One of the complaints I hear most often is that EDA gets no respect from the financial community, due mostly to the fact that no one really knows what EDA is or does outside of our industry. In fact Electronic Design Automation shares the first ten entries in a Google search of the term with: Economic Development Administration, Event-driven Architecture, an online document access system of the Department of Defense, the European Defence Agency, and a twelve step fellowship dedicated to helping people recover from overeating disorders.
In my own case, I always get a blank stare from people I meet for the first time when I tell them that I write about EDA, unless of course the person happens to be involved in the design of electronic components. It is not that our field is so esoteric to escape a description understandable by most people. After all people do know about nuclear physicists and macro-biologists, for example. Professionals developing EDA tools get a degree in electrical engineering or computer science, not in electronic design automation. And yet, there is a lot of EDA research going on at our universities!
I think that changing this state of affairs, although not possible in a few months, is not impossible and in fact, wonder of wonders, does not require the creation of a new consortium. Well, may be that is the problem
A new project for EDAC
EDAC is the organization tasked with increasing the visibility and worth of the EDA industry. It has tried in the past to increase the visibility of the industry with poor results if one uses financial and investment indicators as well as the popular recognition of the term EDA. Its campaign "Where Electronics Begins" was (or is it still?) well intentioned, but it mostly reached people that in one way or another were already connected to the industry: like PR professionals, or administrative personnel working in the industry. The reason is not the promotional material, it was, and is, the distribution channel. It is useless to try to popularize EDA in Silicon Valley: we are already notorious there!
We got to go outside our comfort zone, mingle with those companies whose products we make possible. So here is an idea for EDAC. Have a booth at next year's CES. Create material that speaks about HD television, intelligent cell phones, automotive electronics, and even space vehicles. Do not explain what an EDA tool does, tell stories of how consumer electronics products are developed and how EDA tools are used in the process. I bet we can get a few television reporters to cover our presence there, and may be, even get a public station of one of those pseudo-scientific channels to produce a special.
What CEDA can do
CEDA was created with the ambitious goal of centralizing all of the activities of the IEEE related to electronic design automation in one organization that could focus better on the issues of the professionals involved in it. It has spent its first two years trying to figure out how to implement such a task, as well as trying to carve out as much organizational space within the IEEE as possible. It has to date achieved two very recognizable successes: it co-sponsors DAC and the Phil Kaufman Award, demonstrably the two yearly industry events with the highest profile.
CEDA, as one would expect, is guided by a board composed mostly of members of academia, so I think it is the right organization to devote some of its time to the promotion of design automation within the academic institution. So, what about a degree in Computer Design Automation? The curriculum would be made up of course from the electrical engineering and computer sciences curricula, as well as at least a couple of course from the business administration curriculum to give our professionals an understanding of financial and managerial issues.
Cynics would say that unfortunately EDAC's board is made up of people that already made their millions and do not have much of a need to change things. And that CEDA's board is made up of people that already are comfortable in their careers and do not have much time to dedicate to new demanding endeavors. But cynicism is the enemy of progress. Progress is fueled by enthusiasm, by fresh thinking, by gathering and channeling new energies, and yes, by new investments. An industry that lives on change as the root of progress should be able to see and gather what is needed for the task.