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Blog

Engineers, assemble!

Saar Drimer

The EDA industry is hostile to innovation. I thought that that was a pretty strong statement until I uttered it in a talk and an industry veteran remarked that that was actually an understatement!

Innovation in our field faces two fronts -- adoption by engineers and an industry ruled by old-school "Big EDA" that are stuck in the 90s in pretty much all aspects: usability, methodologies, distribution, style, pricing. Innovators are prevented from publicly benchmarking the performance of their products against Big EDA products through over-reaching EULAs and lawyering up. The entrenched lock-in and proprietary mentality is strong enough in our industry to the extent that it makes it very hard for engineers to even try something new. Turf wars and design-by-committee symptoms prevent an open, free, and modern data exchange that could drive the innovation the industry is craving for in order to deal with ever larger designs and teams. It's quite a strange state of affairs.

(Even if you're not familiar with the industry you'll appreciate this example: many EDA websites will still, or have until recently, require you to register and log-in in order to view some/all of their documentation! How 90s is that!?)

The only way out of this predicament is to use the power we have. Engineers, try new software and support it, if only by giving feedback to its creators. Reward innovation. I'm writing this post with some frustration after receiving a few emails from people who said that they were disappointed to find that  'boldport flow' -- a browsed-based automated FPGA build generator -- was gone! I really would have liked to know it was useful to them back when I was contemplating, and then, shutting it down.

Thankfully, things are different with PCBmodE. I'm getting unsolicited emails from people on a regular basis, which is a huge boost of confidence that "there's something here". Back in the 'boldport flow' days I had to beg for feedback, which was one of many signs that something was wrong.