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Analog Angle Article Blog

Wake me, shake me, fake me; or, is that really a dead parrot?

As an editor covering the analog world, I meet a lot of vendors who are showing me their latest products, almost always ICs. At the same time, readers sometimes tell me that “vendor so-and-so can't really deliver that part” or “how do you know that the part really meets specs, or is even real?”

Short answer: I don't know and can't tell. Even if I could do basic functionality tests on the device (which is practical only for the simplest ICs, and very difficult for ICs with complex internal functions), I simply cannot test the parts to see if they meet their specs.

Let's face it: it takes lots of expensive, often specialized equipment, and a very carefully worked-out test setup, to do a valid test. Even then, it's easy to unintentionally mis-test a part due to noise, signal path, layout, instrumentation, and the many other misfortunes that circuits, especially analog ones, are subject to.

What made me think about this was a recent story that a publication called Wine Spectator gave out one of their “excellence” awards to a non-existent restaurant, where a prankster had created a fake menu, wine list, and web site. It turns out that to be eligible for this award, a restaurant could nominate itself by sending in a form and supporting specifics, along with a $250 entry fee. No one from Wine Spectator ever visited the nominees, and amazingly (wink, wink, nod, nod), 90% of those who nominated themselves (and sent int heir money) received the award.

So I wondered, do I face the same dilemma? I concluded I do not. Analog vendors are actually very cautious bunch. They usually don't even let me know about a specific product until they have several thousand samples available for evaluation. I very rarely hear the scary phrase “here are the product specs, and by the way, we're excepting first silicon next quarter.” These vendors live and die by their reputations and credibility, and if they can't deliver a part as specified, designer engineers will be reluctant to use them as a vendor again on the BOM.

I don't mean to imply that there never is a problem with a just-announced part. Sure, sometimes a part passes through initial release and then production problems do arise; after all, “stuff happens.”

But this is truly an exception, and I can't recall any instance of deliberate faking or misdirection on product specs by well-known, top-, second-, and even third-tier vendors.. Unlike the differing perspectives of “it's dead/no it's not” of the classic Monty Python “dead parrot” sketch, analog parts can usually be assessed unambiguously if you have the right setup, so there is little room for smooth talk. [You can read the script of this classic sketchhere, or better yet, watch it here.]

Believe me, the credibility of the analog vendor community makes my life a lot easier, much better than dealing with the often smoke-and-mirrors world of software products!

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