MEMBER STATUS: Scott said he started his Circuit Cellar subscription late in the last century. He chose the magazine because it had the right mix of MCU programming and electronics.
TECH INTERESTS: He has always enjoyed mixing discrete electronic projects with MCUs. In the early 1980s, he built a MCU board based on an RCA CDP1802 with wirewrap and programmed it with eight switches and a load button.
Back in the 1990s, Scott purchased a Microchip Technology PICStart Plus. “I was thrilled at how powerful and comprehensive the chip and tools were compared to the i8085 and CDP1802 devices I tinkered with years before,” he said.
RECENT EMBEDDED TECH ACQUISITION:
Scott said he recently treated himself to a brand-new Fluke 77-IV multimeter.
Scott is building devices that can communicate through USB to MS Windows programs. “I don’t have in mind any specific system to control, it is something to learn and have fun with,” he said. “This means learning not only an embedded USB software framework, but also Microsoft Windows device drivers.”
THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF EMBEDDED TECH:
“Embedded devices are popping up everywhere—in places most people don’t even realize they are being used. It’s fun discovering where they are being applied. It is so much easier to change the microcode of an MCU or FPGA as the unit is coming off the assembly line than it is to rewire a complex circuit design,” Scott said.
“I also like Member Profile Joe Pfeiffer’s final comment in Circuit Cellar 276: Surface-mount and ASIC devices are making a ‘barrier to entry’ for the hobbyist. You can’t breadboard those things! I gotta learn a good way to make my own PCBs!”
Tom has been a member for four years.
Tom says he enjoys machine learning; algorithm design; embedded, prognostic, and diagnostic systems; and eLua and C programming.
RECENT EMBEDDED TECH ACQUISITION:
Tom recently bought a Femtoduino board and a Texas Instruments TMP102 sensor breakout board.
His current microcontrollers of choice are the STMicroelectronics STM32 32-bit ARM Cortex and Atmel’s ATmega328.
Tom is working on PicoDB, an open-source, NoSQL database tool for 32-bit microcontrollers written in Lua. (To learn more, visit www.lua.org/wshop12/Freund.pdf.)
THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF EMBEDDED TECH:
Tom says when he thinks about embedded technology’s future, just one phrase comes to mind: “the Internet of things.”
“In 10 to 15 years time, we will look back and think of Facebook, Twitter, and (yes) even Google as the ’Model T’ days of global networking,” he says. “That is because everything will be connected to everything at various levels of security. We and our infrastructure will be ’minded’ by unseen digital butlers that help us cope with life and its unpredictability, as well as protect that which should be kept private.”
Dean has been a subscriber for about 20 years.
Dean enjoys designing and building home automation systems. His current system’s functions include: security system monitoring, irrigation control, water leak detection, temperature and electrical usage monitoring, fire detection, access control, weather and water usage monitoring, solar hot water system control, and security video recording.
MOST RECENT EMBEDDED TECH ACQUISITION:
A Microchip Technology debugger.
Dean is currently designing a hybrid solar power system to power his home automation system. “The power system will use a processor-controlled dual-input power converter design to harvest the maximum energy possible from the photovoltaic cells and then augment that with utility power as necessary to support the load,” he explained. “The system will be a hybrid between an on-grid and an off-grid system. The hybrid approach was chosen to avoid the regulatory issues with an on-grid system and the cost of batteries in an off-grid system.”
THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF EMBEDDED TECH:
“As more and more capability is being made available to the embedded world, the design opportunities are endless. I particularly find it exciting that network connectivity can now be so easily added to an embedded system so various embedded systems can communicate with each other and with the outside world via the Internet. I am concerned that so many of the new embedded parts are designed with extremely fine pitch leads, which makes DIY assembly with hand soldering a challenge,” he said.
Location: Sagamore Hills, OH (located between Cleveland and Akron)
Education: BS, United States Air Force Academy, El Paso County, CO
Occupation: Steve began moonlighting as an engineering consultant in 1979. He has been a full-time consultant since 1992.
Member Status: He says he has been a subscriber since “forever.” He remembers reading the Circuit Cellar columns in Byte magazine.
Technical Interests: Steve enjoys embedded design, from picoamps to kiloamps, from nanovolts to kilovolts, from microhertz to gigahertz, and from nanowatts to kilowatts.
Current Projects: He is working on eight active professional projects. Most of his projects involve embedding Microchip Technology’s PIC18 microcontroller family.
Some of Steve’s projects include Texas Instruments Bluetooth processors and span all the previously mentioned ranges in the interfacing hardware. Steve says he is also working on a personal project involving solar photovoltaic power.
Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: Steve thinks of embedded technology as “a delicate balancing act: time spent getting the technology set up vs. time we would spend to do the same job manually; convenience and connectivity vs. privacy, time, and power saved vs. energy consumed; time developing the technology vs. its payoffs; and connectedness with people far away vs. with those right around us.” Additionally, he says there are always the traditional three things to balance “good, fast, cheap—choose two!”
