Analog Angle Blog

Analog circuit bliss can be yours, with a modest investment

I’ve just reviewed third volume of the Analog Circuit Design series, Analog Circuit Design: Design Note Collection (edited by Bob Dobkin and John Hamburger) and thumbing through it is a trip to an idyllic, analog-circuit land. The book is divided into chapters by topic – power supply, sensor conditioning –and has a detailed index which also points to app notes based on keywords. There are so many good circuit ideas and topologies along with analysis of subtleties and design issues, that anyone who is a serious student or practitioner of the art and reality of analog design (whether by choice or mandate) will receive a substantial return on time invested. Since this volume is a compilation of application notes from Linear Technology Corp., the devices used are taken from their product line, of course, but that’s almost irrelevant to the benefits.

LTC is not the only vendor to provide numerous and comprehensive application notes covering broad, “eternal” design issues such as understanding and minimizing sources of error in sensor-conditioning circuits, in addition to notes which show how to get maximum performance from specific parts. Analog vendors have been doing this for years: Analog Dialogue and various handbooks from Analog Devices, and the shelf full of blue books from National Semiconductor (prior to their acquisition by Texas Instruments), are just two examples of easily available analog knowledge.

The previous volumes of this series, Analog Circuit Design: A Tutorial Guide to Applications and Solutions and Analog Circuit Design: Immersion in the Black Art of Analog Design (both co-authored by the late, much-missed Jim Williams and Bob Dobkin, LTC's Chief Technical Officer) explored many design issues and provided many perspectives on any given challenge, including noise, low-power operation, power supplies (linear and switching), drivers/receivers, slew rate issues, sourcing and sinking, impedance compliance voltage, test procedures and probing, and more; those are just a few of a long list. The three books total 3270 pages and 16 pounds (7.2 kg), so you might think they can be overwhelming, but they are not.

It may seem to be a throwback to those “good old days” to publish this material in traditional printed-page book form as well as e-book form, since all this material is available online (and for free). I have no idea how many copies they will sell and what the profit will be, if any. I do know that seeing all this material from LTC (as well as similar from other vendors) is a real commitment of precious time and money.

By thumbing through these books, their tables of content, and their index sections, you may see approaches to design challenges that you wouldn’t have thought of looking at before. This is because paper is a near-ideal serendipitous search tool, for quickly scanning and exploring alternatives when you are not sure what you are looking for. An engineer may want to more-fully investigate partially defined design options, getting that “aha” spark when two disparate pieces come together in innovative fusion. It's similar to what I felt when I first read Jim Williams' eye-opening 1976 article in EDN , “This 30-ppm scale proves that analog designs aren’t dead yet” which epitomized what Samuel Florman called “The Existential Pleasures of Engineering”.

How did you “learn” analog? Was it by desire, or necessity? What resources did you use?

11 comments on “Analog circuit bliss can be yours, with a modest investment

  1. kencoffman
    January 14, 2015

    I'm not sure it's possible to conquer analog, though the tools in our mental toolbox can be more or less complete, I suppose. All I hope for is being more or less ready to learn the next hard lesson. Ha!

  2. Buck-on-Bass
    January 14, 2015

    I agree with Ken.  I have a toolkit of knowledge and I'm expanding it with every project.

    January 15, 2015

    Yes its always good to use all your resources that are available and that can be used in every scenario that you get. It will prove and provide you a verdict of the importance and the value of the resources you have and used so far. 

  4. chirshadblog
    January 15, 2015

    @Ken: I think it's a positive sign. Yes you do need to study hard and try many research work. Also we do have big names to support so I guess its more than a reality

  5. samicksha
    January 15, 2015

    It takes special attention to design analog circuits, like radio receiver, or an analog battery charger on other hand digital components exist to make those designs much simpler, but still analog circuits can be elegant designs with many components, or they can be very simple, like two resistors combining to make a voltage divider.

  6. Davidled
    January 15, 2015

    Knowledge obtained through experience of every analog circuit project could be a worthy of toolkit that might not get the text book.

  7. chirshadblog
    January 15, 2015

    @DaeJ: Yes experience that you gain from hands on experience is very much more valuable than what you read and learn from textbooks. If you cannot convert the knowledge that you gain from textbooks to practical scenarios, then whatever that you read will vanish from your mind in a few days' time.

  8. Vishal Prajapati
    January 16, 2015

    I agree and mostly believe that the Analog circuit design is an art and can only be learnt practically. Untill you don't put it to the practice you don't really gain the confidence of knowing it.


    In case of digital electronics, you read the books and datasheet and you can claim and have an assurance that the things will work as you read. But in Analog there are so many parameters to make a single small circuit work that you can only make it work by trial and error. Atleast this has been the case for me. How about others?

  9. vasanjk
    January 16, 2015

    Bill My career in electronics started way back in 1984. We had a lot of valve based designs and eyed transistor designs with suspicion and awe. Having used high dc voltages at the order of 180 V for those vacuum tubes, transistors appeared to be miracles with low voltage operations. We did not encounter the word “digital” in our syllabus until after another five years. For us analog was the only electronics ever known. I always felt that analog is like trekking inside a forest without a map and digital is simply navigating with a GPS smartphone in a crowded city. No wonder the former is always interesting as it gives an unmatched satisfaction while keeping up the fun and, of course, the thrill.

  10. ue2014
    January 26, 2015

    I have read in a book “Qualifications will get the job for you, but it will not do the job for you”. What ever we learn from books will direct us how it should be done, but practical knowledge only will teach us how it could be done effectively with out any practical failure.

  11. shankarnai
    April 13, 2015

    nice post thank you

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