 disk drive held only 2.5 MB of data. (Photo courtesy of Mark Csele)

“In 1977, a friend from Bell Labs carried an RK-05 with a copy of Unix onto a plane. At the gate, the inspector opened the lid and put his finger on the magnetic platter. Whoops. The disk gloriously crashed when inserted into my disk drive. It seemed I would have to wait for my first copy of Unix.

“”For a time, companies produced hardened disk drives. The cost was very prohibitive and the reliability was questionable. Then in 2001, the iPod changed all that when Apple used Toshiba’s 1.8” hard drive, which is only 0.2” thick. As a consumer product, it had to be extremely rugged. Very small embedded systems now had hard drives.

“But not all of us built millions of systems, nor could we afford to put a hard disk in our temperature controllers, motion-control devices, or avionics boxes. However, with the advent of read/write nonvolatile memory (i.e., flash technology), embedded systems now had a way to contain cost-competitive file systems. This paved the way for putting real OSes into embedded systems. In the late 1990s and later, we were putting DOS on a flash card. Well, not everything was a real OS! And that is where Linux comes into the picture.”

Japenga’s column goes on to discuss file systems and the mechanisms to create concurrent systems, including nonvolatile flag files, volatile flag files, data sharing, and event triggering. It concludes with a thorough discussion of some of the risks of using a file system in a concurrent system.

“Modern embedded systems are doing more than I ever imagined when I started out,” Japenga says. “Adding a file system to your design can provide significant advantages to improve your product. As with all OS functions, we need to understand how our file system works if we are going to use it properly—especially in systems with concurrency.”

For more, check out  Japenga’s column, Embedded in Thin Slices, in Circuit Cellar‘s August issue.

CC277: (Re)Discovering Embedded

Authors in this issue range from a columnist who reintroduces us to the advantages of switched-capacitor filters to a frequent contributor who discusses his first encounter—and project—with the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer.

Columnist Robert Lacoste recently rediscovered one of his 1981 Elektor magazines, which included an article on switched-capacitor filters. “Since mastering switched-capacitor filters is now mandatory for many mixed-signal designs, I thought: Why not refresh the topic for a Circuit Cellar Darker Side article?” Lacoste says. Beginning on page 56, Lacoste shows you how to modify a simple one-pole RC filter into a switched-capacitor filter.

Frequent contributor Brian Millier placed his name on a waiting list to purchase his first Raspberry Pi. He finally received it in late 2012 and started the project that would inspire his two-part series “Raspberry Pi I/O?Board” (p. 42). The series explores the strengths and weaknesses of the single-board computer (SBC)?and explains the versatile I/O board he developed for it. “In the time since I received my Raspberry Pi, one of the board’s developers has designed an I/O board called the Gertboard. I feel my board is quite distinct and has some advantages over the Gertboard,” Millier says.

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi’s developers, this issue includes an interview with “RPi hardware guy” Peter Lomas (p. 38). He looks at the growth in popularity of the Raspberry Pi since its initial launch and shares how the nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation plans to foster its mission of promoting the $35 SBC as a tool to teach children computer skills and encourage inventiveness.

This month’s issue offers many other interesting reads. For example, columnist Jeff Bachiochi continues his series on creating user-friendly graphic displays. Part 1 focused on the microcontroller used to create his serial display. Part 2 discusses implementing dynamic button commands (p. 70).

In Part 4 of his “Testing and Testability” series (p. 52), columnist George Novacek explains the importance of an electronic system’s internal diagnostics. In addition, columnist Bob Japenga wraps up his “Concurrency in Embedded Systems” series by focusing on file usage (p. 48). “Modern embedded systems are doing more than I ever imagined when I first started,” Japenga says. “Adding a file system to your design can provide significant advantages to improve your product.”

This issue also presents two more final installments. One describes how to use a DSP-SQL interface to access large amounts of data (p. 20). The other outlines a DIY SBC project (p. 30).


Editor’s Note: The Client Profile focusing on Beta LAYOUT in Circuit Cellar’s June issue (p. 16) included incorrect information. Tony Shoot can be reached at tony@beta-layout.us. Visit circuitcellar.com/featured/client-profile-beta-layouts online to see the full profile.

CC 277: (Re)Discovering Embedded

Authors in this issue range from a columnist who reintroduces us to the advantages of switched-capacitor filters to a frequent contributor who discusses his first encounter—and project—with the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer.

Columnist Robert Lacoste recently rediscovered one of his 1981 Elektor magazines, which included an article on switched-capacitor filters. “Since mastering switched-capacitor filters is now mandatory for many mixed-signal designs, I thought: Why not refresh the topic for a Circuit Cellar Darker Side article?” Lacoste says. Beginning on page 56, Lacoste shows you how to modify a simple one-pole RC filter into a switched-capacitor filter.

Frequent contributor Brian Millier placed his name on a waiting list to purchase his first Raspberry Pi. He finally received it in late 2012 and started the project that would inspire his two-part series “Raspberry Pi I/O?Board” (p. 42). The series explores the strengths and weaknesses of the single-board computer (SBC)?and explains the versatile I/O board he developed for it. “In the time since I received my Raspberry Pi, one of the board’s developers has designed an I/O board called the Gertboard. I feel my board is quite distinct and has some advantages over the Gertboard,” Millier says.

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi’s developers, this issue includes an interview with “RPi hardware guy” Peter Lomas (p. 38). He looks at the growth in popularity of the Raspberry Pi since its initial launch and shares how the nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation plans to foster its mission of promoting the $35 SBC as a tool to teach children computer skills and encourage inventiveness.