Education: BS with a double major in Computer Science and Physics, 1979, and a PhD in Computer Science, 1986, both from the University of Washington in Seattle
Occupation: Joe was a professor in the Department of Computer Science at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces until he retired in 2010. Joe’s research interests focused on visual programming languages and geometric reasoning for mobile robots. Most of his teaching involved computer architecture, Assembly language programming, and OSes.
Member Status: Joe says he’s been a Circuit Cellar subscriber for at least 10 years.
Technical Interests: He enjoys programming Microchip Technology PIC processors. More recently, he has become interested in Android programming and development under Linux.
Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Acquisition: Joe bought a model rocket altimeter (and a bunch of related connectors and things) for a rocket he’s building for his National Association of Rocketry Level 2 high-power certification.
Current Projects: Joe is currently developing a shop oven. “I want it to be useful for solder reflow work—so I’ll want it to be able to follow the reflow temperature profile—and also accurately maintain a temperature for applications like powder coating. I’m planning a USB interface so I can log its activity for later analysis,” he explained.
Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: Joe feels that computing is becoming more pervasive and connected. “From a digital caliper that cost me under $10, to a Bluetooth-connected OBD-II scanner for a car—it’s just amazing,” he said. “One thing I worry about is that, along with so much in computing and technology, the bar is getting too high for entry. As through-hole, hand-solderable components slowly disappear, it seems like it’ll be harder and harder for someone to create a first simple project and get started,” he added.
Education: BS, Electrical Engineering (City College, NY), and MS Electrical Engineering (University of Maryland)
Occupation: Tom is Principal Engineer of a large defense firm and CEO of KibaCorp, which he says is “dedicated to innovative educational technologies for the hobbyist, student, and practicing engineer.” He is also an adjunct faculty member at a local community college.
Member Status: Tom has been a subscriber for more than eight years.
Technical Interests: He is interested in robotics, embedded programming, microcontrollers, wireless applications, and engineering education.
Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Acquisition: Tom’s most recent purchase was a Raspberry Pi with direct GPIO connections.
Current Projects: He is working on a battery-powered Wi-Fi sensor network that uses low-power Microchip Technology PIC32 components. (His project is shown in the photo.)
Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: Tom thinks these are “exciting times where system-on-a-chip (SoC) technologies are extending the domain of embedded applications with Linux OS and a large base of language libraries.”
Member Status: John has been a subscriber since 2002.
Technical Interests: His interests include user interfaces for embedded systems, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) development, and embedded Internet development.
Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Purchase: John recently purchased a power supply for one of his designs.
Current Projects: He is currently working on a custom light controller for strings of progammable LED lights.
Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: John feels that smartphones have raised everybody’s expectations for how we interact with everyday things (e.g., cars, appliances, household control, etc.). “Either the phone becomes the interface (via the network) or the gadgets need touchscreen displays,” John said.
Location: Stony Plain, AB, Canada (Stony Plain is suburb of Edmonton, home of the Oilers)
Education: MS, the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Occupation: Gordon is semi-retired. He used to be an Electronics Technology and Computer Engineering Technology instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.
Member Status: Gordon says he used to have Circuit Cellar issues dating back to 1995. “We were getting issues under the ‘college program’ then,” he explained. Later, his department subscribed to the magazine and the issues came directly to Gordon. Then he obtained a personal subscription. “I still have my paper copies containing my own articles. And we bought the CDs to get all the back issues.”
Technical Interests: Gordon has always been interested in electronics, both as a hobby and as a profession. He focused first on audio, then turned to microcontrollers. He has built a few microcontroller-based instruments, some of which have been the topics of his Circuit Cellar articles. “For a time, I was involved in building microcontroller-based dog training equipment. I built a microcontroller-based weather station, which I also wrote an article about. I have several microcontroller-based projects in my home that are specific to my needs. My cold-room temperature controller is microcontroller-based, for example.”
Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Acquisition: Gordon bought a SparkFun Electronics FG085 frequency generator kit.
Current Projects: He is working with a Freescale Semiconductor MPL3115 pressure/temperature I2C transducer for his weather station. “It has amazing barometric pressure resolution,” Gordon explained.
Education: MS in Chemistry, Moscow State University, PhD in Genetics and Bioinformatics, University of Cologne, Germany
Occupation: Research scientist
Member Status: He has been a subscriber for a year.
Technical Interests: Alex is interested in low-level hardware programming and high-voltage electronics, including vacuum tubes.
Most Recent Embedded Tech-Related Acquisition: He recently received a single-board fanless PC with a solid-state hard drive as a gift.
Current Projects: Alex is further developing the NakedCPU platform he wrote about in his two-part article series, “The NakedCPU,” (Circuit Cellar 259–260, 2012).
Thoughts on the Future of Embedded Technology: Alex says he’s worried that embedded solutions are becoming less transparent. He remembers working with one system that had several DVDs of examples and libraries but it didn’t have a comprehensive guide to the system’s architecture. “As a researcher and someone who wants to get to the bottom of things, such a situation is frustrating. This is certainly my personal researcher’s view. I am not commenting on the application side of increasingly complicated embedded systems.”