I always try to think so far out of the box that people tend to think I am crazy, or maybe I have just shocked myself way too much. However, do you think 30 years from now we will have any discrete components? Will we just be using small- and large-scale integration devices (ICs and modules)? What about the reactive components as part of noise suppression and in power applications?
Could you imagine opening up your application and not seeing any PC boards or maybe just a PCB with a couple chips? I mean, come on, if we believe the Disney cartoons from 50 years ago, we'll have cars and buildings that float off the ground. So in the next 50 years, why can't we bend the electronic limits and pack everything from the 120V input, through the supply rails, and on to the microprocessor into a nice small module?
Hmm… I guess we already do all this today. I mean, we do have wall warts with transformers and electrolytic caps, obviously we have micros and nice power modules, ASICs, etc… What if you could just place your entire circuit together just like a few Lego pieces? What if your schematic now is just a block diagram? Could you imagine buying your design from a catalogue, flipping through the power supply pages… Maybe I am just way too overboard on this one, but it's nice to think about the time you would save.
However, if it were that simple, that would take away from our world of competitiveness and innovation. Maybe electronics would become boring, albeit simplified. Maybe new ideas would lessen, and creative designs would diminish. Maybe it is just not possible, no matter where our knowledge takes us.
I just go back to the day where I was considering putting an entire analog sensor circuit into an ASIC. I think my circuit, including the small power supply, contained about 40 components. I had an ASIC supplier review the design, because I wanted this entire sensor circuit in a chip. I think the circuit could have been condensed just slightly. The ASIC would have brought my BOM count down from 40 to about 27 components.
What's the point in that? Obviously the metal polyfilm cap, the electrolytics, the diodes, and a few other large parts could not be incorporated into the ASIC and had to stay discrete. Just daydream for a second — thinking if all 40 of those components could have been jammed into a 1 inch by 1 inch block with maybe three connector ports: AC and sensor inputs, outputs for LEDs. I could mount that little block anywhere and not really have to worry about ESD or wire routing or managing a large BOM, purchasing individual components, etc.
I have come to realize that each application is different — even circuits in the same application one year to the next. Due to the thousands of different designs in the world, it may not be even close to possible to catalogue designs. Maybe our only miniscule chance would be to catalogue or modularize standard circuits based on the industry segment: medical, military, telecom, industrial, etc. Each industry would have design modules to choose from and piece together.
Maybe I should come back to reality based on our actual electronic component capabilities and not wonder too far out of the box. Although, maybe I am on to something, but just need to get there one small step at a time.
Let me know your thoughts.
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