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An Analogy with Electronics

Twenty years ago, electronics development required very good math skills and knowledge of the fundamental characteristics of transistors and other basic parts because circuits were made from thousands of discrete components. Once designed, a circuit was prototyped and debugged using low-level tools such as an oscilloscope.

Nowadays, it's all very different. Most electronics are built from just a few, very powerful components ("chips"). Plugging these chips together requires skill, but not on the same level as discrete design did. In effect, electronics has been deskilled for the majority of designers.

The difficult and interesting jobs in electronics are in chip design. This is where the nitty-gritty thinking about complex architectures and serious mathematics takes place, and where powerful low-level simulation, analysis, and test-generation tools are used. Most chips are very fully documented (there are often hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages for a microprocessor), and the chips conform to their specifications absolutely 100%.

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