Category Archive: Uncategorized

Lobotomy

Written by: Tony Harris, December 23, 2015

 

 

 

I noted early in my career, in R&D, there would be times when someone would leave the engineering field and transfer into sales & marketing. All of a sudden, everything in their world became easier to accomplish. Those of us left, struggling to define design rules for processes with enormous statistical variations or to productize a transistor that we had only had a couple of wafer runs of, came to the conclusion that there must be some sort of hazing that occurred on joining the marketing department. We believed that the result of the hazing was similar to that which would be achieved by a full frontal lobotomy.

Our Fab manager where I worked was French; he had a quote on his wall “La critique est aisée, et l’art est difficile”. The quote by French dramatist, Philippe Néricault Destouches, literally translates to: criticism is easy and art is difficult.

And so the battle lines were drawn, we in building 140 designing, creating and inventing and those in down the road in building 211 were marketing and selling. They would accuse us of being lazy, ivory tower and irresponsive, we would accuse them of ignorance, stupidity and a desire to sell their grandmother’s coffin, if they could make a buck.

Of course what happened as battle lines were drawn and silos established was that the customer was forgotten. To us in R&D he/she was the unfortunate detractor to those in S&M he/she was the slave driver, perhaps the dominatrix.

So how was the conundrum resolved? How did the Berlin Wall come down?

 

Man Flu

Written by: Tony Harris, December 16, 2015

 

 

I am suffering. Out of nowhere, I have been hit by an exceptionally strong strain of Man Flu. As I clutch to the fast fading embers of life, so I begin the process of getting myself ready to make peace with my maker. My wife plied me with drugs to help stay the inevitable fate, so the priest hasn’t been called yet.

I was listening to a program, the other day, on the BBC about ‘coffin academies’ in South Korea. Apparently South Korea has one of the highest hourly work weeks of any nation bar Mexico. To encourage the employees to feel good about life they have mock funerals. Here the attendees write their own obituary and then are placed in a coffin, where they meditate and consider how good life is. Then after some period of time they let you out.

I assure you that a good dose of man flu has a similar effect and avoids any claustrophobic consequences. With all the advances in therapeutic ultrasound, one would think that they would turn their attention to finding a cure for man flu.

I think one of the funniest people ever to have lived, was Spike Milligan. He wrote his own epitaph, which is written on his gravestone in Gaelic. “Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite” it translates to “I told you I was ill”.

ISTU

Written by: Tony Harris, December 15, 2015

 

 

Well the end of the year is galloping toward us. I’m heading south for the Christmas week, so I will not be having a ‘White Christmas’ – which is just fine by me; bah-humbug.

But I’ll be back for the 1st and so bring in the New Year. Last year I arrived back from England on the 31st of December and so did not even stay up to see the New Year in as jet lag got the better of me. This year, I’ll be here and will have no excuses.

I had an e-mail from Gail ter Haar earlier in the week reminding me about the ISTU conference that is being held in Tel Aviv in March 2016, which she is helping to organize. How quickly will that be upon us? I have never been to Israel and so am looking forward to it very much. There are a lot of companies there involved in ultrasound; Insightec being one.

It should be a really good conference as so much progress has been made over the last year; there will be a great sense of excitement.

If you go; don’t forget to stop by the E&I booth to say hello!

 

Cheers,

Tony Harris

The Golden Snowball Contest

Written by: Tony Harris, December 14, 2015

 

 

 

E&I is based in Rochester NY. As such, it is one of the contenders for the ‘Golden Snowball Contest’. Last year Syracuse won with a 132” total snow fall. Buffalo was third with 129” and Rochester 3rd with 112”. Rochester last won in the 2012-2013 season. It is a competition that I always hope we will lose.

E&I implemented a new ERP system (enterprise Resource Planning) in October and this provide better visibility of our inventory, orders with suppliers and other resources necessary in planning. However, I noted that there was no field to account for snow fall.

Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester, are all on Lake Ontario and in the winter, air will drift across the warm lakes absorbing lots of moisture. It will then hit the cold land and dump its cargo. Those of us living in Upstate NY are well aware of what ‘lake effect snow’ means. It means we get dumped on! Of course the kids love snow days, but when you are in a manufacturing company and trying to meet commitments to customers, it makes even the best planning in the world, a challenge.

What really scares me is that we haven’t had any snow this year yet. I know that this has nothing to do with global warming and so I think that January, February and March are going to make up for no snow in November or December.

