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Visit with Doug Smith

-October 26, 2012

I've known Doug Smith for over 20 years and we've had him over to Hewlett-Packard for a couple of his high frequency measurement seminars in the early 1990s a few years after I had started with HP. Since then, we've met each other at various symposia and other IEEE and ESD Association events. Since he moved from Los Gatos, CA to Boulder City, NV, I finally had chance to visit his new office and lab and interview him as I traveled out to the west coast for some other business.


Figure 1 - Doug at work in his new office in Bolder City, NV.


As Doug related to me, "EMC, as a job, didn't come until the mid-eighties. I had received my First Class FCC license and was also a ham radio operator, so I became the ESD and EMC "expert". I fixed my first ESD problem by stumbling into it. At the time, I was with Bell Labs and AT&T had invented this complex network with CAT3 twisted pairs in a big New York bank. Every time the VPs came in for a demo, the system would crash. I finally realized they were jingling change in their pockets, which caused enough ESD to bring down the whole system. I fortunately came up with a balun design that worked. It was sheer luck, because of the lack of degrees of freedom. From that point, I became known as the ESD expert. I started getting more of these problems and eventually added EMC to my skills. About three years before leaving Bell Labs, I joined a group of specialists or internal consultants and had the best time!

After 26 years with Bell Labs, Doug was offered an early buy-out in 1996 and moved to Los Gatos in Silicon Valley. He became manager of the EMC group at Auspex Systems - a disk drive manufacturer. After three years, he eventually developed a working relationship with Elliott Labs and, using seed money from his stock options, started his own independent consultancy.

Doug offers this advice to young engineers or those who wish to consult:

"Young engineers should write! Post interesting articles. This will look good on the resume or if you wish to switch to consulting. Try listening to the three videos I posted regarding becoming a consultant. I started writing my Tech Tidbits in 1999 and started getting consulting offers right away."

For hundreds of his Tech Tidbits and other presentations, check out his web site at: http://www.emcesd.com/. He also produces regular audio and video blogs at Circuit Advisor: http://circuitadvisor.com/.


Figure 2 - Doug's amateur radio station (K4OAP) and laboratory in 1964 during his senior year in high school. There are hundreds of vacuum tubes in that equipment!



Figure 3 - Doug is the only consultant I know whose office resides in an historic hotel from the 1930s.

As I travel around the country, and am able, I'll try to interview other prominent EMC consultants; especially those who have advice for new engineers or others wishing to get into consulting.

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