Paralysis through analysis.

OldDogBlog post 2.

For far too long I’ve been contemplating creating a small side business around using Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) in electronic projects. Thinking about it – the analysis part – was easy. Thinking costs nothing and it is easy to conclude that “I just need to think about it some more” before actually doing anything. I was in a state of paralysis through analysis.

Another factor is my day job. I’m an electrical engineer and I have been designing circuits and products for over 30 years. Since the late 1980’s I’ve been using FPGAs in much of my work. I’ve used FPGAs in telecom signal processors and switches, optical networking equipment, medical and dental equipment, cryptographic products, ground imaging RADAR products and a host of other areas.

After a day spent designing things I’m not always inclined to spend my off hours designing more things. I have four kids, I play in a bagpipe band, I play guitar, I love to ballroom dance. More excuses not to get started.

The spark that has finally gotten me moving on this side hustle is the maker movement. I’ve taken my family to two World Maker Faires in NY and to the first National Maker Faire in D.C. last year. I loved seeing the rampant creativity at these events and the infectious, pervasive “can-do” attitude from the makers. It is very different from my day job and looked like so much fun. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted my kids to be a part of it.

How did it motivate me?

Not too long ago FPGA design tools and parts were expensive. Now, however, the tools are free and several vendors offer parts that are very inexpensive yet very capable. I’ve seen and read about many projects where some flavor of microcontroller board was used that left me thinking “I would use an FPGA for that and it would be so much easier and/or simpler.”

Easy for me, I suppose, but I’ve been using them regularly for three decades. After some researching I’ve learned that many people consider FPGAs difficult to use and design with. They certainly can be, but after using them for so long I believe I can help more people learn to work with them as a first choice instead of an option to be avoided.

That said, welcome to MakerLogic. I’ll be using this OldDogBlog to chronicle the journey of my side business. I’ll be posting blogs regarding choosing projects to work on, products to develop and some of the tradeoffs that go into making these decisions.

I’ll be posting insights and explanations into FPGA designs, circuit board designs and overall product decisions. Please feel free to send suggestions and comments to [email protected] if there are any designs or products that the community is clamoring for.

Another goal is to develop a set of tutorials focusing on “learning by design.” I’ll walk the learner through the fundamentals of digital logic design and use real-world examples to illustrate the techniques I’ve spent several decades developing.

It is said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, this old dog is learning plenty of new tricks developing MakerLogic. I’ve never written or edited a blog. I’ve never developed a web site. I’ve never developed tutorials, much less taught classes. I’ve never started a company 100% by myself and my own ideas.

Those are just a few of the areas where I am learning new things. Please join me as I create MakerLogic. It promises to be an interesting journey.


Tom Burke

2 thoughts on “Paralysis through analysis.”

  1. Hey, hope you’re still keeping this place alive. I want to learn more about FPGAs and practice stuff but I don’t know where to start. So far just simulated a 32-bit CLA for a class project. Maybe the point of it all eludes me. Also just wanted to suggest using Jekyll to manage your site. It’s faster and free, and has a more hacker/maker feel to it, without being harder. The efficiency gains and possibilities are too great to pass up. Cheers!

    1. Hello,

      I do plan on doing more blog posts as time permits. Right now I’m working on getting a second product ready to show as well as trying to get a crowdfunding campaign going for ezPixel. Too much to do and not enough time to do it!

      I don’t have my education related information on the website yet but hope to get that going later this year. In the meantime I’d recommend continuing to do simple designs to better learn the design tools and design flow. FPGAs represent another tool to have in your toolbox for building electronic products.

      Best regards,

      Tom Burke

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