The right approach to computer modeling

Discussion in 'Wireless & RF Design' started by KL7AJ, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    As I stroke my floor-length white beard, pondering what words of wisdom I could impart to the young "whippersnappers" on this forum....several wide-ranging thoughts come to mind.
    Lots of my students wonder what I think about computer modeling, since the greater portion of my career was spent long before such marvels were readily available. Oh, sure, we had mainframe computers, but we had to PAY for the processing time.

    Let me say that, contrary to what the perception might be, nobody APPRECIATES computer modeling more than someone who's had to design circuits the HARD way for a few decades. When I think of what we had to do to desingn a 14 pole Chebychev filter BY HAND, I wouldn't impose that torture on ANYONE! (At least not on anyone I LIKED!~)

    Actually, my first exposure to computer modeling wasn't with circuits, but rather with ANTENNAS, using the famous NEC-2 (Numeric Electric Code) developed by the Lawrence Livermore national lab. I'm glad I had a lot of experience with practical antenna design BEFORE subjecting myself to the glories and woes of NEC-2. As one of my mentors wisely counseled..."You'd better know what the answer will be before you hand it over to a computer."

    Or, even more succinctly put.... "Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity."

    Good computer modeling is an organic exchange between the solder-scarred workbench and the PC. The computer is no substitute for thought and creativity. It just makes them a little easier.

    When I think of how easy it is to compile a SPICE netlist, fire it across the country (or around the world) so someone else can collaborate on a new design....I stagger with awe and appreciation. This process could take months or YEARS in the not-too-distant past. NEVER take this technology for granted!

    I am so glad that the hard work of protyping and building is alive and well...at least on this forum. Many schools are dropping the lab classes, in favor of nothing but computer modeling (not just in electronics, but in chemistry and physics as well)...which I think is an abominable mistake. Sooner or later your masterpiece is going to have to encounter the real world. Students who know what a resistor SMELLS like are going to have an edge over the mathematical abstraction.

    I'm also gratified that there is a lot of emphasis on power transmission engineering on this forum....which I'm sure is due to the large number of foreign students. Such "unglamorous" disciplines are all-but-forgotten in most American electrical engineering courses, where students use Electrical Engineering and Computer "science" pretty much synonymously. Mark my words...POWER technology is going to be VERY GLAMOROUS in the very near future. We created our very own brain drain in America by forgetting the classics.

    When I worked in the UCLA plasma lab, I loved working with foreign grad students...from Russia, China, Malaysia, Pakistan....because they were always more optimistic. American students had seen it all....and were, in general, pretty jaded about technology. It was still exciting and new to most of these "new arrivals." They had learned how to make do with VERY primitive hardware in the "old country", and were SO appreciative of what they had available here.

    I get this marvelous magazine, Design World. I look at the staggering new materials we have, and we're right at the threshold of so many more new manufacturing processes...things like 3d printers....organic LED's...countless others...I fairly quiver in my boxer shorts just thinking about the possibilities.

    Forget what the doomsayers say about the economy...Things are shifting around, but they aren't going away! Erase the concept of "employment" from your thinking. There are COUNTLESS new opportinities beating on your door every day. If you can't think of a new idea for an exciting new product...you just aren't thinking.

    I read a book about twenty years ago, "The End of the Corporation." Forgot who the author was, but he was just about twenty years ahead of his time. He basically predicted that we would soon have a nation of about 250 million entrepreneurs. The bottom line is that wealth is created in your head. As long as we have new ideas, the economy is unstoppable. It may not be RECOGNIZABLE in its former form, but it will be exciting.

    Right now is the best possible time in history to be an engineer.

    You have my word.

    Eric
     
  2. thatoneguy

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    Feb 19, 2009
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    Great Post!

    The lack of "hands on" immediately reminds me of the recent news story where they forgot how to make a Trident missile. All the old designers that built them are gone, and the new crowd hasn't built a nuke before. Similar things have happened at NASA, they went to the Smithsonian to see how some problems were solved on the Apollo mission so that "lost data" could be used to fix the Space Shuttle.

    Schools are going into pure theory now, sounds awful boring.

    Never stop "tinkering"!
     
  3. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    Hi, guy!

    I read to my horror recently that the U.S. has precisely ONE plant still "geared up" to manufacture bevel hypoid gears. Now, granted, the bevel hypoid was created to solve a very specific problem...to reduce the "driveshaft hump" in rear wheel drive cars. This is sort of an obsolete problem. But people don't realize the hundreds of man-years that went into this development (not to mention a few strokes of absolute genius along the way). This is just ONE example of countless specialized skills that have become lost arts. You see this most glaringly in the machining industries, but it doesn't end there. You don't just "turn on" a factory that's been dead for a decade or two. It has to be resurrected from the dead....if the recipe can still be found.

    In the electrical field....people who really have a grasp on power transmission theory are exceedingly rare. To the uninitiated, nothing may seem simpler than draping a bunch of wire across the countryside. Yet some of the math necessary to ride herd on a complex power network will rival ANYTHING you'll see in computer technology...perhaps far exceed it. And of course, without an effecitive power transmission system, all our high tech appliances are pretty helpless! (You may remember the mantra about 20 years ago...."Go Green, get off the grid". It didn't take long for physicists on BOTH sides of the political spectrum to realize that going "off the grid" was the LEAST green thing you coud do! The efficiency of any generator goes up as the CUBE of the size...across the board!)

    Anyway...thanks for the feedback. :)

    Eric
     
  4. studiot

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    Nov 9, 2007
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    So how big is a one thousand percent efficient generator?

    :D:confused::D
     
  5. KL7AJ

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    What's the cube root of infinity? :)
     
  6. thatoneguy

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    They can be quite small, often fit in an average car when the true source of "extra energy" is ignored/overlooked/masked.
     
  7. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
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    The flux capacitor is the bulky part.
     
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