SSS Online

Consultant's Corner

By Gary Mitchell

RF/Microwave Software

Yesterday I received a telephone call from Dr. Ulrich Rhode, the President of Compact Software. For those of you who don't know who Dr. Rhode is, he has been a major contributor to the RF, microwave and communications world for years.

Dr. Rhode wanted to bring me up to date on what COMPACT Software has been doing, and, more particularly, the differences between the lower-end simulation programs and the higher-end ones. I think that in my earlier column I didn't bring this out enough, and there are some significant differences.

Dr. Rhode is sending me a brochure about their products and a demo disk so that I can bring my information about the product up-to date. In an effort to redress any short-sightedness on my part, I will devote much of next month's column to the reasons why you might want to buy one of the higher-end products, like COMPACT or TOUCHSTONE.

More System Simulation software

As promised last month, we are now going to review several more system simulation packages.


One of the handiest programs to have around is also the cheapest. It's called AppCAD, it's from Hewlett-Packard, and it's free. This program has a lot of features, and is very easy and self-prompting to use.

AppCAD analyzes cascaded receiver stages for noise figure and intermods, does amplifier matching, transistor biasing and calculates mixer spurs. It also designs detectors, attenuators, PIN switches and a lot of other things. There is also a very nice tutorial on thermal analysis for those of us who are not experts on the subject.

You should be able to get this free from your local HP representative, but if your local HP representative, but if you can't, send me a high-density disk and I,ll copy it and send it to you, no charge (return postage appreciated). HP grants a license to anyone who has the disk to copy and distribute it, as long as they don't charge anything and include all the files.


Mini-Spur is a program from Mini-Circuits that they sell for $49.95. If, like me, you use a lot of their mixers, it is invaluable. You can input your mixer frequencies, select from a menu that lists all their mixers and get a nice graphical display of what the spurious output will be .

It's really a great asset, and very easy to use. Personally, I think they should give it away, but they don't see it that way. It's definitely worth the 50 bucks.

On the subject of Mini-Circuits, they are one of the few companies that provide comprehensive test data for their products. This data includes things like the standard deviation from the normal performance. This is something that is going to become very important to all of us in the near future, as we need to make our designs more robust in the production environment.


I have just received a new program, SysCalc, from Arden Technologies. I haven't used it enough to review it in detail, but it looks like a very useful program. It uses the concept of linked spreadsheets to allow you to enter your design in a hierarchical fashion. Then when you make changes in one section, it ripples through to the top sheet. It is also a Windows program, and it has a really nice user interface. More on it next month.

Sell In Europe?

In the December 6, 1993 edition of EE Times, there is a front page article about EMI/EMC. At one point, the author states that "...any product that's going to be commercially marketed must meet Federal Communications Commission regulations... and must be prepared to pass much tougher European regulations that go into effect in 1996." (Emphasis added).

Excuse me? The U.S. and the EC together contain only a small percentage of the world's population. It seems to me, that the author is ignoring an awfully large portion of the potential market. Yes, I know, it's the richest part of the world's populations, but it's also the most well-satisfied part of the world's population.

In large parts of Asia, they produce enough money to be net exporters (translation: they can buy stuff from us), but they have no telephones. Well, in those parts of the world, for the most part, telephone networks are not going in as wires,, but as radios.

These people have the money to buy radios, and a tremendous need for them. If we ignore the emerging countries as markets, we throw away a lot of money.

Why do I complain about this? Well, EMI/EMC performance is not free, in fact it's not even cheap. There is a tremendous cost in up front engineering and test, and another large cost in the certification process.

If your company's (or client's ) products carry this cost burden, they won't be competitive, and the market won't be well-served. And these markets have no need for all this expensive compliance. It's a waste of their money.

The reason I devote so much space to business issues is because we are at a crossroads in the industry today. The big defense contractors aren't going to make the transition to commercial, for the most part, they just don't know how, plus they have a tremendous administrative burden to overcome.

The new, small companies springing up are going to keep us all employed in the future, and I think there is a real danger that these small companies are going to be "contaminated" by defense engineers moving into them with all of their bad old habits about compliance, unit development folders, QA and all the rest of that nonsense. I know what I'm talking about here, I used to be a defense contractor employee, and it takes some work to make the transition.

It's critical that we engineers take the lead here, and take our industry leadership back from the QA people, the accountants, the bureaucrats, the finance people, and everyone else who never made anything and have no concept of how to go about doing it. We need to reinvent our industry, the way Detroit has done, so we will have an electronics industry here in 20 years.

Next Month

Next month we are going to re-visit the whole area of RF/Microwave simulation software in a little more. We will also review SysCalc in detail. If you have any comments, about anything, give me a call.

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