Back from a three-year hiatus, I’m covering test and measurement again. This time, it’s for EE World.
I’m pleased to announce my return to the test-and-measurement community. For those of you who may not know, I covered T&M for several publications from 1992 to January 2020. In January 2020, I came to EE World to cover 5G, wireless, and wired communications. I’m still doing that, but with Lee Teschler now retired, I was the natural choice to pick up test.
Measurement has always been my focus. Prior to becoming an editor, I worked for two companies that specialized in measurement-and-control instrumentation. Of course, it’s all about measuring physical phenomena such as temperature and humidity. That meant sensors were a big part of my work as well. Calibration was another part of my industry work. After all, measurements are meaningless without calibrated instruments. You’ll see me covering sensors, calibration, and connectors from time to time.
Once I started covering T&M, I had to learn quickly about things previously unknown to me such as telecom and datacom. In these worlds, analog measurements don’t exist. If, however, you design the high-speed serial links that telecom and IT people reply on, you know the pain behind getting those links to work. They don’t think about the physical layer, but engineers do.
Automated measurements and manufacturing test was also new to me. If you spend your days on the bench, you may not know what test engineers go through. That’s something I intend to bring to T&M Tips.
While bench instruments can do a great deal, what if you need a custom test setup involving several instruments? Sure, there are software packages that let your computer acquire data from test instruments without programming, but what if you need to design a test operated by non-engineers? That’s where test automation comes in. You not only have to hide the details from the user, but you have to make tests run as quickly as possible. On the production floor, test time equates directly to product costs.
While you can develop a custom test setup with bench instruments, they’re rather bulky. That’s where modular instruments come in. The most common platform is called PXI. We’re rounding up experts in PXI and automated test to help you develop custom instruments.
We’re also looking into covering EMC measurements; you won’t find modular instruments there, but you will find how software can automate measurements using buses such as LXI (Ethernet) and USB.
Of course, we’ll continue to provide content for Bench measurements.
If you know my editorial work or follow me on LinkedIn, you probably know that I wrote songs about life as an engineer. If not, then let me explain the blue photo.
My first song, The Measurement Blues, took me five years to write. In 2001, I scribbled some lyrics and forgot about them until 2006 when I recorded the song. Needing a photo, I donned a black suit, set an HP 34401A meter on a table, opened my guitar, and went to the office. There, our magazine’s art director took the photo where I try to emulate Eric Clapton emulating Robert Johnson. The popularity of The Measurement Blues led to five other songs. See the complete list below, which includes links where you can listen to them.
In 2009, the IEEE EMC Symposium featured a sound stage where engineers could play. That’s where I first played The Measurement Blues to a live audience. The EMC Society Band also played in 2010, 2014, and 2017. The band photo shows me playing at the 2017 symposium in Washington, DC.
While I may write another song someday, for now, let’s focus on Test & Measurement Tips. How should we evolve? Are there areas of test, such as automation, that we should cover? Should we stick to covering how to use bench instruments? Should we keep covering fundamentals or would you like to see a mix of more advanced topics? Leave a comment. In the meantime, enjoy the songs.
Click on the titles to listen
The Lab in the corner tells the story of how the “test guy” makes sure your design actually work.
Electrical Heroes pays homage to those who created the measurements we make every day.
Check Designs for EMI Early reminds us that all electronic devices must play nicely in their electromagnetic environments.
Below a Gigahertz tells you that you can’t put off designing for EMI until it’s too late.
Red Eye Jedi tells the story of an engineer who had to service a measurement system from becoming a bucket of bolts.