Analog for all?

If you’ve been following my analog posts you’ll know that one of my concerns has been that we don’t train enough engineers who are really comfortable working in this area.

Analog has two major problems: not only is it just generally more difficult to design (much harder maths!), but once you do you have to go and have a chip fabricated (i.e. spend time and money) to see how it works in practice. Digital designers have an easier job to begin with, better tools, and can reliably simulate using systems like field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) if they’d rather not work in software simulation alone. Plus there are a gazillion of them, which also helps them to make progress! Read More …

Hearing with your chest

Evelyn Glennie, from her website.As well as explaining evolution (see my last post), analog feedback may explain the ability of deaf people to hear through their bodies as the percussionist Evelyn Glennie learned to do. According to her biography,

Evelyn spent a lot of time when she was young (with the help of Ron Forbes her percussion teacher at school) refining her ability to detect vibrations. She would stand with her hands against the classroom wall while Ron played notes on the timpani (timpani produce a lot of vibrations). Eventually Evelyn managed to distinguish the rough pitch of notes by associating where on her body she felt the sound with the sense of perfect pitch she had before losing her hearing. The low sounds she feels mainly in her legs and feet and high sounds might be particular places on her face, neck and chest.

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Where a little means a lot

ScallopedhammerheadsharkOne of the things that has driven my work over the last decade has been an interest in analog systems (which I alluded to in an earlier post) that perform what I call physical computation. What that means is that they are not ‘programmed’ except in the sense that, like all objects, they are forced to obey the laws of physics. When physical objects become sufficiently complicated, then they start to behave in interesting ways while still just doing what comes naturally. Read More …

Fuzzy thinking

Csi3I love watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, but there’s one thing that makes me want to throw things at the television. Here’s how it goes. The investigators have found a security camera at the scene and have taken the tape back to the lab. They roll forward to the point where the crime is taking place, and look for clues about the perpetrator: maybe a badge, a signet ring, or tattoo. “Zoom in on the ring,” says the person in charge, and the grainy, highly-pixelated image of the ring fills the screen. “Now enhance that section.” Magically, the 50 or so pixels that show the ring vanish and a clear, crisp image of the ring appears in its place. Read More …