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Tech Smorgasbord Archives - 27

RF Cafe University"Factoids," "Kirt's Cogitations," and "Tech Topics Smorgasbord" are all manifestations of my ranting on various subjects relevant (usually) to the overall RF Cafe theme. All may be accessed on these pages:

 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37

2010 Salary Survey

(source: Electronic Design)

It seems like a long time since I last reported on a salary survey for the electrical engineering realm. This one from Electronic Design was released a week or so ago. More than 2.500 readers representing a cross section of the industry responded, so that is a respectable sample size. Per the article, engineers recouped some of the 2009 losses - those who still have jobs, anyway. Hiring is still dismal at best. Average increase was 1.2%, compared to 2009 decrease of 3.6%, so we still have not caught up to the 2008 levels.
Electronics Engineering Realm Salary


IC / Semi 126.0
Government 106.4
Medical 105.8
Avionics/Marine/Space 102.7
Test & Measurement 91.2
Automotive 90.5
Consumer 89.2
Components 87.3
Other 86.6
Contract Design & Mfg. 85.5
R&D 85.7
Consultant 77.3
As expected, higher degrees earned higher salaries, with a PhD at $110.2 k, BS at $91.5k, AS at $74.9k. Lots more on the website.


E-Waste Atrocities

(source: IEEE Spectrum)RF Cafe Smorgasbord - E-Waste Disposal RoutesIn the U.S. alone, 130k computers and 300k cellphones are trashed each day. All that e-waste has to go somewhere. The U.S. EPA has placed nearly impossible to comply with restrictions on what can be accepted into landfills, so much - if not most - of the toxic content is shipped overseas where there is not quite so much concern about the poisoning of people and environment. If you look around the Web, you will find disgusting photos of disposal sites and the natives who work in them to extract recyclable metals and components. I saw one video of guys in a 3rd world country wearing rubber hip boots in a slush of acid in a battery reclamation operation. I am no eco-Nazi, but anybody with a tinge of human compassion would be repulsed by what is going on behind the scenes to accommodate our (inc'l my) appetite for cheap products. Europe, China, Russia, Brazil, and other industrialized countries are equally culpable, so don't point the bony finger of indignation at the U.S. Progress and free market capitalism is the key to a robust and contented economy and people, but destroying the planet is not acceptable collateral damage. Don't just blame it on the "evil" corporations, because they cannot do anything without politicians as willing accomplices - the Ds are just as bad as the Rs.


Reviving Color CodesRF Cafe Smorgasbord - Numerical Color Codes for Phone Numbers & c.Maybe I'm wrong, but my guess is that most engineers and technicians under 35 years old cannot readily interpret numerical color codes. With the advent and subsequent ubiquity of laser-marked numerical codes on both surface mount and low-watt leaded resistors, capacitors, and inductors, the old mnemonic I learned in my high school electrical vocational classes back in the 1970s (which is way too politically incorrect to print here) is passé. In an attempt to encourage a color code renaissance, I have added RF Cafe's color-coded, 10-digit phone number in the footer of these pages. A lot of people use a graphic image of their phone number and/or e-mail on web pages to thwart web bots that are data mining contact information when it is in text form. E-mail your color code mnemonics and/or suggestions for new usage and I will create a page for them.


Good Power Brown-Outs

(source: IEEE Spectrum)

In July of 2010, the DoE published a study on energy savings resulting from lowering the voltage on distribution lines in a cross-section of user groups. Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) is the term used for using a line voltage level that is less than the "standard" 120 V from which most appliances are designed to operate. Ohm's law dictates that lower V results in lower P (P=V2/R), but of course you cannot arbitrarily reduce the supply voltage because at some point the item stops working properly and/or experiences a shortened lifespan due to stress.

Appliance Conserved
Fan 6%
TV, CRT/LCD/Plasma 4/0/0%
PC Monitor, LCD -2%
13-W CFL Bulb 8%
42-W CFL Bulb 2%
70-W Incandescent 5%
LED (low qual) 6%
LED (high qual) 1%
The study did a pretty good job of acknowledging conditions under which no conservation is realized, and concluded that a nation-wide deployment of the CVR scheme would result in around 3% savings - a worthwhile goal that does not even require a complete implementation of the Smart Grid plan.


Civilian Conservation

Corps and the AARS

(source: ARRL) RF Cafe - Army Amateur Radio Service (AARS)Today, nearly everyone is a radio operator, but that has only been the case for less than two decades. Prior to the ubiquitous presence of cell phones, land lines provided a comprehensive communications net for most of the civilized world. While today's teens cannot imagine a world without cell phones, most of the rest of us cannot imagine no phones at all. Such was the case around 1925 when that Army Amateur Radio Service (AARS) was created to provide access between men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and friends and relatives back home, and to assist during times of emergency. The Army considered AARS to be a huge success in terms of improving morale, reducing costs, and having a new cadre of radio operators highly trained in military communications techniques. Indeed, many AARS operators returned to duty - this time in uniform - during WWII Today, Amateur operators continue to provide similar services through Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), and other networks. New operators are always welcome.


Beloit College Mindset List

(source: Beloit College)RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Beloit College Mindset ListMost students entering college for the first time this fall, the Class of 2014, were born in 1992 ('58 for me). "Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall's entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow." The Wisconsin school has been releasing a list of generational factoids every year since 1988. Here are a few of the 75. -- 1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive. 2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail. 19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone. 51. Food has always been irradiated. 75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.


