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Mixing The Old And The New

In various works of science fiction and, to the layman, work conducted in military research laboratories is o ften no different than science fiction the history of a species is oft en summarized in two great texts, one called "the old" and one called "the new." The two categories can also be applied to many military programs and their use of electronics. Military systems rely on proven (old) technologies as much as they do on emerging (new) technologies.

This issue's cover story (see p. S29), by Technical Editor Bill Wong of Electronic Design, is an example of the technology issues facing military electronics systems integrators. The main focus of the story is on OpenVPX, the bus interface standard that provides flexibility for systems designers when choosing embedded computing board- or card-level solutions. Prior to the open standard, a system may have been locked into one type of interface, even though improved performance might have been available with other options. The OpenVPX standard allows integrators to "mix and match" embedded computing products in their systems, to take full advantage of emerging solutions.

In the commercial electronics sector, customers don't want "the old." They don't want a computer with a floppy drive. They want something that races to the high-speed clock of the latest Intel microprocessor, which can store files on an internal 1-Tb hard drive, and has USB and wireless-local-area- network (WLAN) interfaces. Military architects, on the other hand, still must rely on vacuum tubes (see this past March issue of Defense Electronics) or on microprocessors from Motorola, now Freescale Semiconductor, that have been unavailable to the general public for several years. Because of the need for "old" technology, suppliers of discontinued parts, such as Lansdale Semiconductor and Rochester Electronics, provide an invaluable service to the military electronics industry by stocking or even remanufacturing these older-technology parts that are still needed by many military electronics platforms.

Of course, every military program manager would like to point to their use of the latest technologies in their systems, such as gallium nitride (GaN) ampli fiers and fast analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) (see p. S33). But, in reality, most military electronic systems function as a mix of the old and the new, and without the availability of both, those platforms won't fly.

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