Tag Archives: EDN magazine

Rako starts at Atmel

Some of you might recognize me from my previous job at EDN magazine. I covered the analog beat. So many of my friends were surprised to hear I was joining Atmel. What they did not realize is that being an analog expert is only part of what I love. I ran a consultation business for 20 years. My specialty was designing, prototyping and delivering working hardware. One of my favorite jobs was in 2001, at a startup where I designed a complete point-of-sale terminal in only 2 months. I knew I would need help doing the software, so I called my friend Dave Mathis. He agreed to write the code, but only if I used a modern micro. Not knowing any better, I suggested a well-known micro. He said he would quit if I used that hardware. He refused to program one, after more than a few bad experiences. Then I figured we could use an 8051 clone. He said that he really did not want to deal with special function registers. OK, this was going nowhere fast, so I asked him what he thought would be a good embedded processor. Dave had written Forth compliers for Samsung micros, so I didn’t know what to expect. He said I should check out Atmel. I did. I was impressed. I had been exposed to Atmel micros when I was consulting to HP. They ran wicked fast and did not need 8 clocks to execute an instruction. The other thing I loved is that I could get a Butterfly prototyping board for $49.95, and a real in-circuit emulator for $200. When you are in a startup in angel-investment mode, that low barrier to entry really means a lot.

So I picked a nice little AVR micro that did everything we needed and more. I wrote the assembly language firmware for the point-of-sale terminal as well as some other products we developed. I hired two buddies to write some C code. I see why Dave recommended Atmel. Wags have joked: “The best programming language is the programming language your best programmer likes best.” I really like the Atmel development system and the chips worked great. Both buddies have gone on to love and use Atmel micros in their projects as well.

So I am really looking forward to document how Atmel can make your design work go better. I will be getting up to speed on Atmel’s touch technology and will share with you what I learn. I am also looking forwarded to getting into the ARM controllers. That is some heavy iron to an 8- and 16-bit guy like me, but my buddy Dave will point me in the right direction and I am sure my co-workers here will put up with my questions.

When Sander Arts asked me to join him at Atmel, the first thing I did was call my pal Dave. We thought Atmel was cool and we knew it 13 years ago. But I was not sure of how Atmel was doing in the eyes of the world. Dave said “Atmel’s star has really risen in the last 5 years.” The Arduino was part of that. But he said people were also seeing how cool the Atmel ARM stuff was. And the whole world was seeing what Dave saw in 2000, how Atmel can get you into 8-bit development cheaply, and how nice the code works. When I was at the Design West conference this year (2013) I saw my buddy Windell Oskay, the co-founder of Evil Mad Science. When I told him I was starting with Atmel he was really jazzed. He said that he loved the Arduino and the whole development ecosystem that has sprung up around it.

In addition to telling you about all the cool things Atmel is up to, I will be sure to keep you informed of all the fun things my pals are doing. This includes lifestyle things like the electronic flea market here in Silicon Valley and career things like how my crack protégé has figured out a LinkedIn profile that gets him 3 headhunter calls a week. Stay tuned and look for all the system design scuttlebutt that will help you be a better engineer and programmer.