I remember the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Also known as the global financial crisis, this worldwide economic disaster caused untold hardship for vast numbers of people (although the financial “experts” who caused it seemingly managed to come out unscathed).
Many of my electronics and computing engineer friends were laid off. I’m sure this happened to denizens of other disciplines also, like mechanical engineers, for example, but that’s not the sort of person with whom I hang (I’m sure they are very nice when you get to know them, but you wouldn’t want your child to marry one).
One thing that has really stuck in my mind from that grim time was the way in which various companies helped newly unemployed engineers. As just one example, I remember a variety of electronic design automation (EDA) companies offering any unoccupied seats in training classes (that normally cost hundreds of dollars) to unemployed engineers for free.
Now we are in the middle of a new crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. I currently hang my hat in Huntsville, Alabama, USA. I moved here from England 30 years ago for the nightlife (that’s a little Alabama joke right there). I was just using FaceTime to chat to my mom, who lives in Sheffield, England. Everything is in a high-state of lock-down over there, with people being told to hold in place at home, and the police authorized to break up any groups larger than two persons (that was as small as the government could go without looking silly).
Here in Alabama, we haven’t reached that stage yet, although there are growing rumors it may happen. Even so, I started working from home a couple of weeks ago. It’s a lot harder working at the kitchen table than it is in my office with my three 28” monitors and my bookshelves groaning under the weight of technical reference books (and science fiction books, and graphic novels, and my trusty Geiger counter, and other things that flash or go “beep” in the night).
My command chair facing the three 28” monitors in my office. Note the plastic boxes of cables and components lurking under the desks. (Image source: Max Maxfield)
I’m now hearing from lots of my engineer friends around the country and around the world that they too are working at home. Just a few hours ago, I was on a conference call with the CEO of a big company, who had to keep taking short breaks to deal with his 4-year-old son, while his cat periodically did its best to keep us all entertained with an eye-watering rendition of “I did it my way!” (the feline equivalent, or course).
Thankfully, once again, people and companies are starting to help each other out. For example, I just received an email from the G Suite team at Google saying that – in order to help everyone stay connected and productive -- they’ve rolled out free access to advanced video-conference facilities to all G Suite customers globally. These facilities include larger meetings (up to 250 participants per call), live streaming (for up to 100K viewers within your domain), and the ability to record meetings to Google Drive to share with those who can’t attend.
Now, meetings are all well and good (who amongst our number would dare to say it’s possible to have too many meetings?), and this offer from Google is much appreciated, but what about engineers who are working on capriciously cunning embedded systems and phenomenally fabulous Internet of Things (IoT) devices? Everyone has access to a computer, but not everyone has the design and test equipment they need, and its possible for only one person to take the team’s oscilloscope home.
The Digilent Analog Discovery 2 Ultimate Bundle includes all of the following products: Analog Discovery 2, BNC to Alligator Clip Cables (2-pack), BNC to Minigrabber Cables (2-pack), Ribbon Cable, Analog Discovery 2, Large Digilent Breadboard, BNC Adapter, Breadboard Adapter, Breadboard Breakout, Impedance Analyzer, Oscilloscope probe set, mini-grabbers test clips (6-pack) and a jumbo sized plastic case (Image source: Digilent)
Well, I’m delighted to report that the guys and gals at Digilent have our backs. I just heard that they are immediately instigating a 20% discount on a selection of products they feel would be most valuable to engineers working at home (at the time of this writing, this discount will run until 10 April 2020):
- Analog Discovery 2 Ultimate Bundle: Digilent Analog Discovery 2 is a USB oscilloscope and multi-function instrument that allows users to measure, visualize, generate, record, and control mixed-signal circuits of all kinds. This bundle allows users to test and debug a wide range of circuits with the Analog Discovery 2 and all of its accessories.
- Digital Discovery: A combined logic analyzer and pattern generator instrument that was created to be the ultimate embedded development companion.
- Eclypse Z7 (and Eclypse Z7 + Zmod bundles): The Eclypse Z7 is Digilent's newest FPGA/SoC development board, specifically designed to enable the rapid prototyping and development of embedded measurement systems.
- Basys 3: An entry-level FPGA development board designed exclusively for Vivado Design Suite, featuring the Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA architecture. The newest addition to the popular Basys line of FPGA development boards, Basys 3 is perfectly suited for students or beginners just getting started with FPGA technology.
- Zybo Z7: A feature-rich, ready-to-use embedded software and digital circuit development board built around the Xilinx Zynq-7000 family, which tightly integrates a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with traditional field-programmable gate array (FPGA) programmable fabric.
- Arty A7: A ready-to-use development platform designed around the Artix-7 FPGA from Xilinx. This platform was designed specifically for use as a 32-bit MicroBlaze soft processing system.
One thing I really like is that we don’t have to worry about messing around with special product codes. The folks at Digilent tell me that they’ve decided to make this an automatic cart discount available for anyone who adds it to the cart. No customer action required!
There’s nothing funny about the coronavirus. It’s causing untold hardship around the world. Many people are losing their jobs; some are losing their lives. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work at home, outreach by companies like Google and Digilent offers little rays of sunshine that can make things a little brighter and a little better.
I, for one, take comfort in the ancient Persian adage, “This too shall pass.” Although things may seem overwhelming at the moment, the coronavirus will eventually succumb to our determination and our technology. Vaccines will be developed, antiviral drugs will be refined, and we will survive. And, when all of this has blown over, I think we will all continue to remember those companies that took a stand and did their part to help out.