Profiles in Design: Eric Bogatin

-January 02, 2014

If you have the good fortune to know Eric Bogatin, you already know that he is happily willing to share his knowledge, humor, hunger for learning, and teaching skills.  In this interview, the DesignCon veteran sits down with EDN to reflect on his career in signal integrity and wonder about the future.

A participant in what could be referred to as the “first DesignCon,” Eric Bogatin received his BS in Physics from MIT and PhD in physics from University of Arizona in Tucson. For thirty-five years, he has been involved in signal integrity and interconnect technology, working at Bell Labs, Raychem Corp, Sun microsystems and other companies.

Twenty years ago, he and his wife Susan started Bogatin Enterprises and beTheSignal.com to teach classes full time. Three years ago, his company was acquired by Teledyne LeCroy. He currently teaches at University of Colorado, Boulder as an adjunct professor, writes textbooks for Prentice Hall, writes blogs for EDN and EE Times, and works on new product development for Teledyne LeCroy. He recently took some time to fill me in on his impressions of DesignCon over the years, and the state of EE design.


EDN: How long have you been involved with/attending DesignCon? How have you participated?
Eric Bogatin (EB): The early DesignCons were the High Speed Digital Symposium started by Dave Belandi at HP. I went to the first one, met Dave, and he invited me to present at the second one. I’ve been presenting every year since- that was around 1990. Since then, I’ve presented a paper or two at nearly every DesignCon, presented or led panels, and experimented with Speed Training events. I think the speed training is the most fun because it is more of a performance, a chance for me and the attendees to have a little fun.

EDN: What were the first DesignCons like?
EB
: Belandi put together 10 talks/speakers, and we did a road show. There were four cities in the US, and then he took us to Japan. We went to Yokohama and Kyoto in early 1990s. We became a tight knit group and really had a lot of fun taking our little symposium on the road. Dave Belandi did a super job of making it into a production and adding style to it. We did demos, really showing how to apply the traditional tools to this relatively new field of signal integrity. Belandi deserves a lot of credit for recognizing this new field of signal integrity and that it had to be treated differently. He was effectively an evangelist for signal integrity. We had to do a lot of work to spread the word that these were upcoming problems, and we could use traditional techniques as well as needed to invent new ones. We did this for at least four years.  

EDN: How did you get started with Speed Training at DesignCon?
EB
: I wanted to present 1-2 concepts in an informal venue. My first speed training event I was surprised that the Chiphead Theater was on the show floor. I liked that it was informal, and it felt a bit like the carnival with a guy in one little booth hawking into the crowd. How persuasive can he be to draw in the crowd? A little challenge to be out in the open. I’m doing one this year: the most important principle all SI engineers should know. I’ve taught more than 10,000 engineers, and I find a tremendous amount of confusion about what I consider the basic principles of SI: how signals propagate. This is the most important principle for all engineers to know about/think about, particularly how signals interact with interconnects, reflections, etc.

EDN: How has DesignCon changed over the years?
EB:
It’s gotten bigger and older. Twenty-five years ago, signal integrity was a new thing. Attendees were just realizing the analog effects they were seeing on their digital boards had a name: signal integrity. Many of the early attendees were the experienced engineers and designers at their companies, coming to learn about these new problems and solutions they were beginning to see. Many of them were in their mid-twenties to late thirties.

Today, signal integrity is mainstream. Data rates have increased to the point where everyone has signal-integrity problems. I used to say, “there are two kinds of designers, those who have signal integrity problems and those who will.” Now, almost every design has signal-integrity issues. These days, there are a lot more companies with products and tools to help find and fix signal integrity problems.

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