A night at the circus
Jit Lim - May 7, 2012
From guest blogger Gina Bonini: I spent my Saturday night at the circus–Cirque Du Soleil, to be exact. I’ll admit it; I’m a big circus fan. To watch human performers do death-defying stunts, and push their bodies to a level beyond what mere mortals can do, is entertaining and inspiring. Cirque Du Soleil is unique in that it is also a major theater production with music and lights dramatically used to pull at your emotions throughout the show. For two hours, I was captivated and highly entertained as I was transported to a mythical world of bugs that happen to also fly from the trapeze, walk tightropes, and do flips while falling from three stories up. I love the circus!
A couple of years ago, I met James Smith, president and principal designer of RC4 Wireless Dimming. James has designed wireless lighting systems for Cirque Du Soleil, as well as Disney and a host of theater companies. He’s one of the engineers who bring the “magic” to the show. We were interviewing James to write a case study on his product development, and how he debugs his designs.
Many of RC4’s products use an SPI bus for communication. For years, James used scopes that were over 10 years old and had to hand-decode his SPI bus to troubleshoot problems. The older oscilloscopes could only capture and hold one small monochromatic screen worth of information. If the view was too wide, he couldn’t distinguish the individual bits and their timings; if the view was too narrow, he could see only a portion of a byte or a packet. Changing the time base cleared the screen, requiring the event to be recaptured to analyze it further. When we spoke, James had recently purchased a new mixed-signal oscilloscope with built-in SPI bus decode, which had simplified at least this part of his troubleshooting.
I, for one, would like to thank James. His work made my night at the circus unforgettable.
If you’re interested in reading more about RC4’s product development, you’ll find more details here.
Gina Bonini is a technical marketing manager for Tektronix. She has worked extensively in various test-and-measurement positions for more than 15 years, including product planning, product marketing, and business and market development. She holds a BSChE from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MSEE from Stanford University.
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