Friday, July 23, 2004

The Chips Are Down

After over a year in development, the prototypes for the latest chip I worked on are now back, although shipping and receiving seems to be taking their own sweet time delivering them. So I have a couple days reprieve while the chips get put on their boards at the proto manufacturing house, and then life gets really, really busy.

It's kind of exciting, because it's the first time in my career that I've been heavily involved in the bring-up process. On all the other chips I've worked on, either the project got cancelled (most frequent), I left the company before the chips came back, or I was doing verification and the design team never asked for help.

My co-worker and I were trying to actually see the chips, which is why we were annoyed that shipping has "lost" them. In a way it's a silly reflex -- by and large all chips look the same on the outside -- but it's cool (and wierd) that we spend so much time working on a project, and it comes back and it's only an inch square.

A lot of the time when people ask me what I do, I tell them I write code. It's easier than trying to explain the difference between a hardware engineer and a software engineer.


neb.frank. said...

to trouble you for the OTHER side of things...
do >software< engineers spend more time testing than writing? is there a hierarchy with higher-ups handing down commands like 'make an object with these properties' or is it closer to a collaboration of peers who all start with the same big conceptual chunk? or both or neither, or depending? i suppose by default i'd be asking about a project that's relatively new/unique, as opposed to * vX.x...

also, (before i actually check here) is there a switch i can hit to get email notification of replies to posts and/or replies here? if not, would it be a headache for you to 'publish' your entries to my email account? my 'healthy web time' tends to max out between email and livejournal. also trying to check in more often at, which my friend max put together a few years back. not as slick and user-chummy (to my technopeasant eyes and fingers) as the others...
or you could just, you know, defect to LJ. [fiendish chuckle]

Guy said...

I think I've got enough momentum at blogger that I'm staying here for the time being. If something finally convinces me to move I'll probably go the way of my other services and self-host.

As for software people, it's all over the map. Microsoft apparently does a large amount of testing on their products before shipping them, and software for hard-to-service devices has traditionally undergone a great deal of testing. On the other hand, they were downloading new code to the Mars rover every night, so I guarentee they didn't do more than 24 hours of testing before beaming it up.

Computer games are usually getting changes pushed into them right up to the day they burn the CD. Many new games ship the CDs before the game is done testing and make the user download patches -- it's a bad sign when you buy a game the day it comes out and you have to download a 20MB patch.

So, for software, it depends on where its going. Hardware all has one thing in common, which is after you've made the chip you can't fix it, and is tested accordingly.