I have mentioned in earlier posts that one of my responsibilities on the SystemVision team is teaching training classes. If users want formal SystemVision or VHDL-AMS training, I am usually the instructor. It is fun and occasionally gets me out of my office for a few days.
Because SystemVision is such a flexible modeling and analysis environment with a broad range of applications (think mixed-signal analog and digital + multi-technology), students in my classes often have a mix of technical expertise and design responsibilities. One class may be for an aerospace customer, another for an automotive customer, and still another for an industrial controls customer. And even though a class may be for a single customer, students invariably have a mix of engineering assignments. This makes the classes even more interesting for me since I learn about advances in many different areas. As usual, the teacher often becomes the student.
One of the reasons I like teaching classes is the Demo Factor. And what is the Demo Factor? Simply the opportunity to demonstrate capabilities students are interested in and will most certainly benefit their design flows, but capabilities usually not covered in the training material. These are usually on-the-fly demonstrations, meaning a student asks “Can SystemVision do [something]?”, and I spend part of the class time, usually while students work on lab exercises, creating a short demonstration. Building these short demos is fun and interesting, and often leads to the Wow Factor, the response I often get when a student learns SystemVision will do something useful and cool that their current design process does not support. Take, for example, a short waveform analyzer demo I did in a recent class.
One of the students wanted to know if SystemVision supports converting a waveform into a text or comma separated value (csv) file. The short answer is “yes”. Wow Factor One. But like most answers when SystemVision is the topic, the initial response is often followed with “but there is more”. I then went on to demonstrate that SystemVision’s waveform analyzer can also plot data from a text or csv file. Why does this matter? Because this little feature lets users directly compare their simulation results with lab test data. Just save lab measurements to a text or csv file, then load the measurement file into SystemVision’s analyzer and plot the data. Wow Factor Two. And then to make the demonstration even more interesting, I showed how to quickly and automatically generate a simulation model directly from a plotted waveform. Such models can be used as system driving functions during simulation. Wow Factor Three. Students immediately chatted about how this simple text-based capability might be useful in their design work.
Okay, so manipulating text-based data is not really that complicated. While it may seem a cool capability to some users, for others it is an expected feature, like cup holders in your car. And compared to the long list of SystemVision’s really cool and more advanced modeling, simulation, and analysis capabilities, it may seem worth little mention. But my recent training class Wow Factor experience reinforced an important reminder: simple can be both useful and impressive, and is almost always better. If a task is simple, keep it that way; if it is complicated, simplify it.