New Class of Digital Signal Processor Wipes Out Wasted Power

Hearing aids, power converters, medical implants, and telecommunications could benefit from continuous-time digital signal processing

4 min read

5 November 2008—Digital signal processors—those practically ubiquitous circuits that make cellphone conversations understandable and MP3 players possible—come in a great many varieties, but until recently, there was one variety no one had even thought to make. Called continuous-time digital signal processing (CT DSP), it has the ability, unique among such circuits, to consume dynamic power in proportion to the intensity of the signal it processes. When there’s no signal, such as during the silent spots of a cellphone conversation, the processor is practically inactive. But when the signal appears, it kicks into gear. Its inventor, Columbia University electrical engineering professor Yannis Tsividis, says the device’s miserly management of power could make it attractive for small systems—such as biomedical implants and remote sensors—that deal with ”bursty” signals in need of real-time processing. Industrial firms are also interested in using the technology for telecommunications and power conversion.

”It’s a different way of looking at a problem that people have looked at for a long time,” says Rajit Manohar, an expert on clockless circuits and professor of electrical engineering at Cornell University. ”There are a lot of benefits to the approach.”

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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