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Al Williams

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Ice, Horse Shoes, and Logic Analyzers

December 19, 2010

I am always amazed at how whole categories of jobs become extinct or at least deprecated over time. A few years back I was watching the history channel and they had film and pictures of what it used to take to get ice transported around the country prior to the invention of refrigeration (according to the Ice Harvesting web site in 1886 about 25 million tons of ice was harvested in the United States. Wow. I bet no one makes a living harvesting ice anymore.

I often wonder how hard hit people who make horse shoes were over the same time period. I presume a lot more people bought horse shoes in the 1800s than today, although I know there are still people who have horses and need shoes (and farriers, another profession that is probably not in the demand it once was).

I've had a lot of logic analyzers over the years. I've had big ticket items like a Tek DAS 9000 and a big ECL Biomation unit (I still have that one; both seem comical today but were major pieces of hardware in their prime). I've had cheap ones that hooked up to oscilloscopes (Paratronics maybe? And some English company that I can't think of). And I've even had the audacity to use FPGAs both with my own design or with SUMP which is quite nice and affordable if you can live with the limitations. You can even find a derivation of SUMP for about US$50. There is even a choice of open source software for these boards.

The trouble is, I don't work on a lot of things anymore that make good use of a logic analyzer. Most of the logic is tied up inside a MPU chip or an FPGA chip (although something like Chipscope inside the FPGA is really handy; I guess that is a logic analyzer of sorts, but not a general purpose one).

It seems the vendors know that too. Most analyzers today seem more geared at reading serial data streams which seem to far outnumber the big multibit bus structures we used to see in the past.

Funny how times change. Meanwhile I don't know if I'll ever have the heart to get rid of my 150 or 200 pound Biomation KD100. I still use it on occasion. I have a slightly newer version that I keep for parts since it has no probes and it is likely to hit the dumpster unless someone local decides to give it a home. But it seems a shame to throw away a faithful tool even if it has gone the way of the ice harvester.

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