Second-Level Interconnects

Your article (Keeping up with Moore) assumes that components will be connected externally on a PC board, etc.

Do you think that is going to happen, either extensively or for a long period of time? The name of the game today is the so-called system on a chip; integration. The days of discrete design and interconnect are rapidly disappearing, if not gone already. Where can I find a job managing discrete design?

Thanks for your interest in High-Speed Digital Design.

I've been hearing the "system-on-a-chip" arguments for about twenty years now. It's never happened yet.

The most persuasive case for the system-on-a-chip philosophy is made in the PC industry, where the idea is that we will end up with systems comprised of just one big CPU chip, with a direct keyboard interface and a video interface, and that's all. I have the following opinion about this philosophy:

21st-Century Flash

Here I am in the year 2011, fourteen years after writing this newsletter, and, except for very simple products, we STILL don't have many complete "system-on-a-chip" designs.

(1) What about the disk drive? How about the CD-ROM? How about virtual-reality interface ports? What about memory? (You will notice that the big CPU chips don't include 32 Mbyte of memory). How about high-speed network interfaces (Gigabit Ethernet is coming to the desktop). All of these factors will require high-speed interface signals going in and out of the CPU. The idea that we will contain all the high-speed stuff within the CPU is hogwash.

(2) PCs represent only a fraction of the electronics market. Take the skins off any piece of big gear from CISCO, Bay Networks, 3Com, Ascend, Packet Engines, Northern Telecom, Lucent, Siemens, Alcatel, EMC, Storage Tek, or any other company working in networking, telecommunications, or data storage. There's plenty of second-level interconnect (i.e., PCB interconnect) stuff going on inside those machines. If you want a job that involves lots of signal integrity issues, look to companies in these fields.

Best regards,
Dr. Howard Johnson