The leaders in any field of human endeavor have some common characteristics. One of them is their keen effort to be at the forefront of any new developments in their field. In electronics engineering, this effort includes frequent updates on available components that can be incorporated into new designs. New components are usually announced on Web pages of companies producing them, and they later appear in printed catalogs. Some companies have abandoned paper altogether, though it remains useful in a digital age. The design engineer can keep a paper catalog at arm’s length, marked with sticky pieces of paper (predominantly yellow in color) and thumb through them more quickly than through PDF pages on a computer screen. Consequently, older technology is sometimes better in some of its features than newer technology.
This can be extended to parts too. ICs with 5μm geometry do not have the problems with radiation, metal migration, or electrostatic discharge of 100 nm parts. Components with an extended history are well-characterized and manufactured globally, while the newer parts can only be made by a few esoteric fab houses in Silicon Valley or along Route 128. These proven parts offer a broader choice of suppliers and are multiple-sourced for greater availability.
To illustrate what one must do to be on the leading edge of the rediscovery and recovery of the better-established and proven technology, the first step is to stock one’s engineering bookshelf with catalogs such as those shown below.
It is also important to not thoughtlessly rule out the use of components from companies long out of business. Think about it; why did they go out of business? Because they were not selling enough parts. And what consequently happened to all those parts they could not sell? They ended up being dumped onto the surplus electronics supplier market. These companies should top your list, for you can often get parts of theirs at bargain prices, well below ordinary market prices of comparable parts from existing companies. This will give your new design a price edge in the market without undercutting profit margins. You might even be able to compete directly from North America with Asian manufacturing, especially if you buy out all remaining inventory of a discontinued part, thereby achieving a monopoly on its use.
So, think outside the box and break away from the herd of engineers designing the usual way, who assume the conventional rules still apply. Be bold, go old, and succeed. As the population ages, you will be tracking an increasingly nostalgic market base for whom such product designs should have particular appeal. And by the way, the Russians have an excellent line of Sovtek thermionic valves (electron tubes) for those who really want to break away from the crowd and lead the field, especially in audio!