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This month's (December 2018) giveaway is a piece of junk. Or rather, a battered and beaten "historical artifact." It's a Philco oscilloscope from 1946. The manual, including schematic, is here. I picked it up on eBay a few years ago, and while it's kind of cool, have no real use for the thing. It powers up and displays a distorted waveform, usually, but is pretty much good for nothing other than as a desk ornament. I wrote about this here. (The thing is so old I'd be afraid to leave it plugged in while unattended). Enter the contest here.

By Jack Ganssle

The Boston ESC

Published 9/9/2007

I’m in Norway, having spent a tremendously enjoyable day at Atmel’s facility in Trondheim, and am on my way to Aarhus, Denmark. By the time I get back later this week, after almost two weeks on the road, all I want is some time at home, a week or two to catch up, a chance to fiddle around in the shop for a while, and return some calls. But the Boston Embedded Systems Conference beckons and I can’t wait to get there and meet up with you, readers, developers, engineers and the inventors of the electronical world that has so transformed life as we know it.

Sometimes I get a kick out of gently playing with readers of this column, making strong, even outrageous statements to provoke dialog and stimulate discussion that is always fascinating no matter which side one takes. Not this week. My goal here is twofold: to encourage you East-Coasters to attend the show, and to invite all to stop me and chat.

When the Internet first gained fame advocates of video conferencing predicted that shows were dead. Why travel, why fight traffic, when a physical presence is so two minutes ago? Those prognosticators were simply wrong. As business guru Tom Peters wrote at the time, we need a mix of “high tech and high touch.” Technology will never replace personal interaction, as least until e-meetings are as seamless and compelling as an event staged on the holodeck.

ESC-Boston is the only East Coast event that targets embedded developers. It’s the singular chance for those of us working in this field to get together, to see new products and tools, and to take a huge range of classes. This year they’ll tear down a Prius (which was pretty cool at the West Coast show) and convert it to a plug-in hybrid. Other events will also both stimulate your thinking and switch on your sense of “cool!”

We work in the fastest-changing field in the world. Tomorrow’s technology will be quite different than what we work with today. It’s hard to keep up. But we must, or risk becoming obsolete.

Our jobs are challenged by low-cost overseas competition. Bosses want a silver bullet to get their projects done faster and cheaper. If you’re not learning better ways to get your products to market faster, count on early obsolescence.

A wise advisor once told me a week spent learning just one new killer idea is a week well-spent. Yet after each of these conferences I need a couple of hours to sort out all of the new ideas and concepts that litter my notepad.

Come to the conference, chat with your colleagues, develop a wide network of contacts. The ESC is good for both your current job… and you career.