In one week’s time at least the days will start getting longer; that’s a nice thought – I’m trying to stay positive…

The Weakest Link

Written by: Tony Harris, December 11, 2015

 

 

Do you remember the days when stereo systems were bought all as separate items? Do you know what I mean by ‘stereo system’? Well for those of you who don’t and just download your tunes on to your phone or player let me take you on a walk down memory lane.

Each component of an audio system was purchased separately. One would buy the turntable to play their records on, a receiver to pickup radio stations, speakers and an amplifier to drive them. Everyone had their own choices. I would salivate at the thought of a ‘Bang Olufsen’ turntable with an Arcam receiver, a Crown amplifier and a pair of Gale speakers. But the thing that you had to remember when selecting the components of your system was that just like any chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link.

The same goes for an RF test system. If you buy the best amplifier (obviously an E&I amplifier) then you also want to make sure that you buy a good signal generator and make sure that the cables you buy are a good quality shielded cable. Many problems in set ups can come down to poor cabling issues.

Communication

Written by: Tony Harris, December 10, 2015

 

 

This certainly must be the age of mass communication. Don’t you think? In 1970 the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar debuted and in a song at the end of the musical, Tim Rice’s lyrics have Judas tease Christ with the lines: “If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation, Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” So 45 years ago we thought we lived in the age of mass communication. No cell phones, no internet, no wifi, but we thought we had it all down pat. Makes you wonder what mass communication will mean 45 years from now.

Today I have an app on my I-phone called ‘translate.’ I can talk into it and it will translate my words into lots of different languages. I can scan text of several foreign tongues and it immediately displays it back to me in English. All these things further our ability to communicate.

Science however, is an area that needs work. Physicists, engineers, biologists, chemists and those in the medical profession have devised a language of their own. Many of the fundamental laws of physics are described purely in mathematics, because, quite frankly it is a lot easier. Einstein’s theory of special relativity is described in four papers or E=MC^2. OK I simplify a tad, but not much.

So whereas a scientist can pick up a work of Dickens, read it and at least get something from it, an English student could be more than a little challenged by Lederman’s book describing the Higgs boson particle.

Not fair you say; if you are on the arts side of life, and you’re probably right, but if it makes you feel any better; scientists can confuse each other by talking different languages and need to translate from one dimension to another, one unit of measure to another. All E&I’s amplifiers are rated in terms of the power that they can deliver. However, many of our customers are just interested in the voltage potential that they can develop across given impedance. One of the major challenges we face is communicating with our customers and to understand their requirements in their terms, translate them to our terms, solve the problem and then provide the answer back to them in their terms.

But we are good at it. Try us!

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

 

 

The Winter of Our Discontent

Written by: Tony Harris, December 9, 2015

 

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

When Richard (the future king, Richard III) opens the play with this quote, it is actually not to protest the winter but to celebrate the summer and the upturn in his family’s fortunes. It is often misused. I hate winter, I would be quite happy to see snow only on Christmas cards or picture post cards, where it looks pretty. The reality is that it is cold, seeps inside your clothes, melts and freezes seemingly at will to cause general discomfort. I really should domicile at about zero degrees latitude, I’d have a much better attitude.

When winter will finally leave us, in Upstate NY, in April, the roads will open up showing the damage that the successive freezing and melting has brought upon them. Pot holes will appear everywhere popping up overnight like zits on an acne-ravaged teenager.

It is amazing the destruction that can be caused by the heating and cooling of any material. The majority of failures in electronic equipment are caused by thermo-mechanical stress. If thermal management is not properly adhered to, solder joints will be ripped apart, active devices such as transistors can have their leads pulled out from underneath them. Just like the roads in upstate New York, the constant thermal cycling can cause catastrophic failure.

The guide lines and ‘best known methods’ that were wrought over decades of design, testing and reliability cycling are embedded in our philosophy at E&I. So you need not fear about the temperatures as far as the reliability of your E&I amplifier is concerned. And if you are here in May you could say: Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious by the summer of Upstate New York.

 

On the Shoulders of Giants

Written by: Tony Harris, December 7, 2015

 

 

Sir Isaac Newton quoted: If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. This was a reference to a quote by the philosopher, Bernard of Chartres, who had lived about 3 and a half centuries earlier. Newton was being uncharacteristically humble when he compared the progress that he had made, to the ideas of others that he had made use of.

