Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Editor's Notes—Volume 38, Number 4, 2004

You’ve opened the book on the final quarterly issue of 2004, our 38th sequential year in print—and 6th on-line, at Perhaps you’ve read all four issues cover-to-cover. Or perhaps this is your first acquaintance with Analog Dialogue. In any event, here’s your opportunity to spend a moment to be tempted to read an article you may have missed—or to contemplate a title that you’ve already read. You can find copies of all these issues on-line in the archives:

The year started—in Number 1—with PID control algorithms, fan-speed in temperature control, and video technology in automotive safety. In this column, you could have read a rambling historical discourse on (mostly—but not entirely—analog) multipliers.

In the following issue—Number 2—you (could have) read about current measurement in solenoids for automotive controls, bridge amplification with digitally programmed gain and offset, and practical techniques to avoid op-amp instability due to capacitive loading. There was also a description of techniques we use for in-package trimming of a low-cost CMOS amplifier with wide bandwidth, offsets less than 65 µV and drifts less than 7 µV/ºC.

The penultimate issue, Number 3, had an “Ask The Applications Engineer” (#33) feature on direct digital synthesis (DDS), plus articles on JPEG2000 image compression and a digitally adjustable cable equalizer. You also could have read about a reader’s discovery—in a NASA vehicle, in equipment designed before he was born—of an ingenious but deceptively simple hot-wire anemometer. Its design principle was described in a (still interesting) article on measuring fluid flow with a self-balancing bridge; originally appearing in our Volume 5, in 1971, it was reprinted in this issue.

And in these pages today you can read about our designer-oriented updated web site, a new software tool for memory-efficient real-time audio designs, and an “Ask The Applications Engineer” (#34) on wideband CMOS switches.

Thus we close the book on Volume 38 and look forward eagerly to Volume 39, which will commemorate Analog Devices’s 40th year of providing the electronic industry with innovative products, guidance, and ideas for analog- and digital real-world signal processing solutions.

Dan Sheingold []

Satellite Radio, MP3s, and Streaming Audio
Back in the days of analog LPs on vinyl, I owned over 500 record albums. Then, as an early adopter of compact discs, I bought all of my new music on CDs, and even started to replace some of my records. Soon I abandoned the turntable altogether and gave all of my albums to my brother. Sadly, a flood ruined all the records, but I shed nary a tear, exulting in the luxury of the newer, smaller, virtually indestructible CDs.

Yet lately I’ve realized that I rarely buy CDs anymore—and when I listen to them it’s almost always in the car. In my family room I usually listen to one of the dozens of commercial-free, CD-quality audio channels that are available over the digital cable. It makes available a much wider variety of music, and lets me view trivia, history, and other information on the song, album, and artist. When at the computer, I listen to streaming audio from one of several providers, using one of the available media players. The small annual payment for this service makes it possible to listen to high-quality audio from over 1000 stations and lets me download my favorite songs for a nominal additional fee.

At the gym, at the beach, or in the backyard, I listen to my MP3 player. Where do the MP3s come from? Most were ripped from my CD collection, but the newest ones are all downloads. Why buy the whole CD when I need buy only my favorite songs—for a fraction of the cost—and eliminate the storage problem at the same time.

In the car, I listen mostly to the radio, but am constantly annoyed and frustrated by the large number of commercials, especially at drive time. Although I listen to CDs in the car, those jewel boxes take up too much space and are too hard to open safely while driving. CDs in sleeves are more space efficient and are easier to handle, but they’re sometimes hard to identify without their covers. An FM modulator lets me listen to my MP3 player in the car, but the audio quality is not as good as a CD, and it’s sometimes difficult to find an unused radio frequency in Boston’s busy metropolitan market.

Thus, one option that now tops the priority list for my new car is satellite radio, either XM or Sirius. In the early days of cable, skeptics wondered why people would pay to watch TV when they could watch it for free. Today, many people feel the same way about radio, but I look forward to the day when I can give my CD collection to my brother and rely on streaming media wherever I go.
Why am I writing about this here? Because as I drive to work each day I can feel proud that Analog Devices offers amplifiers, converters, and processors that enable satellite receivers, set-top boxes, computer audio, and MP3 players to be small, flexible, power-efficient, and inexpensive—all the while providing high quality and functionality—plus the software that helps developers to quickly bring these products to market.
Your comments are welcome.

Scott Wayne []


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