Generally speaking, today's search engines perform their primary function reasonably well. If you go to Google and do a search for the "First mechanical calculators", for example, you are immediately presented with a collection of highly appropriate sites. (I say this with a certain smug smile, because the More Cool Stuff page on my website – which includes a number of papers on the history of calculators and computers – is right up there.)
On the other hand, as engineers, we've all experienced problems searching for one thing and being presented with results for something quite different. As a case in point, in the not-so-distant past I was undertaking some research on the use of the term "substrate" in the context of printed circuit boards. So I did a search for "Substrate" and was delighted to receive close to 60 million hits. My happiness quickly deteriorated when I discovered that (what seemed to be) 59,999,999 of these pages related to the material used to line the bottom of aquariums.
Similarly, let's suppose you are interested in learning more about the formal verification language called Sugar. Come on, play along with me. Let's go to Google and search for "Sugar". Wow, 112 million hits! Good grief – were you aware that there was a Sugar Organization? And how about the fact that there is a New Your City-based art and culture publication called Sugar Magazine? Well, we're learning something already, the problem is that the stuff we're learning is not related to the stuff we were looking for.
In order to address this issue, engineer Ted Boydston has created the Chip Hit search utility (www.ChipHit.com). This little scamp (the search tool, not Ted) offers a faster way to get to the answers we're looking for in the ASIC, FPGA, and EDA tool spaces by use of a customized Google search engine, which only searches sites of interest.
Currently, ChipHit has over 500 digital engineering sites in it (this number is growing every day!), which have been organized into "refinements". When you search on ChipHit, all off these sites are searched and the first-pass results are returned. Refinements can be made by clicking the refinement options at the top of the returned results, which will then neck-down to search only those sites in the refinement category.
As an example, go to www.ChipHit.com and search for "Sugar". When the first-pass results are returned, look for the section that says: "Refine results for sugar" and click the "Languages" item. Hurray, the ensuing links are just what we were looking for!
This is way cool, because it means faster and quicker searches without the frustration of having to wade through a morass of unrelated dross to find what we're looking for. So, if you know anyone who might be interested please spread the word and let's all make Ted a really happy camper!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.