The electronics of the software

Thread Starter

carloszoom3000

Joined Oct 14, 2015
20
Nowadays we see a lot of software engineers or people in gereral with programing, database, etc skills.
And in that direction, other fields of engineering and other professionals just chainging the course of their professions in that direction.
Those skills have a really high demand for jobs and are very well paid (mostly remore jobs).
1. Does anyone have a reference for how is the hardware taking place into that?
2. Is the electronics of all of that also moving at the same speed?
3. What are the areas of electronics keeping that software running?
4. Is there a distant future where everything just goes software?
I appreciate your comments.
 

dcbingaman

Joined Jun 30, 2021
798
1. Does anyone have a reference for how is the hardware taking place into that?

Most of it appears to me to be going from analog signal processing to digital signal processing.

But I want to put a cavoite here: We will never replace completely replace analog circuitry. Even with DSP processing you still need up front analog conditioning circuitry along with anti aliasing filters prior to ADC inputs to DSP's. And you will always need power electronics with higher and higher power output ratings to supply power to the digital portions of any design.

The more obvious reason: Modifications to a circuit behavior that uses a DSP as opposed to an analog circuit is easier to modify. Changes to an analog signal processing chain requires a complete change in the schematic and the PCB.
Another reason: Analog components tend to have wide tolerance bands (especially for capacitors) thus you cannot achieve as high of an accuracy with an analog signal processing chain as you can with a DSP.
Another reason: For an Analog chain, you have more components this drives up component cost and this also drives up PCB complexity, thus adding additional cost that can be avoided by DSP processing.
Finally, most recently the frequencies and processing power required to process signals using DSP methods did not exist. That technology barrier is now being broken, opening the market to DSP processing.

2. Is the electronics of all of that also moving at the same speed?

Actually it is moving faster. You can now purchase CPLD's and FPGA's with significant increases in component densities. You can even implement an entire microcontroller or microprocessor / mini computer inside of FPGA fabric.

3. What are the areas of electronics keeping that software running?

DSP's (Digital Signal Processors), Micro-Controllers, FPGA's, CPLD's etc.

4. Is there a distant future where everything just goes software?

No way. The hardware will continue to advance along with software tools and even 'in between' firmware stuff like VHDL, and Verilog. Software will always require a hardware platform to operate on. That seems obvious, at least to me.
 
Last edited:

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
31,123
If you look inside a modern digital TV set you will see a lot more than just some digital processing chips.
You will find power supply circuitry, RF signal input circuitry, display screen video interface circuitry, display screen backlight circuitry, audio circuitry, etc.
Not much software involved in those tasks.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,856
Physics requires that analog circuitry will always be needed for some things. The interface between the world and the digital domain is one example. Of course more and more this is being integrated into the chips with only the large components left outside.

The role of software or firmware hasn’t stopped increasing. WIth programmable silicon options like FPGAs and related things the hardware takes the form the software describes. With microcontrollers, what used to be a board full of discrete logic and interfacing components can become a chip with just the number of pins you need for interfacing. Little 8-pin μCs are like user-managed custom ICs. They can be made to do just what you want, and changed without any hardware revision.

So, hardware and software are converging but there is a hard limit to what software can do. You have to get the signals to and from the computer running the software, and that will always be hardware. Hardware will also always be required in handling power which the computers need a lot of. (This could be seen as signal conditioning after a fashion, at least it falls into that category for our purposes here.)

As far as remote work goes, the digitization of hardware design and the high bandwidth of the Internet means that mostly hardware can be designed, collaboratively, no matter where the people are. Thanks to PCB and 3D printing service bureaus that accept all the information about what is needed online, the physical realization of the hardware now has a very large virtual component.

The pervasive availability of cheap, fast shipping means that the build and test part of the process can also be done in as a distributed collaboration. This all breaks down when the item is too large to ship overnight or on a whim. In that case you will have in-person collaboration to build, test, and revise whatever it is you are making.

I find it hard to predict just how far the virtualization of this sort of work will go, but there is one thing I am fairly confident about—AI is going to have a big impact. The rapid improvement in the various AI technologies is going to change what were once jobs into software tools. It will progressively eliminate the need for various jobs that don’t require high levels of expertise leaving the jobs that currently use those roles as tools for their higher level work.

What I don’t know is how far that will go. The reductio ad absurdum conclusion is people who think about what should be built—high level designers, inventors, people called “visionaries”—might be safe from being classed a tool. But how well AI will be implemented, whether social pressures will limit its application, and whether we can survive as a civilization long enough to fully utilize AI are fuzzy, open questions.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,683
Things are going mostly digital because of the versatility of capabilities you have with digital synthesis of analog signals.
If you design a general processing platform for something like power signal generation and control usually the only analog signals on the board are analog inputs for controls and internal current feedbacks from things like digital power electronics for power regulation. These types of signals are them usually converted directly to digital for processing in the signal chain.
1668525727463.png
For example: One basic digital design can handle brushed motors, brushless motors, inverter 400Hz power generation, quaturure 400Hz servos, etc ... with just a change of software.
1668525619992.png
BRUSHED
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BLDC
1668525930306.png
400Hz three phase inverter
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...r-for-3-phase-115v-supply.181424/post-1666364

400Hz motor driver for two-phase servo
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/...drature-phase-400hz-motor.187708/post-1746642

All from the same basic digital DSP power board design.
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
6,705
I note the number of threads on this forum that are posted by someone who is writing software (and probably very capable of so doing) then is trying to interface it to the real world and gets completely flummoxed by aliasing, noise, interference, isolation from the mains, ground loops, bandwidth, filtering or measuring large AC or DC voltages and currents.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
10,683
I note the number of threads on this forum that are posted by someone who is writing software (and probably very capable of so doing) then is trying to interface it to the real world and gets completely flummoxed by aliasing, noise, interference, isolation from the mains, ground loops, bandwidth, filtering or measuring large AC or DC voltages and currents.
Yes, software is just a tool in a bag of tricks you must know to build things digital that must 'live' in an analog world.. Analog electronics is usually EM physics simplified to circuit theory (lumped matter discipline).

A good understanding of analog (nature) is an absolute necessity for interfacing to the real world.
 
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