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The Joy of Disassembly

Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen

Posted Jan 13, 2010

Ever wondered what makes a good systems engineer? You know, the engineer who has an uncanny knack for understanding how the elements of a system work together to create the whole? I believe I now know one of the secrets, discovered during a recent trip to Mentor Graphics headquarters in Wilsonville, Oregon. After a long day of discussions, a few SystemVision team members gathered at a local eatery for a quick bite to eat and a bit of non-system simulation conversation. I’m happy to say we managed to keep business topics largely at bay. Despite our shared enthusiasm for system simulation technology, even the most passionate technologists need an occasional break from what drives their work, even if it’s only a brief dinner time chat.

Our conversation centered mostly on getting better acquainted; our team is a mix of EDA industry old timers and newcomers, not much in between. Many of our team members have worked together for a number of years, a bit of a rarity in the EDA industry. We are a pretty diverse group, both in interests and geography. As the evening passed, our conversation turned briefly to how many of us spent happy childhood hours taking things apart, to the natural and general dismay of our parents. Turns out that many of my dinner companions shared my youthful fascination for figuring out how things worked. Duh…each person at the dinner table graduated college with at least one engineering degree. I may be generalizing a bit, but I think that most capable engineers know the joy of taking systems apart, either with hand tools or mental tools, to understand how they work. Call it The Joy of Disassembly, a perpetual obsession that started early in life and drove them through years of calculus, physics, statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, chemistry…you know the list…to emerge from University studies with one or more engineering degrees in one or more technical disciplines.

Fast forward a few decades from my youth, and my fascination with figuring out how the elements of a system work together is even more compelling. Modern systems are even more intriguing than those of my younger days; they’re better, faster, and smarter. These days, however, I usually don’t physically take too many things apart, unless troubleshooting and repair are required. Most mechanisms are too complex, too small, and much of their functionality depends heavily on the largely user-impenetrable “black box” of embedded software. Disassembling modern systems is now more of an intellectual exercise for me, trying to visualize the different parts of a system and how they work together. But I’ve found this mental process is nearly as satisfying as dragging out my toolbox and actually stripping a system down to its piece-parts, with the added benefit that I don’t have to reassemble the system and hope it works…which is another source of joy in itself, and maybe a topic for a future blog post: “The Art of Reassembly”…hmmm. For me, the drive to understand how things work will no doubt continue as a lifelong passion.

My blog is about systems, pure and simple. Along with talking about some of the systems and technologies that hold an above average share of my attention span, I’ll spend some time discussing efficient ways to design and analyze complex systems. And I’ll give you some pointers on cool ways to use SystemVision, Mentor Graphics’ industry proven solution for hardware/software co-design of mechatronic systems. I’ll even try to get a few SystemVision team members to join the conversation. I just need to convince them to take a break from developing really cool system simulation and analysis applications long enough to keyboard a quick note about what they are up to. Stay tuned, and welcome aboard.


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About Mike Jensen

Mike JensenMost career paths rooted in high technology take many interesting (and often rewarding) twists and turns. Mine has certainly done just that. After graduating in electrical engineering from the University of Utah (go Utes!), I set off to explore the exciting, multi-faceted high tech industry. My career path since has wound its way from aircraft systems engineering for the United States Air Force, to over two decades in applications engineering and technical marketing for leading design automation software companies, working exclusively with mechatronic system modeling and analysis tools. Along the way, I’ve worked with customers in a broad range of industries and technologies including transportation, communications, automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, computers, and consumer electronics; all-in-all a very interesting, rewarding, and challenging ride. In my current gig, I work on technical marketing projects for Mentor Graphics' SystemVision product line. And in my spare time I dream up gadgets and gizmos, some even big enough to qualify as systems, that I hope someday to build -- providing I can find yet a little more of that increasingly elusive spare time. Visit Mike Jensen's Blog

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