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10 The PCB Design Magazine • June 2014 boasts that it's more "user-friendly" and has an "improved GUI." And they seem to be trying to make PCB design tools so simple that even electrical engineers can use them. (OK, I stole that line from one of the designers at IPC APEX EXPO. But it is funny.) You may recall last month's column in which I shared feedback from the attendees at the SMTA Atlanta Designers Roundtable. I asked the group, "What do you wish your tools would do that they don't do now?" One attendee wished his tool would slap the engineer, and another wished her Altium tool was more stable. But a third wished EDA com- panies would stop changing the very things he likes about his tool, and heads nodded in agree- ment. One gripe I hear every so often: "Why did they add this new, useless feature? Were actual PCB designers involved in developing this tool, or is this just an exercise in self-indulgence for the software engineer?" Designers feel as if the EDA companies aren't marketing the tools to them anyway. They say that they have little influence in which design tools their company uses, and that these deci- sions are made by their executives and the top guys at the EDA firm over three-cocktail lunch- es and golf outings. Of course, if your company is buying multi- ple seats of Mentor, Cadence or Zuken, natural- ly that decision is going to have to be signed off by people above your pay grade. But too many designers tell me that they're never even con- sulted about EDA software decisions. Not asking for input from the person who will be using the tool seems like a bad idea. If you were buying new accounting soft- ware, wouldn't you ask your accountants for their opinions? So, it's a double-edged sword for the EDA companies: If they keep evolving their tools, making them "better" by whatever crite- ria you apply, they risk angering their users who've gotten used to the old versions of the tools. But they have to keep improving the tools, if only to get your boss to buy the next version. If only that old P-CAD would work for the design you're working on now… Happy 50 th Anniversary to DAC It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since the first Design Automation Conference took place in Atlantic City. Have any other con- ferences, of any type, been around that long? Founded by Pat Pistilli, the conference was originally known as SHARE (Society to Help Avoid Redundant Effort), and the early DAC conferences featured sessions on design auto- mation of all stripes, including architecture. The conference eventually focused solely on EDA. Later, an exposition was added, and the event grew from 137 attendees in 1964 to 10,000 or more around 2000. Attendance is down since those heady days, but DAC is still a pretty big show by North American standards. Unfortunately for PCB folks, DAC now fo- cuses mainly on chip design, and there's very little PCB content. But I attended DAC in Los Angeles in 2000, Las Vegas in 2001, and New Orleans in 2002, back when there were a lot more PCB exhibitors and sessions. Those shows were gigantic. Every booth had a fake Jerry Springer or a fake Phil Donahue hosting a fake talk show. "Beer on the floor" night was a zoo. A Synopsys rep told me they spent $1 million on the LA show. And in Los Angeles, I played with the Porch Dawgs for the first time on the Soul Train stage at Paramount Studios. Huey Lewis was playing Denali's party next door…it was a different time before 9/11. So, congratulations to Pat Pistilli and his family for keeping his show going, through good times and bad, for 50 years. PCBDESIgN andy Shaughnessy is manag- ing editor of The PCB Design Magazine. he has been cover- ing PCB design for 13 years. he can be reached by clicking here. the shaughnessy report THE EDA TooL CoNUNDRUM continues

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