Don't get me started about computers. I am not a happy camper. They are great when they work, but when they "throw a wobbly" it makes one's life a real pain in the rear end. It's like one of the keynote speakers said: "I'm surrounded by embedded systems, but the only time I know they're there is when one of them stops working!"
Speaking of which, the keynote speeches were a blast. I hadn't realized that this was the 20th anniversary of the first ESC, but they used this as the platform to provide a load of comparisons. For example ... if you took what was in the first PC (number of bits of memory, number of bytes that could be stored on a disk, speed in clock cycles, and so forth ... and then if you look what you get in a computer today ... if you adjusted for cost of living and stuff, a modern PC would cost $60 million dollars ... sort of thing.
I didn't explain this very well – they did a much better job of it – you had to be there (that's a hint for next year).
Another great quote that stuck in my mind was: "Any place you had a spring or a cog 20 years ago, you now find a processor!" Of course that's not strictly true, but we get the gist.
As part of the keynotes, there was a "tear-down" of a modern cell phone and a 20-year old Motorola phone. The audience could see them being taken apart on the big display screens on either side of the stage. At the end, after comparing the various elements, one of the presenters posed the question: "So, what would you say was the biggest disadvantage with the original cell phone?"
The other presenter replied: "Well, I would say it was the fact that you only had 30 minutes of talk time before the battery died."
Then a third voice boomed out: "That wasn't the main disadvantage..."
Everyone was looking around to see where this third voice was coming from when Dr. Martin Cooper – the inventor of the world's first cell phone – walked out on the stage. He talked a bit about the early days, and shared some stories like when he made the world's second cell phone call he inadvertently stepped out in the street without thinking and almost got run over by a car. He also explained that the main disadvantage with the first cell phone was that it weighed in at 2.5 pounds, so you could only hold it up to your ear for a very short time before your arm started to ache so much that you had to put the phone down again.
I have so many tales to tell ... but no time to tell them all in, because there's still so much to see.
Arrggghh, I just can't resist sharing two short stories...
I stopped by to see John Watson from Element CXI to talk about their Elemental Computing Array (ECA) chips (see article #202803397 for more details). John has been promising to show me power and performance numbers for ages, so I backed him into a corner and said: "OK John, let's see them!"
John told me rather sheepishly that he had a bit of a problem. Apparently they asked an independent organization to take some common algorithmic functions like large FFTs and encoders/decoders and suchlike; implement them on an ECA, SoC, FPGA, and DSP; and then evaluate the different implementations in terms of power consumption and performance.
He then brought out the results and showed me and said: "Look at these. This is terrible. Now what do I do?" So I looked at the results and told him that they were fantastic and I couldn't see what the issue was. He explained that his concern was that the results for the ECA were so amazingly good that he couldn't show them to anyone because no one would believe him. Do you know, he has a point!
Another highlight (for me) came on Tuesday afternoon when I met up with Nick Martin, the founder and CEO of Altium. I've chatted to Nick on the phone many times, but we've never actually met in the flesh, so we'd agreed to get together for a few minutes. Originally we had planned to meet in a conference room, but that was booked, so we ended up standing in the aisle next to the Altium booth.
Instead of a few minutes, however, we ended up chatting for close to two hours about "stuff" ranging from watching the original Dr. Who on TV when we were kids to electronic systems being implanted in humans. I could see Nick's "people" frantically jumping up and down in the background trying to attract his attention and drag him away to other appointments, but to no avail because we were having such a good time (I don't have any "people", so I didn't have a problem).
OK. There's no more time to dilly-dally and shilly-shally because I must away to see whatever there is to be seen. Until next time, have a good one!
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.