With the “Dead Bug” Method, Hobbyists Can Break Through the High-Frequency Barrier

A revived technique lets you make microwave and high-speed digital circuits without a traditional printed circuit board

4 min read
Photo: Randi Klett
Photo: Randi Klett
Don't get me wrong—I love printed circuit boards. PCBs are, of course, essential in mass-produced products. Even for hobbyists, a small run assures almost perfectly repeatable circuits. And PCBs with a good ground plane are essential for high-frequency circuits operating at more than a few megahertz. A ground plane is a large area of copper that's used as a low-inductance electrical return path from components to a circuit's power supply. It prevents parasitic capacitance from smearing high-frequency signals into noise, and the absence of a ground plane is why you can't build a high-frequency circuit using a breadboard and expect it to work well, or at all.
Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

Keep Reading ↓Show less