September 29, 2011 AT 7:22 pm

EEBookshelf: Robert Lacoste’s the Darker Side

People working with analog design, optimising for low power, rf, etc., all have a reputation for practicing the dark arts.  While there is an element of gut feeling and intuition earned through long, hard-won experience, the reality is that most of it boils down to a meticulous attention to detail, careful analysis, a love of learning, and most importantly the desire to constantly ask the question “how you can do things just a little bit better?”. Learning how to achieve really low power on a design, for example, consists of dozens of really small changes and lessons learned, rather than three infallible tried and true steps to follow to get that board into the single digit microamp or even nanoamp range.  It’s a highly iterative process and you need to get your hands dirty to get anywhere with it, but is there a quicker way to get from the A of design ignorance to the Z of analog enlightement?

While there’s no replacement for long hours spent in the lab doing your own testing and characterization work, “Robert Lacoste’s the Darker Side: Practical Applications for Electronic Design Concepts” is a rare and wonderfully practical book that should immediately help you leap over some of the bigger hurdles on the sometimes bumpy road to EE enlightenment.

It consists of a series of articles by Lacoste from Circuit Cellar (suitably embellished, expanded and polished) on a wide variety of design themes, but all of the information is wonderfully applicable and relevant to real life design and the problems you’re likely to want to solve in the real world.  If you’re interested in low power, for example, the reason I mention it above is because this book has an excellent guide on the many small details (and attention to detail) that go into optimising your board to improve battery life, showing you a methodic, repeatable model to constantly test and improve your designs.  The author gives you a number of immediately useful tricks to stick up your low-power sleeve the next time you need to banish those excess microamps.

While the book isn’t exhaustive (being based on a series of 16 previously published articles), it seperates itself by helping you immediately improve you designs with a number of tips, tricks, and proven methodologies, and in that sense the money spent on the book is an excellent investment.  For the same price as one PCB where you’ll learn from one or two mistakes made, you can learn from the many long years of experience Lacoste puts on offer in this emminently practical set of articles.  Well worth a place on the bookshelf of any engineer with an interest in constantly improving their craft.

Note: You can read part of the book for free via Google Books.

Title: Robert Lacoste’s the Darker Side: Practical Applications for Electronic Design Concepts
Author: Robert Lacoste
Publisher: Newnes
ISBN: 1856177629

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