This month’s issue offers many other interesting reads. For example, columnist Jeff Bachiochi continues his series on creating user-friendly graphic displays. Part 1 focused on the microcontroller used to create his serial display. Part 2 discusses implementing dynamic button commands (p. 70).

In Part 4 of his “Testing and Testability” series (p. 52), columnist George Novacek explains the importance of an electronic system’s internal diagnostics. In addition, columnist Bob Japenga wraps up his “Concurrency in Embedded Systems” series by focusing on file usage (p. 48). “Modern embedded systems are doing more than I ever imagined when I first started,” Japenga says. “Adding a file system to your design can provide significant advantages to improve your product.”

This issue also presents two more final installments. One describes how to use a DSP-SQL interface to access large amounts of data (p. 20). The other outlines a DIY SBC project (p. 30).


Editor’s Note: The Client Profile focusing on Beta LAYOUT in Circuit Cellar’s June issue (p. 16) included incorrect information. Tony Shoot can be reached at tony@beta-layout.us. Visit circuitcellar.com/featured/client-profile-beta-layouts online to see the full profile.

New Product: Parallax Debuts Three New Products

Parallax, which designs and manufactures microcontroller development tools and small single-board computers, recently introduced three new products, the Single Relay Board, the SCP1000 Pressure Sensor Module, and the Propeller Mini.

You can use the Single Relay Board to turn lights, fans, and other devices on or off while keeping them isolated from your microcontroller. The Single Relay Board’s on-board relay enables you to control high-power devices (up to 10 A). The relay’s control is provided via a 1 x 3 header that works well with servomotor cables and conveniently connects to many development boards.

The SCP1000 Pressure Sensor Module is an absolute pressure sensor capable of detecting atmospheric pressure from 30 to 120 kPa. The sensor also provides temperature data. A single multiplication operation using constants obtains pressure data in kilopascals or temperature in degrees Celsius. The pressure data is internally calibrated and temperature compensated. The SCP1000 features four measurement modes in addition to Standby and Power Down mode. A SPI bus handles the sensor’s communication and provides additional control lines (e.g., interrupt line and trigger input).

The Propeller Mini can embed a multi-core microcontroller system in small-sized projects where a full-sized development board is impractical. With its small size and component count, the Propeller enables you to have a complete prototyping system or project while maintaining a small footprint.

The Propeller features many options. For breadboarding, you can solder the included header onto the board. To keep your project’s control system small, you could solder your project’s wire leads directly to the board’s through holes. You can also solder sockets onto the Propeller Mini, enabling it to plug into a prototyping board containing your sensors and other components.

The Single Relay Board costs $9.99. The SCP1000 Pressure Sensor Module and the Propeller Mini cost $24.99.

Parallax, Inc.

www.parallax.com

Electrical Engineering Crossword (Issue 277)

The answers to Circuit Cellar’s August electronics engineering crossword puzzle are now available.

ACROSS

6.    ALGORITHM—Search engines use them to produce real-time results
9.    LOSSYCOMPRESSION—Condenses data by getting rid of some of it [two words]
11.    YOTTABYTE—Approximately 1,024 bytes
14.    PETAFLOP—Measures an FPU’s performance
15.    JQUERY—JavaScript library popularity contest winner
17.    THICKCLIENT—Able to function without a central server [two words]
18.    NYBBLE—4 bits
19.    DEGAUSSING—Gets rid of magnetism
20.    SPINTRONICS—aka, magnetoelectronics

DOWN

1.    YANG—Co-founded a multinational Internet company in 1994
2.    MICROSOFT—Originally created and sold BASIC computer programs for the Altair 8800 microcomputer
3.    CHARACTERLARGEOBJECT—Used to store large amounts of text [three words]
4.    ACGENERATOR—Changes mechanical energy into electrical energy [two words]
5.    DROPPER—Installs malicious code onto computers
7.    TRINITRON—Sony Corp.’s CRT technology
8.    BEAMWIDTH—Commonly specified at –6 dB, –10 dB, and –20 dB
10.    OVERCLOCKING—Makes the time go by more quickly
12.    FERROMAGNETIC—e.g., iron, cobalt, and nickel
13.    BAUDOTCODE—An early digital communication method [two words]
16.    AUTODYNE—Invented in 1914 by electrical engineer Edwin Armstrong, who is also credited with creating FM radio transmission

 

Michael Welle Wins the CC Code Challenge (Week 10)

We have a winner of last week’s CC Weekly Code Challenge, sponsored by IAR Systems! We posted a code snippet with an error and challenged the engineering community to find the mistake!

Congratulations to Michael Welle of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany for winning the CC Weekly Code Challenge for Week 10! He’ll receive an IAR Kickstart: KSK-LPC4088-JL.

Michael’s correct answer was randomly selected from the pool of responses that correctly identified an error in the code. Michael answered:

Line 15: strcmp returns 0 if both strings are equal. On the other hand 0 is interpreted as false in C, so the condition is wrong. if (strcmp(a,b)==0)

There were a few possible solutions to this error. Good job everyone who identified them!

You can see the complete list of weekly winners and code challenges here.

What is the CC Weekly Code Challenge?
Each week, Circuit Cellar’s technical editors purposely insert an error in a snippet of code. It could be a semantic error, a syntax error, a design error, a spelling error, or another bug the editors slip in. You are challenged to find the error.Once the submission deadline passes, Circuit Cellar will randomly select one winner from the group of respondents who submit the correct answer.

Inspired? Want to try this week’s challenge? Get started!

Submission Deadline: The deadline for each week’s challenge is Sunday, 12 PM ESTRefer to the Rules, Terms & Conditions for information about eligibility and prizes.