What’s on the Bucket List
09 March 2008
The Bucket List is a fabulous idea for a film, as it has relevance for every one of us, and increasing relevance as we get older. But if the electronics industry as a whole had a Bucket List, what would be on it?
First of all, for those who are unaware, the Bucket List is a film about two terminally ill men who make a list of the things they want to do before they ‘kick the bucket’ – or in other words, die. Although the film has now opened in Europe, to fairly lukewarm reviews it has to be said, the first I heard of it was when our US correspondent Susan Mucha described the writing of her book as another tick off of her bucket list.
Of course creating a bucket list is easy, all you need is imagination, a pen and a piece of paper. Being able to tick things off it is less easy. You might still need a pen and your original piece of paper, but also in many cases, considerable effort and dedication. I interviewed Susan about why she wrote her book and her expertise in the North American EMS market (you can read the full text of this here), but it glosses over the amount of times I have been in contact with her over the last year when she was doing endless re-writes and reading the final proofs. No pain, no gain, as they say.
Equally, Anand Sethi’s column ( UK electronics – a fallen or sleeping giant ) this week discusses some of the landmark contributions that the UK has made to the modern electronics industry. I am sure that virtually all of the ‘Eureka-moments’ he describes were backed up by hard graft and long hours.
But, to go back to my question at the top of this article, if we as an industry had a Bucket List, and we were willing to work hard enough to cross a few things off it, what would be on it?
First and foremost would have to be power. I have given my thoughts about this before, so won’t labour the point, but to be able to harness solar power or other sustainable power sources is probably the most significant single challenge affecting the world. But, seeing as this is the electronics industry’s bucket list, we have to think further than a sustainable supply of mains electricity. Every device should be self-sufficient, or at least have a hybrid power source. All calculators are solar powered and we have wind-up radios, but I am talking about having computers, TVs and the like as solar driven devices. If we were ever going to be able to tick this off our Bucket List then I would suggest that the trick is going to be in reducing power consumption as much as improving the power source technology. For someone who spends a fair amount of time working in an open plan office, the reduction in heat and noise (all those internal PC fans) would be welcome, even just from a working environment point of view.
Moving on. What else would be on the list? I am shortly going to be running an article on the ‘Occam process’ – a new method of assembling circuits that moves away from the accepted surface mount process. The principal advantage is that there is no high-temperature soldering stage in the process. This particular process we will discuss in greater detail in the future, and already I have heard some people doubting its long term effectiveness for all applications, but whether it is Occam or some other – somehow there must be a new process that is cheaper, more reliable, requires less energy and is completely programmable (no need to change stencils in the printing process for example), than our existing manufacturing process today.
A new material, preferably naturally occurring, that can take up where silicon leaves off. We keep saying that we are going to reach an actual physical limit of what we can do with silicon and, despite the partial success of gallium arsenide and other materials, we need something new if Moore’s Law is going to continue to set the pace of industry.
Speaking of which, is anyone else a bit tired of Moore’s Law? Nothing against the prophetic and inspired Gordon Moore or even really his Law, but it seems to have slightly lost its relevance as it has been adopted by the wider world as just meaning ‘everything in the electronics/computing world is moving faster than I can understand’. So, mainly for the sake of change, I think we should add re-naming Moore’s law to our Bucket List.
I have realised that I could go on and on with this, so I will round off with one last entry – the level playing field. Everybody seems to have an excuse why someone else is getting more work or more pay while not having to suffer the same disadvantages that they have. Obviously costs and standards of living and of manufacturing vary enormously throughout the world and it is important in a competitive market that this continues – it is what makes us, as consumers, able to afford the electronics we want. But it does need to be fair. Standards need to be standard across the world, whether they be health and safety, quality of goods, or even human rights. Equally trading practices should come under the umbrella of standards – in as much as they should be standard. Any obstacle to free trade creates an imbalance in industry and that is as true in the evolution of electronics design as it is of electronics manufacture. Although it is a far broader subject than can be tackled in one paragraph, I would therefore suggest that the electronics industry – on national, regional and international scales – would benefit if there was ‘a level playing field’.
So there is my start on the Bucket List for the electronics industry. If you would like to add your thoughts please email me at the usual address. If I get enough differing ones sent in then I will compile them into a list for a future issue, so please get writing!
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