Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (8-20-12): What Hans Camenzind (1934-2012) hath wrought - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (8-20-12): What Hans Camenzind (1934-2012) hath wrought

Embedded Newsletter for 08-20-2012

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August 20, 2012

Tech Focus: What Hans Camenzind (1934–2012) hath wrought


Hans Camenzind, 555 timer inventor, dies

Move over RC: silicon timing has you beat

High performance frequency reference design using a PWM

Save power and real estate with a programmable reset controller with debounced input

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

The inventor of the now ubiquitous 555 timer circuit – Hans Camenzind – died this month after a life that was creative to the end. Soft-spoken but definite – and well-reasoned – in his opinions (such as who the real inventor of the IC was ), he was always generous with his time in explaining the intricacies of circuit design to a young technology journalist who was eager to learn. He seemed to me to be the sort of person who had figured out that the best way to a fulfilled life was to find an interest that was intellectually absorbing and do it well. In that goal he was successful. By 2006, he had designed over 140 standard and custom ICs.

In addition to creating the 555 timer, he designed the first integrated class D amplifie r, introduced the phase-locked loop concept to ICs, and invented the semicustom IC. He was granted about 20 U.S. patents for his circuit design innovations and was generous in teaching what he knew to others either as a lecturer or as an author. His most recent book in 2007 (“Much ado about almost nothing“) provides his perspective on the electronics industry as he lived it. But most useful to me were his textbooks on circuit design, one of which (“Designing Analog Circuits“) I refer to regularly not just for its technical insights but for lessons on how to write about technical subjects clearly.

Collected here are a number of design articles published on Embedded.com in which the use of the 555 timer is a key component. In addition, here are my Editor's Top Picks of 555 timer tips and tricks articles:

Reliable 555 timer doesn't falsely trigger
555 timer eliminates LED driver need for MPU control
555 timer drives multiple LEDs from one NiMH cell
Analog switch converts 555 timer into a PWM
Use a 555 timer as a switch-mode power supply
555 makes handy voltage-to-time converter

To get a sense of the man, read and listen to the Semiconductor Museum three part oral historyas well as hear and see him in Part 1 and Part 2 in a YouTube video series on the design of the 555. There is also a YouTube video channel he created where he talks about some of the engineers he admired. To understand why an estimated 1 billion 555 timer circuits are still built every year, check out some of the many videos of 555 DIY projects published on line.

(P.S. – In the upcoming weeks, you'll notice some changes on Embedded.com . The major one is Embedded.com becomes its own site again, with the URL www.embedded.com . Using a design that enables easier reading on mobile and tablet devices, we're bringing back the popular forums and ESP/ESD magazine archives, plus some new features: content collections and development centers to help you find related content faster. We are continuing the same content you love: our expert columnists and how-to articles. )

Design How-Tos

The case for stand-alone reset timers in mobile devices

Stand-alone reset timers offer the most reliable resolution to the 'white screen of death' problem in mobile devices.

Slow Response Servo Circuit

The circuit described in this article provides a very smooth adjustable servo response without having to use a high value electrolytic capacitor or very large value resistors.

Building a reliable capacitive-sensor interface

Capacitive sensors on printed-circuit boards are usually in the range of 50 fF to 20 pF, making it difficult to detect small changes accurately. Thus, while these increasingly popular sensors offer unique advantages, they require a suitable analog interface.

Designing high-temp electronics for auto and other apps

High-temperature semiconductor technologies can survive temperatures approaching 400°C, but careful design of the product is required to deliver cost-effective devices achieving stable, predictable performance.

How to get the most out of a single timer on an MCU

This article suggests a method to incorporate the functionality of both an RTC and a PWM in a microcontroller equipped with only a single timer.

Embedded design tip: timer interrupt “dirty trick” speeds up data acquisition

Andreas Gruen describes how to tweak an MCU's timer interrupt to speed up data acquisition by using buffer overflows ” a well known dirty trick used in many computer viruses.

Analog circuit enforces slow servo response, sets other servo parameters

When you need a reliable analog-only circuit to manage a servosystem, this circuit offers control of critical parameters with low-value Rs and Cs.

Back to the basics: Doing Hardware Counter/Timer design using High School Science

Using the same unit-conversion techniques and dimensional analysis techniques learned in high school, Zane Purvis takes non-engineers and newcomers to embedded design step-by-step through the configuration of a counter/timer.

Save power and real estate with a programmable reset controller with debounced input

The long time delay of the Hard Reset poses a design problem because delays into the tens of seconds call for very large value resistors and capacitors. The analog solution is both simple and low cost but it lacks flexibility and accuracy. A programmable reset timer becomes the obvious solution when considering long delay times or multiple timers. Here's an article that tells you the specifics about how to create this design.

2012 Embedded Market Survey webinar

UBM Electronics' 17th annual survey of embedded systems designers worldwide shows trends in software and hardware usage. The 2012 Embedded Market Survey also looks at languages, productivity, and the challenges design teams rank as most important. A webinar on Friday April 20 will examine the results from over 1,700 respondents from across the embedded industry, the dataset enables a deep analysis to track key changes in this important electronics industry segment. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions online. To register click here .


Clock/timer-IC family emulates versatility concept of venerable 555

TimerBlox building blocks from Linear Technology provide timer/clock functional blocks, can relieve uC responsibilities at lower power

Timer IC is simple to program with just one resistor

Touchstone Semiconductor released its latest timer IC that can be set with just one resistor compared with its predecessor, which needed both a resistor and capacitor.

Easy-to-program silicon timer uses little supply current

Touchstone Semiconductor has released a silicon timer that uses only 1µA of supply current, which it claims is 15 times less than its closest competitor.

ADI rolls new demods and PLL

Today, Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) has released two new quadrature demodulators and a new phase locked loop (PLL) for use in wireless infrastructure and point to point systems

Freebie PLL design tool debuts with PLL hardware

RF chip maker Analog Devices is rolling out a new generation of its existing ADIsimPLL PLL circuit design and evaluation tool, as well as two new PLL synthesizers. One IC is good for use to 350-MHz; the other to 6-GHz.


Introduction to Counter/Timers

Counter/timer hardware is a crucial component of most embedded systems. In some cases a timer is needed to measure elapsed time; in others we want to count or time some external events. Here's a primer on the hardware.

Introduction to Watchdog Timers

For those embedded systems that can't be constantly watched by a human, watchdog timers may be the solution.

Watching the Watchdog

Although good watchdog hardware is key, it's the software that really makes it work. Jack explains how to keep an eye on your dog.

Watchdogs redux

Vendors and researchers are trying some new tricks with watchdog timers. Here are some notable attempts to improve the old dog.

555 Contest

Win valuable prizes in a 555 timer contest!


Is a watchdog timer a crutch for lousy developers or a wise bit of insurance?

Sponsored White Papers

Phase-Locked Loop Basics

Phase-Locked Loops Demystified

Comparison of Internal and External Watchdog Timers

Phase-Locked Loop Simulation with Modulated Stead-State Analysis

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) with the MAXQ2000 Timer Type 2

Courses and Webinars

Frequency Synthesis, Part 1: Phased Locked Loops

ESC SV-181- The Future of Timing – MEMS vs. Quartz

Replacing Crystals and CMOS Crystal Oscillators with Multi-PLL Programmable Clocks for Set Top Box, Digital TV, Home Gateways and Consumer Applications


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