But it is certainly true, as we look back at the progress of all forms of study, that we have been able to build on the work of previous eras and generations. For example, I sit here and type on a little laptop that has more computing power than was aboard the Apollo spacecraft and has its foundation, its roots, that can be traced back to work that was being done in the 1940s and 50s.

We I-phone and FaceTime with more ease than Captain Kirk could have dreamed of. Yet it was in 1861 that James Maxwell published the fundamental equations that describe electromagnetic radiation; the basic medium by which all modern data transfer travels. Hey, that is a long time ago. The first uses of RF amplification go back a long way.

The names of physicists, scientists, biologists, chemists, doctors and more pave the route from darkness to understanding. So we should not become conceited when we look at our achievements. Great though they are, they were made possible by standing on the shoulders of giants.

John Salisbury who attributed the ‘shoulders of giants’ quote to Chartres, wrote  in 1159: Between a tyrant and a prince there is this single or chief difference, that the latter obeys the law and rules the people by its dictates, accounting himself as but their servant.

Surely it was this level of understanding that allowed the Magna Carta to be feasible a half century later. We need to be cognizant of this when we judge and try to comprehend, peoples who do not have the luxury of standing on the shoulders of such giants.

Measuring Watt?

Written by: Tony Harris, December 3, 2015
 

 

I penned a paragraph last year about defining rated power. It looked at the different definitions amplifier manufactures use. (see: http://www.eandiltd.com/blog/index.php?mode=post&id=4 ). But very often we run into issues in trying to replicate rf (radio frequency) results in different geographical locations. There are many reasons that this can occur; consideration needs to be given to the electrical connections – the physical and electrical length, shielding, grounding and many others including the height of corn in Kansas.

You may feel I jest, but there are occasions that one can find no other reason for the difference. Some people simply point to folklore of rf being a black art and that can be a Linus comfort blanket. I have had the good fortune to work with many very talented rf engineers in my career. Leonid Reyzelman was one; he refused the ‘Black Art’ label and insisted on reducing it to science.

And so, in his legacy, we at E&I strive to eliminate the ‘height of corn in Kansas’ factor. These days we can use Skype and videos to help support our customers. In the video here: https://youtu.be/of1lv_s7i-4 our Service Manager, Jeff Koplaek, demonstrates a transducer being driven with one of the older ENI amplifiers, in support of a university research project. You will note that he doesn’t even mention the height of corn in Kansas.

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

 

 

Let’s Get Physical

Written by: Tony Harris, December 3, 2015

 

 

I just got back from a routine physical exam. It was a tad overdue, I admit, but I was not overly admonished.

I did have to have an EKG. “Just pull the gown down to your waist” so the instructions go. Then multiple sensors are stuck to various parts of your chest. “Now just lie back and relax” I’m told. How can I do that I ask myself? Knowing shortly I will painfully lose half the hair on my chest as these little stickers are removed. Instructions can go from the sublime to the ridiculous. The airplane safety instruction card explains oxygen masks will fall from above your head, then it tells you to place the mask over your nose and mouth and to breathe normally. So you’re 30 odd thousand feet above the ground in a large tin can. There is obviously a problem with maintaining it at that altitude and we are asked to ‘breathe normally’. I think I’d be producing a lot of methane gas and not just because being lighter than air, it might help keep us up.

Lying on a beach in the Caribbean with a large rum and a splash of coke, the sea gently lapping on the white silken sands; I can relax. But naked, bar a gown that affords little modesty, with multiple wires connecting me to this whirring machine, not so much. I am concerned that the noises are in some way relevant. Now it starts to whine, is this an indication of some imminent cessation of key bodily functions? Breathe normally I tell myself. No; I’m confusing the instructions, relax. That’s right as Frankie says “relax don’t do it…” Now I begin to panic: I have to relax or psychosomatic effects will tar the results. I try to calm myself, I’m just getting a physical I tell myself. Then Olivia Newton John pops up and tells me: that there is nothing left to talk about unless it’s horizontal. So I close my eyes and try and forget Olivia and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and pretend I’m in the Caribbean.

Good news I passed the tests. So other than a little unrequested manscaping, I am unscathed. However, it does drive home the point that equipment that is used in a doctor – patient situation needs to be quiet. In the summer we worked on system for ultrasonic breast imaging and acoustic noise was an important factor. I can understand why.

Cheers,

Tony