RS Components + Elektor = DesignSpark Magazine

RS Components has announced the launch of its new online publication, DesignSpark Magazine. The new magazine will be published in collaboration with Elektor International Media, the global electronics design and publishing house that publishes Elektor, Circuit Cellar, audioXpress, and more.

DesignSpark Magazine will replace RS Components’s popular eTech Magazine, which was first released as a digital edition in July 2010. According to a statement released by RS Components, “The new title is available as a fully digital publication in iPad, iPhone, Android tablet and page-turner formats. The publishing partnership with Elektor will produce not only a fresh-look magazine, but in addition will draw on Elektor’s long experience in the electronics publishing field to deliver the highest quality of technical content as a source of inspiration for design engineers worldwide.”

DesignSpark Magazine, which derives its name from designspark.com, the RS online community for electronics design engineers, will address three key topic areas:

  • Technologies – This will feature the best boards and board-level components for engineers and give readers a snapshot of the newest hot products in the market.
  • Software and tools – Keeping readers in touch with the latest resources to save time and money, this area will focus on free tools to support engineers.
  • Projects – Inspired by positive feedback on project-style articles in eTech, this expanded section in the new magazine will feature more design-tips articles contributed by Elektor, as well as make-and-build projects from the DesignSpark community. Readers will have access to the information located in this section to develop their own projects.

The new publication is designed to appeal to readers across the globe, with the concurrent launch of eight different language versions: English; Dutch; French; German; Italian; Japanese; Simplified Chinese and Spanish.

Mark Cundle, Head of Technical Marketing at RS, commented, “The RS online DesignSpark community has become a respected and well-used source of information and tools for electronics engineers over the past few years, so it is a natural progression to align the name of our proprietary online publication with the DesignSpark brand. The magazine is an integral part of our efforts to provide customers with a trusted, reliable source of technical information to help reduce design times and costs.”

Wisse Hettinga, International Director for Elektor International Media, said, “This exciting collaboration with RS Components will be good news for everyone who is an enthusiast and active in electronics design. It will mean more designs, more inspiration, more ‘how to’ and ‘where to get’ information to speed up the design process and create new, interesting electronic products.”

[Via Electrocomponents.com]

CircuitCellar.com is an Elektor International Media website.

The Future of 8-Bit Chips (CC 25th Anniversary Preview)

Ever since the time when a Sony Walkman retailed for around $200, engineers of all backgrounds and skill levels have been prognosticating the imminent death of 8-bit chips. No matter your age, you’ve likely heard the “8-bit is dead” argument more than once. And you’ll likely hear it a few more times over the next several years.

Long-time Circuit Cellar contributor Tom Cantrell has been following the 8-bit saga for the last 25 years. In Circuit Cellar‘s 25th Anniversary issue, he offers his thoughts on 8-bit chips and their future. Here’s a sneak peek. Cantrell writes:

“8-bit is dead.”  Or so I was told by a colleague. In 1979. Ever since then, reports of the demise of 8-bit chips have been greatly, and repeatedly, exaggerated. And ever since then, I’ve been pointing out the folly of premature eulogizing.

I’ll concede the prediction is truer today than in 1979—mainly, because it wasn’t true at all then. Now, some 30-plus years later, let’s reconsider the prospects for our “wee” friends…

Let’s start the analysis by putting on our Biz101 hats. If you Google “Product Life Cycle” and click on “Images,” you’ll see a variety of somewhat similar graphs showing how products pass through stages of growth, maturity, and decline. Though all the graphs tell a rise-and-fall story, it’s interesting to note the variations. Some show a symmetrical life cycle that looks rather like a normal distribution. But the majority of the graphs show a “long-tail” variation in which the maturity phase lasts somewhat longer and the decline is relatively gradual.

Another noteworthy difference is how some graphs define life and death in terms of “sales” and others “profits.” It stands to reason that no business will continue to sell at a loss indefinitely, but the market knows how to fix that. Even if some suppliers wave the white flag, those that remain can raise prices and maintain profitability as long as there is still demand.

One of the more interesting life cycle variations shows that innovation, like a fountain of youth, can stave off death indefinitely. An example that comes to mind is the recent introduction of ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) MCUs. FRAM has real potential to reduce power consumption and also streamlines the supply chain because a single block of FRAM can be arbitrarily partitioned to emulate any mix of read-mostly or random access memory (see Photo 1). They may be “mature” products, but today the Texas Instruments MSP430 and Ramtron 8051 are leading the way with FRAM.

Photo 1: Ongoing innovation, such as the FRAM-based “Wolverine” MCU from Texas Instruments, continues to expand the market for mini-me MCUs. (Source: Cantrell CC25)

And “innovation” isn’t limited to just the chips themselves. For instance, consider the growing popularity of the Arduino SBC. There’s certainly nothing new about the middle-of-the-road, 8-bit Atmel AVR chip it uses. Rather, the innovations are with the “tools” (simplified IDE), “open-source community,” and “sales channel” (e.g., RadioShack). You can teach an old chip new tricks!

Check out the upcoming anniversary issue for the rest of Cantrell’s essay. Be sure to let us know what you think about the future of the 8-bit chip.

Q&A: Per Lundahl (Transformer Design)

Per Lundahl is a multitalented designer who runs one of world’s leading high-performance audio transformer manufacturing outfits, Lundahl Transformers, which is based in Norrtalje, Sweden. After graduating from the School of Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, he worked as a computer consultant for Ericsson. It wasn’t until he decided to move out of the city that he joined his family’s business, which his parents started in 1958.

Per Lundahl, CEO of Lundahl Transformers

In the April 2012 issue of audioXpress magazine, Lundahl shares stories about the company’s focus and products. He states:

I design all our new transformers. Our audio market is divided into two segments, Pro Audio and Audiophile. The Pro Audio segment includes transformers for microphones, mic pre-amps, splitters, distribution amplifiers, and other studio equipment. The Audiophile segment is transformers for MC phono cartridge step-up and for tube and solid state amplifiers.

Our biggest selling products are two types of transformers for microphone preamplifier inputs. In the Audiophile domain, our tube amplifier interstage and line output transformers are popular.

We constantly develop new transformers based on the requests of our customers. Presently we are developing an auto-transformer for a Chinese company and an interstage/line output transformer for some European customers. The latter will probably be added to our range of standard transformers, available to everyone.

For the very fastidious audiophile, we are also introducing silver wire in some of our transformer types. Initially, the wire will mainly be in our high-end MC transformers, but depending on the response, it is possible that we will extend the silver wire product range.

You can read the entire interview in audioXpressApril, which is currently available on newsstands.

Tube amp transformers

audioXpress is an Elektor group publication.