Several years ago, I read about some educator who was oh-so-proud of his students. Rather than merely being taught the Pythagorean Theorem for right triangles (a2 + b2 = c2), his elementary-school students spent two weeks and re-discovered it for themselves. “They’ll never forget it,” or something like that, was his beaming boast.
I thought to myself, “That’s nice.” But will they next spend valuable time re-discovering all of algebra, geometry, and maybe even calculus? I surely hope not. What about all the physics, chemistry, and biology learning that has to be done? There’s not enough time to figure it all out by yourself, and when you’ve done it, you are still just at the level of what everyone else already knows.
Unglamorous as it sounds, sometimes the best way to learn something is to have it taught to you directly by someone who already knows it. It may not be as “satisfying” (whatever that means) or romantic as self-discovery, and it may clash with the educational establishment’s latest fad, but hey, that’s life.
The same guideline applies to professionals such as engineers. Circuit and system designers know that they need to leverage and build on what others have done, to avoid the problems that others have already encountered, and to not repeat mistakes others have made and fixed (usually at great cost in time and aggravation). The way many designers do this is via various web-based searches using key words and various social media resources, and that’s OK as a partial solution.
But an equally important part of being taught is to find some good books, whether in e-book or paper format. The right book gives you the broad scope you need, establishes context, and most importantly, addresses issues and questions you may not have even thought of searching for.
For analog designers or anyone who brushes against analog design issues (and who doesn’t?), Analog Circuit Design: A Tutorial Guide to Applications and Solutions coauthored by the late, sorely missed Jim Williams and Bob Dobkin (CTO of Linear Technology and designer of some of its most innovative ICs) is a great place to start.
Each time I look though this book, I get new insight and understanding based on the knowledge, experience, challenges, and mysteries the authors and other contributors bring. There are so many facets and perspectives to this book that when you are done with it, you wonder, “There can’t be more, can there?”
But there is. Just published is Analog Circuit Design Volume 2: Immersion in the Black Art of Analog Design, and it looks to be a continuation into the exploration of the subtleties of analog-design reality.
Given how many of today’s designs and products involve some sort of sensor/transducer input/output (whether it is immediately obvious such as with a temperature sensor, or not-so-obvious as with a touch screen) or analog “affects” impinging on high-speed digital circuits (signal integrity, ground currents, slew rates), books like this can help you get your job done faster and with fewer re-spins.
Who among you doesn’t want to avoid sleepless nights and long weekends at the test bench, or with the production or field-return folks? Let’s face it: there are plenty of good textbooks out there that present and discuss those all-important fundamental principles, theories, and equations. But those that get into the down-and-dirty reality are harder to find.
Are there any practical, hands-on books that have made a difference to you in your career?