integrated circuit just helps to build more complex function and this won't limit the circuit design. The key is the specification of the design. For a complex system specification, usually people start off with discrete circuit using op-amps (IC though), ADC (IC again!), reference etc. However, the circuit structure and system architecture evolves. SoC is just for a well know standard design that people have spent lots of energy to build it discretely.
From where I sit, here at Screaming Circuits, I'd have to say that circuit design is alive and thriving. We see an awful lot of incredibly complex designs, analog or digital. Boards with ten BGAs and 200 support components are not at all uncommon.
Growing up in the 80's and 90's I greatly admired my uncle for being able to take apart just about anything and make it work again. Early in high school I was subjected to 130+ dB's in the back seat of a car for the first time and immediately fell in love with subwoofers and audio amplifiers. I would take apart amplifiers and marvel at all the parts completely at a loss for the purpose of the various components. This motivated me to become an electrical engineer to find out how to build a bigger and better amplifier. Unfortunately discrete amplifier design was not offered as part of the curriculum where I went to school. Talking to my intro to EE professor he pointed out that audio design was figured out in the 70’s and only a small handful of people actually design audio amplifiers today. “However”, he went on to explain, “you can study for analog IC design and when you learn how to make an RF amplifier or integrated amplifier circuit the principles are largely the same”. Honestly I recoiled at the notion that I would not be taught how to make an amplifier at the time… A few years, hardware design jobs and a masters degree later I am a mixed signal IC design engineer. The shameful thing for me is that while I know how to make an audio amplifier, I have yet to actually sit down with the components that I have on hand and cobble one together… I’m hopeful that I’ll have the opportunity soon.
First, for "student4ever", there is a method to determine the quantity of heat absorbed by an object. While it is almost direct, it is not trivial. The equation used is Q=MS(delta T). Where the evaluation gets complex is if the temperature rise in the mass M is not uniform, or if the specific heat of the item "S" is not uniform. At that point you get into quite a few rather ugly integrals that are a challenge to set up. The technique is indeed known as calorimetry, and I have seen it used to design a heatsink that had no spare capacity at all. It just exactly worked, keeping a part just below the upper limit for operation.
Addressing the need for circuit design, consider the case of some product that will never ever be produced in the HUGE quantities needed to make a custom IC economically sensible. This would include almost all of the manufacturing equipment in the whole world, and a fair amount of the more specialized scientific equipment, and probably a lot of other types of things that I can't call to mind right now. Two more catagories are commercial aircraft and military electronic devices, ( except ordinance). Not every product needs to be crammed in a package half the size of the previous model, with an additional 297 useless features added. Not all companies make cell phones, i-pods, or laptop computers. For many years I have designed custom circuits for a wide range of industrial test systems, and if we ever had to build 20 of them, that was a "huge" production run. So the truth is that circuit design is not dead, it is just a bit smaller now, but also more demanding.
My comments below are in response to your article dated 24th May about the challenges of sensing parameters that do not easily lend themselves to measurement. Sorry I could not find an appropriate place to post my comments / queries and have resorted to putting them here instead.
Your editorial mentions measuring the temperature of the earth's core as one such parameter and measuring the amount of dissolved gas in a liquid as another. On the same lines I would like to ask (all readers as well) if there is any material available on measurement of quantum of heat absorbed by a body? Not by radiation methods but direct measurement.
If any of you know of such work or material, I would be most interested to hear.
You are absolutely right UdaraW. Actually I would stretch that one step further... Not encouraging school kids to do math on their own mental ability has given rise to a mentally lazy generation. I wouldn't say dumber... since I doubt that they lack the inherent ability to perform math.
Having been both a designer and a teacher for the past 50 years I am consistently amazed at the number of "engineers" who forget that the world, especially outside the chip, is really analog. The rules still apply whether on not you like them.
But there are not too many of us left, and as I've remarked elsewhere, you can focus on a symbol-domain curriculum (i.e., "digital") and be able to do some useful work, conceivably, in several years. To gain sufficient analog and mixed-signal expertise to be productive takes far longer, and there are shockingly few good teachers out there. It's a whole lot more fun, in my opinion, but a tough go to be sure.