Most electrical engineers believe they have a good understanding of power supplies because they are relatively simple, single-function DC devices designed to output controlled voltages. However, there is much more to power supplies than this description would suggest. Although a power supply’s specifications describe its performance adequately for most applications, specifying every possible aspect of its performance (or any instrument’s, for that matter) would be far too costly in terms of both money and time.
Although a review of a power supply’s specifications should always be a part of the selection process, other characteristics should also be taken into consideration. From a user’s perspective, what’s important is understanding a supply’s power envelope to ensure it will be able to deliver power at the voltage and current parameters needed for a specific application.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.