Monday, June 22, 2009

June 12, 2009 - An eventful day ...

June 12th,2009 has been an eventful day for me for various reasons.The reasons for celebrating this day are more than one,in my case and this blog will share them with you.

1) DTV Transition:
The first reason is that a wholesome "Transition to Digital TV" is complete in the US on this historic day and from this date on, we bid a farewell to the Analog broadcast and the TV Stations will only broadcast digital signals.The DTV is going to revolutionize the TV watching experience round the globe and get ready to enjoy television with better picture and sound quality.

The switch from analog to digital broadcast television is referred to as the digital TV (DTV) transition. In 1996, the U.S. Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast TV station so that they could start a digital broadcast channel while simultaneously continuing their analog broadcast channel. Later, Congress set June 12, 2009 as the final date that full power television stations can broadcast analog signals. As of June 13, 2009, full power television stations will only broadcast digital, over-the-air signals.

As of now, the principal advantages of DTV that are discussed are superior audio and video quality compared to the analog broadcast and the "Multicasting".Google "multicasting" for details :)

This website provides the entire details about this DTV Transition and go through it if interested.

Its in the US and what has it got to do with India, might be the next question.The point is,the technology has arrived and is on the way and it won't take much time before India embraces the DTV broadcast.The count down begins...

And on my part, I am already a part of this revolution as I have worked on the Memory Controller that goes into the DTV Chip,manufactured by Broadcom (During my final year project with Broadcom) and this makes it more special. :)

2) BCM 7420 Tapeout
I am not a part of Broadcom anymore but BCM 7420 happens to be the first chip(designed by Broadcom) that I worked on in my professional career.Its a Set-Top box chip and during my one year tenure at Broadcom,I witnessed its design and verification from the head (neck atleast) till toes and the chip tapes-out on this day 12th June,2009.Tape-out is an event that marks the departure of the design from the Software format(Netlist) to the hardware format(to the foundry).

Since this guy(BCM 7420) happens to be the first chip I have kept my hands on, he is so special for me.

3) BITS Pilani recognises me as an Engineer !!!
Last but not least,this day has gotta be so special personally.I graduate out from my college with a M.Sc and a B.E degree.It's the final day of my PS-II and BITS-Pilani proudly launches another batch of engineers (of around 1000 people) to the country and I am one among them.

Its a great day that shouldn't be forgotten...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

William Shockley's Interview Question @ Shockley Semiconductor Lab

In August 1957 William Shockley was recruiting staff for his Palo
Alto, California, start-up, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Shockley had been part of the Bell Labs team that invented the transistor. He had quit his job and come west to start his own company, telling people his goal was to make a million dollars. Everyone thought he was crazy. Shockley knew he wasn't. Unlike a lot of the people at Bell Labs, he knew the transistor was going to be big.

William Shockley(seated),John Bardeen and Walter Brattain,1948 - Bell Labs

Shockley had an idea about how to make transistors cheaply. He was going to fabricate them out of silicon. He had come to this valley, south of San Francisco, to start production.He felt like he was on the cusp of history, in the right place at the right time. All that he needed was the right people. Shockley was leaving nothing to chance.

Today's interview was with Jim Gibbons. He was a young guy, early twenties. He already had a Stanford Ph.D. He had studied at Cambridge too - on a Fulbright scholarship he'd won. Gibbons was sitting in front of him right now, in Shockley's Quonset hut office. Shockley picked up his stopwatch.

There's a tennis tournament with one hundred twenty-
seven players, Shockley began, in measured tones. You've got one hundred twenty-six people paired off in sixty-three matches, plus one unpaired player as a bye. In the next round, there are sixty-four players and thirty-two matches. How many matches, total, does it take to determine a winner?

Shockley started the stopwatch.

The hand had not gone far when Gibbons replied:
One hundred twenty-six.

How did you do that?
Shockley wanted to know. Have you heard this before?

Gibbons explained simply that it takes one match to eliminate one player. One hundred twenty-six players have to be eliminated to leave one winner. Therefore, there have to be 126 matches.

Shockley almost threw a tantrum. That was how he would have solved the problem, he told Gibbons. Gibbons had the distinct impression that Shockley did not care for other people using "his" method.

Shockley posed the next puzzle and clicked the stop-watch again. This one was harder for Gibbons. He thought a long time without answering. He noticed that, with each passing second, the room's atmosphere grew less tense.

Shockley,seething at the previous answer, now relaxed like a man sinking into a hot bath. Finally, Shockley clicked off the stopwatch and said that Gibbons had already taken twice the lab average time to answer the question. He reported this with charitable satisfaction. Gibbons was hired.

Excerpt from: How would you move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's cult of the puzzle : how the world's smartest companies select the most creative thinkers by William Poundstone.