EE Times 2010 "Silicon 60"

Emerging Startups

(source: EE Times)RF Cafe Smorgasbord - EE Times' Silicon 60 for 2010First published in April 2004, the list has been updated based on the latest corporate, commercial, technology and market conditions. "The Silicon 60 includes startups involved in semiconductor technologies for analog circuits, memory, logic, power, MEMS, optoelectronics, EDA software, foundry manufacturing, semiconductor production equipment, electronic subsystems, displays, packaging and materials."

A couple of interest to RF Cafe visitors are: Baolab Microsystems (MEMS for RF relays inside CMOS), Black Sand Technologies (CMOS RF PA), GainSpan (WiFi), Lime Microsystems (wireless broadband), Mirics Semiconductor (RF mixed signal ICs), Ozmo Devices (wireless PAN), Rayspan (metamaterials for RF front-ends), RFaxis (RF front-ends).


Need Money for Your Wireless Startup?

(source: Cambridge Wireless) RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Discovering Startups, by Cambridge WirelessI'll let them speak on this one:

If you are a new start-up or small company looking to take your business forward, this programme is for you. Perhaps you need to raise money but don't know where to go and what to ask for. Maybe you need to enhance your presentation or pitching skills or you could use some extra cash or support. Could it be that you need a link into the industry to move your business forward? Cambridge Wireless is providing master classes, workshops and support from its industry leaders. At the project's core is a competition with prizes for the best in five categories: Cognitive and/or green radio, Hot applications and services, Wireless health and wellness, Technology design in wireless, and Emerging disruptive ideas. This competition is open and free to enter for companies in the East of England, as well as for Cambridge Wireless members throughout the UK.


Flash - Helium-3 Shortage

(source: IEEE Spectrum)

RF Cafe - Tritium-to-Helium-3 DecaySave those canisters of helium (He-4) from your kid's birthday party - they could be worth a fortune if the doomsday prediction for the earth's helium supply pans out as prognosticated. He-3 is a rare isotope that is mostly manufactured via the radioactive decay of tritium (H-3). 1 L cost $100 in 2009, but $2,150k in 2010. It is used extensively for cooling high sensitivity measurement instruments like MRIs, bomb-sniffing neutron detectors, and even the LHC at CERN. The world uses 40 kL/yr, and the U.S. is the major supplier - mainly from recycled nuclear warhead and nuclear power station H-3. We are shutting all those sources down at a rapid rate, so tritium will become more scare, hence less He-3. Not to worry about the predicted depletion in 40 years, though, because just about every other country is increasing supplies of tritium. So like most other assets nowadays, our politicians will see to it that the U.S. technological lead is eliminated. It's called social justice.


From Dust to Dust

(source: Sky & Telescope) RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Project Echo antenna at Bell Labs in a dismal stateChaotic interstellar gasses and dust accrete to form more orderly planets and suns, while simultaneously more orderly suns explode and planets collide back into chaotic states. Collectively, they maintain the balance of energy conservation that keeps Messrs. Joule and Einstein pleased. In 1959, order arose out of chaos as Bell Labs scientists constructed the Horn Antenna to listen for signals from passive Echo satellites. While attempting to eliminate weak background noise, a faint signal at 7.35 centimeters persisted in every region of the sky. Eventually, astronomers Penzias and Wilson deduced it was the signature of the Big Bang that permeates our universe. Now a national landmark under the care(?) of the National Park Service, the Horn Antenna is decaying back to a chaotic state due to neglect. Please write to Edson Beall requesting proper preservation of this important bit of history. I did.


HEATBALLs to the Rescue

(source: HEATBALL.de)RF Cafe Smorgasbord - HEATBALLsAs is often the case, when idiotic bureaucrats pass laws to cater to some lobby group that is padding their coffers with donations, there are entrepreneurial types who think of ingenious ways to thwart the idiocy. The entire western world, in an attempt to save the earth from Global Warming (recently changed to Climate Change), is banning Edison's incandescent light bulbs. 2012 is the cutoff date for most countries. Siegfried Rotthäuser has introduced the HEATBALL, which  coincidentally looks just like an incandescent bulb. Exploiting the fact that 96% of an incandescent bulb's energy is converted into heat (the remaining 4% as light), he can legally sell these as heaters, thereby circumventing the law. 100W bulbs, er, heaters, are €1.69 ($2.35) each - supporting your incandescent habit isn't cheap.


How Green Is Your Red?

(source: Discovery News)

RF Cafe Smorgasbord - Thermal Imaging of HomesTechnology is a wonderful thing... as long as it is not used for nefarious purposes. Take this infrared thermal image of people's homes in Belgium. The Belgian government's "Zoom Into Your Roof" online project aims to show homeowners how their houses stack up in terms of insulation. By searching for their address, residents can zoom in to see if heat, represented in dark red, is escaping from the house. Yes, it is helpful to residents, but do you really thing the government is spending money just so people can see how well their houses rate in the efficiency realm? No, neither do I. Remember that global Cap & Trade is coming to a country near you. I think of this as the IR version of those pesky speed trap cameras that send you a ticket by mail, only here the EPA (or equiv.) will send you an energy hog bill for being too red. Imaging is performed by airplanes, and possibly black helicopters.


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