Posted by mike demler on September 27, 2007
Welcome to “Analog Insights”
Let’s start by asking the question, what exactly is an analog insight? Something that I heard just last week in a keynote address at BMAS-2007 (IEEE Behavioral Modeling and Simulation Workshop) sums it up for me. This came from San Nassif of IBM, who spoke on the evolution of “Model to Hardware Correlation for Nanometer Technologies”. In his presentation he made the point that the semiconductor industry changed from chip engineering to chip computer science after Mead & Conway.
For those of you who weren’t around back then, Mead & Conway published the seminal text “Introduction to VLSI Systems” back in 1980. This was a few years before Design Compiler was invented. “VLSI Systems” proposed the revolutionary (at the time) idea that the process of IC design could be automated to the point that engineers would not need to know anything about transistors. Well, this was just blasphemy to analog engineers like myself back then!
Now, in 2007, chip computer science such as RTL to gate-level synthesis is taken for granted in digital design methodologies. But chip engineering and analog design never went away, and nanometer effects now dictate that that all IC design requires careful chip engineering once again. Nanometer design requires an analog insight into transistor-level behavior such as device variability, leakage, dynamic IR drop, electromigration, crosstalk… all analog effects that render what was formerly a simple binary view of the world with a great deal of uncertainty. At the same time, analog designers have continued to do amazing things in advancing the state of their art while transistors and operating voltages continue to shrink and make their lives more difficult. A lot of analog insight is required to be able to design analog, mixed-signal, and RF functions on an SoC with millions of digital transistors. But without that insight, the consumer electronics that we are all so accustomed to would not exist.
My hope is that this blog will become a lively place to discuss a wide range of analog insights. Hopefully, the insights will come not just from me, but from the readers of this blog who live with these issues on a daily basis.
To kick things off, here is a list of topics that come to mind. What are your insights?