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May 17, 2001

National Semiconductor Analog Seminar (Bob Pease)

The local National Semiconductor Analog Seminar Series Spring 2001 was held in Irvine, California, March 23, 2001. Now I'm an good note taker, but I can't find my notes in any of my normal filing locations. So this is an example of what at least one attendee remembers two months after the event.

Bob Pease was the star of this seminar with the normal supporting cast. During the opening remarks the speaker went through each agenda item and asked the audience to show their interest by a show of hands. Each item got a good showing of hands. Then he asked who came to hear Bob Pease. Every hand in the audience went up and some held both hands up. Analog designer, author, and stand-up comedian, Bob Pease is certainly a legend in his own time and a major asset for National Semiconductor. Bob, in contrast to what he calls the normal Power Point digital viewgraphs with computer projector, uses what he calls analog viewgraphs, hand drawn transparencies with Xerox copies of schematics and cartoons which he shows on an old fashioned viewgraph projector.

Bob Pease's trek to the Himalayan foothills, and plans for another trek, started off the presentation. Along with photos, it covered some interesting facts on acclimatizing, complete with an engineering-like schedule of stair walking (real analog stairs, not the machines in fitness centers) to get in shape. Then the flood gates of knowledge from years of designing analog circuits opened.

The flood-gate analogy is a good description. I think I missed the content of the first half-dozen or so viewgraphs. They came like the precisely-timed machine-controlled word flashes used in a speed reading class. In speed reading training, at first you don't even think they flashed a word. Only with much practice do you see and recognize the word flashed on the screen. If two minutes is the standard for showing viewgraphs, Bob's standard is less by an order of magnitude divided by two. Rarely was a viewgraph on the screen for more than six seconds -- and out-of-order viewgraphs never broke the rhythm. Can you really learn anything under these conditions? Yes. If nothing else you learn that you need to read Bob's books, application notes, and columns at your own pace to tap into his vast knowledge. Some of this is available on the Web. A good starting point is What's All This Home Page Stuff, Anyhow? You can also search for Bob Pease on the Google Search Engine and the National Semiconductor website.

Good analog circuits and bad analog circuits and how to tell the difference formed a major part of the presentation. I especially liked how he tore apart the analog circuit example used in a book on the Taguchi method. I had read the same book and was a believer in the method until I reached the analog circuit example. Pease, a believer in the value of Design of Experiments (DOE), showed no mercy in ripping apart this Taguchi example. The example optimizes a circuit that does not work! Pease and the audience had great fun.

I discussed the Transactional Analysis concepts of Child, Adult, and Parent in some earlier comments on the Unitrode seminar. Most of Bob Pease's presentation was from the Child, the seat of emotions including humor, and he had the free-wheeling humor of a stand-up comic. The audience was in laughter most of the time. However, he flipped into the Adult every few seconds to deliver a nugget of engineering gold.

Between bouts with Bob Pease, the supporting cast covered National Semiconductors latest offerings in high speed operational amplifiers, web simulation, power management and conversion, high speed interconnects, audio amplifiers, data conversion, and microcontrollers, all packaged in the seminar book. CD's and parts were also available. Rather than the nominal $100 charged for this type of vendor seminar, this one was free.

Posted by smpstech at May 17, 2001 12:00 PM