I was sitting watching my son in his martial arts class on Friday evening and it occurred to me that DSP and martial arts have a lot in common. In martial arts, so many students get hung up on which art is "better" but as they mature and move to higher levels, the actual form they take becomes secondary to the way, or "Tao" of martial arts.
So too with DSP: While it's easy to get hung up on the processors and their relative performance, the real 'art' of DSP is not found there: it's in the imagination and years of acquired knowledge of the engineer/programmer to realize their goal regardless of the underlying platforms and tools.
Now, don't get me wrong here. I've written about the "Irrelevance of Silicon" before and stirred an excellent debate on the relationship between hardware and software. This time I'm focused more on the algorithms that derive from the designers' imagination and truly incorporate the 'whole'.
For example, Kionix announced this week a new algorithm that could replace touchscreens with MEMS control. That showed how the engineer's imagination was freed up and applied to realize a really interesting end solution that leveraged the best of the underlying platform, by applying proper algorithmic development techniques.
What I'm getting at is this: The platforms, tools, environment and all that 'hard' material are but the stepping stones between your imagination and the end product. Knowledge of their characteristics and how to use them is important, but you will go nowhere if you don't have a vision. Spending time to imagine what can be is an integral part of developing that vision.