Real-time clocks: Does anybody really know what time it is?

Jason Sachs May 30, 20118 comments

We recently started writing software to make use of a real-time clock IC, and found to our chagrin that the chip was missing a rather useful function, namely elapsed time in seconds since the standard epoch (January 1, 1970, midnight UTC).Let me back up a second.A real-time clock/calendar (RTC) is a micropower chip that has an oscillator on it that keeps counting time, independent of main system power. Usually this is done with a lithium battery that can power the RTC for years, so that even...


Byte and Switch (Part 2)

Jason Sachs May 7, 20116 comments

In part 1 we talked about the use of a MOSFET for a power switch. Here's a different circuit that also uses a MOSFET, this time as a switch for signals:

We have a thermistor Rth that is located somewhere in an assembly, that connects to a circuit board. This acts as a variable resistor that changes with temperature. If we use it in a voltage divider, the midpoint of the voltage divider has a voltage that depends on temperature. Resistors R3 and R4 form our reference resistance; when...


Byte and Switch (Part 1)

Jason Sachs April 27, 201112 comments

Imagine for a minute you have an electromagnet, and a microcontroller, and you want to use the microcontroller to turn the electromagnet on and off. Sounds pretty typical, right?We ask this question on our interviews of entry-level electrical engineers: what do you put between the microcontroller and the electromagnet?We used to think this kind of question was too easy, but there are a surprising number of subtleties here (and maybe a surprising number of job candidates that were missing...


Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 4. Engineering of Evaluation Hardware

Steve Maslen October 10, 2017
Following on from the previous abstract descriptions of an arbitrary circuit emulation application for low-latency feedback controllers, we now come to some aspects in the hardware engineering of an evaluation design from concept to first power-up. In due course a complete specification along with  application  examples will be maintained on the project website. 

Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 6. Self-Calibration Related.

Steve Maslen December 3, 20177 comments

This article will consider the engineering of a self-calibration & self-test capability to enable the project hardware to be configured and its basic performance evaluated and verified, ready for the development of the low-latency controller DSP firmware and closed-loop applications. Performance specifications will be documented in due course, on the project website here.

  • Part 6: Self-Calibration, Measurements and Signalling (this part)
  • Part 5:

Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 7. Turbo-charged DSP Oscillators

Steve Maslen January 5, 20187 comments
This article will look at some DSP Sine-wave oscillators and will show how an FPGA with limited floating-point performance due to latency, can be persuaded to produce much higher sample-rate sine-waves of high quality. 

Comparisons will be made between implementations on Intel Cyclone V and Cyclone 10 GX FPGAs. An...