Thursday, June 16, 2011

Embedded Product Development in 1995 - Problems and challenges

" It was a cold Thursday evening on Dec 1995. I was sitting in office of Max India and along with Ashish Masand was comparing numbers on a printed page with a text file on computer screen. There was no sense of those numbers, A typical line looked like this

A040 34 AE 4C 9E 2B 02 26 12 FE 86 34 CD 2D C9 06 1E

After some time I signed those papers, handed over a Demand Draft. Ashish thanked me and we moved out. Even when temperature was just 5 degree centigrade, I was sweating. Ashish asked me not to worry and said every thing will be all right and he promised that in less than 3 months, I will be getting material

And after four months of wait I got 5000 units of this material.

Well, this is how the embedded development used to happen in 1995. To design a product, you need a emulation board costing USD 2000, write code in assembly level language, try it out. Modify and continue till the results look okay. Then this program was burned in a UVEPROM ic which has a glass window on top of the ic

And then try out the unit operation. If it works fine, else this IC was put in a UV ERASER for 20 minutes and the whole operation started. After every things looks okay (which usually happens after testing for 20 to 30 days) then program was burned in similar ic without window and unit was handed over to customer for testing. He usually comes back with few bugs or some changes and process starts again.

Well, after he approves the design, the data of hex file was printed and sent to Motorola (or which ever company provided the micro controller). Motorola will resend few papers and ask for signatures. And then we compare the Motorola printed  sheet with what we printed to look for any typing mistakes and sign it.

This design will goto Motorola foundry and after a period ranging from 12 to 16 weeks, Motorola deliver 5000 or more ic printed with our special code.

These specially fabricated ICs were then used in manufacturing.

Any mistake in the document and end product will not work as expected as Motorola's guaranteed delivery of parts with information that we signed on their papers.

The fabrication of also requires a one time process charges of USD 3000/- and per piece price of USD 2 ie total of USD 13,000/-

Any small and silly mistake due to oversight costs USD 13,000/- and of course delay of four months

And this was reason for me sweating on that cold evening of December.

The reward too were high. Against a normal price of USD 6 for normal ic, we get product at USD 2.6 including the cost of one time charges. And all subsequent parts at USD 2.

Plus a feeling of pride as Motorola makes ICs with our mark on it. GVC-STC-226 stands for

me and my wife's name GVC (Geeta Vinay Chaddha)
product STC (Set Top Converter) and
Version number 2.26.