Author Archives: Paul Clarke

Following this week’s theme of favorite class, I was going to start talking about how I liked Golden time at school on Friday afternoon, when we could bring in toys to play with. However, getting told off for wanting to take apart another kids “Simon Says” to find out how it works is maybe not what my fellow bloggers were looking for. So I have picked my college course, which was called “Digital Fault Finding.” This class was aimed at understanding and repairing digital systems. One aspect was writing assembler code on old 8086 machines in order to understand the architecture. I remember very clearly being shown how to hack a .COM file and add our own code on the end as a way of understanding it. Yes you read that right – we were actively being shown how to write viruses! Our Lecturer, who was called Dave, was a…

Read more

As someone who has been tinkering with electronics for some 30 years, I’ve seen a few changes to electronics and the effect on the embedded system design. Once there was a time when I was soldering in Z80s (an 8-bit microprocessor), PIOs (programmable input/output) and RAM chips as well as erasing EPROMs in a UV box. However, I question if today’s engineers have lost touch with the changes and the basic principles of electronics. Back when building my Z80 systems, it was normal to be making a embedded system, rows of Eurostyle cards all lined up. Now we have moved forward into the world of system-on-a-chip; Atmel, Microchip and tons more all have all you need on a single chip. There are even more new trends starting to appear, like the mbed and Arduino systems. A lot of the hard work of designing and setting up a system-on-a-chip is now…

Read more

You never quite know when a new idea is going to hit you and you certainly don’t know its impact on a design. Some people spend weeks looking for the perfect design and even longer converting it into a working design. Sometimes, however, a miracle design idea can be found and proven in a working day. This is one of them. While working with a number of other engineers on a lighting ballast design,  we had come up with the idea of driving a street lamp with a constant current and effectively drive in a square wave signal. Existing designs had sine wave signals but could not control the lamp power very well – constant current was the key. This is because the lamp acts a bit like a 100volt zener and parallel inductor that holds no energy. The alternating constant current proved very effective as we could control and…

Read more

For my first blog here on Engineer Blogs, it’s a great opportunity to introduce myself through this weeks topic: how we became engineers. I’m an electronics engineer with a passion for digital and embedded microprocessors. I’m not certain that any of us consider ourselves normal engineers or that our routes to get here are typical. However, I certainly know that my route of getting into electronics at a very young age is definitely different. I became interested in geeky stuff when I was less than ten years old. I remember being given a toy wind up clock that you could open the back of and pull all the gears out and then put it back together to make it work. I was always interested in how and why stuff worked and in the 70’s, there was no kids TV on early, only Open University programs. I would be playing on…

Read more

34/34