As an Engineer, I was never much on reading. I'm more visually orientated and hands on. I'd rather be sitting in a lab blowing up circuits or laying out a circuit board. However, when it came to selecting those critical components, I just couldn't help but put on my reading glasses and start going through the component datasheets. I really enjoyed the 80 page datasheets. Okay — maybe that's a slight exaggeration. I actually much preferred the half page notes on chip resistors.
I have read at least a thousand datasheets in my time, and from the first one I ever saw to number one thousand, I always ask myself if I'm benefiting from them. I mean, when datasheets are written, are they really taking into consideration the millions of possible applications? What works for you may not work for me.
Do we just look at datasheets to get a general idea of what could work? Do we use them as a comparison tool to weed out competition and save time and more quickly get to the workbench? We never really know what works until we run the parts through the ringer and properly qualify them. There are many times when I've seen parts perform differently in the reality of the application than what the datasheets claimed. Sometimes better and sometimes worse.
I do realize how important datasheets can be, but for the sake of this discussion, let's think a little deeper. Are datasheets really technical documents or are they marketing material to promote the part? Are the technical writers and marketing people that put these documents together experienced in the testing and in the real world applications? Maybe they don't need to be as they are just taking data from the test engineers and making the data look pretty on paper.
How reliable are the datasheets that many of us at times rely on 100% for our designs. I have actually met some engineers that do not ever request datasheets. They simply order the samples and go to test. I guess there are pros and cons to each method.
Is there a better tool or a document that engineers would prefer or that they would benefit more from other than these technical/marketing documents? We think that reading through the data will save us time, but what if the components you did not select based on the datasheet were actually the parts that performed the best in actual application? Maybe, for the part you decided to use, the technical writer was just a better writer.
I am interested to see what the opinions are out there. Let me know your thoughts regarding which components benefit from actual datasheets and for which components it really wouldn't matter.