"Suppliers feel chill, brace for the fall" [Sept. 25, page 1], by David Roman and Mike Clendenin, was interesting in what it did not mention: RoHS. The electronics industry is absorbing a $30 billion hit as it tries to find RoHS-compliant replacements. Engineers are working on this madness instead of new products, so why should there be a book-to-bill ratio above 1.0?
The real story, yet to be told in EE Times, is that RoHS (the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances regulations) will not only hurt the electronics industry; it will in the end kill people with failing electronics. There won't be two lines of parts; RoHS will end up in life-critical assemblies, and everyone will have to adopt RoHS and have embarrassing failure rates.
There is no evidence of lead leaching out of any landfill from circuit board solder (if there was, it would be big news). The fact is that lead ore is more dangerous than refined lead, and lead in solder is even safer. There are no reports of lead toxicity in the industry.
No major companies will dare speak out for the fear of being cast as anti-environment, yet the 63/37 [tin lead or lead-free solder] replacements may well be a bigger environmental problem. RoHS is the stupidest thing to ever hit the electronics industry.
Chief Executive Officer, Name withheld by request
When 'CD quality' isn't really CD quality at all
In Rick Merritt's "Music phone chip set rolls" [Sept. 25, page 30], Agere Systems marketing manager Mary Cramer is quoted as saying the Agere X125 chip set allows a mass-market phone that "will have CD-quality sound."In Rick Merritt's "Music phone chip set rolls" (Sept. 25, page 30), Agere Systems marketing manager Mary Cramer is quoted as saying the Agere X125 chip set allows a mass-market phone that "will have CD-quality sound."
Too often, as in this case, "CD quality" is used to describe lossy compression formats like MP3. Lossy compression is not and never will be equal in quality to a CD, simply because it does not retain all the original audio information present on a CD. No matter how many times people argue that with high enough bit rates, lossy compression cannot be distinguished from uncompressed audio, it doesn't alter the fact that there is a loss in audio quality.
It is time that we retire this term when talking about audio formats that are, in fact, lower in quality than CDs.
Brian Rost, MSEE
Points and counterpoints on right mix for EE education
Re: Henry Burger's Sept. 11 Crosstalk response [page 29] to my letter of Aug. 14 ["U.S. needs 'well-trained,' not 'well-rounded,' EE students," page 29]. I completely agree that EEs need good writing and speaking skills, as well as knowledge in economics. They also benefit from additional social sciences and humanities, for which engineering curricula already set aside time. There is nothing new about these nontechnical needs, nor is there a deficiency in engineering schools' meeting those needs.
I'm concerned about the addition of more nontechnical courses at the expense of engineering core courses. We live in a world of global competition. India is turning out graduates with excellent engineering skills, and China is not far behind. We can't afford to water down our engineering curricula to satisfy some vague need for better "rounding."
Associate Technical Fellow
We need engineers who can, at least on occasion, peel their eyes off the workstation screen or the lab bench and realize the state of the world that they share with the rest of humanity. As engineers, we carry much of the burden of responsibility for the technology that helps to shape the world. It is no longer acceptable to claim detachment. The creators of the first nuclear bomb, for example, never said, "I'm just doing what they're paying me for."
Disregard for the broader picture has brought us into trouble many times before, and it still does. Recent news reports told how NASA "misplaced" the video downlink tapes of the Apollo 11 lunar surface activities. It's regrettable, but not surprising. As we now embark in a new effort to leave low-Earth orbit and visit the moon once again as part of President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, we at NASA are earnestly seeking information from any possible source about the experience of Apollo.
We engineers like to think of ourselves as professional. Such status requires far more than "training." If all we American engineers get is training, we might end up doing nothing more than fetching the sticks that are thrown at us.
Avionics Systems Division
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston