Monday, April 20, 2009

Down under there seems to be less money … or is it?

Recently I felt my career was moving well below the bottom of the OSI layer. I started my career poking around products like, drivewizard, swissknife, etc … All of these software extensively used the ASPI (Advanced SCSI Programming Interface), defined initially by Adaptec, now unceremoniously discontinued. Though these applications directly interacted with the storage media, they were user-land applications, privileged not more then the “internet explorer”. The IDE was VC++. My job-title was VLSI design engineer. And I was longing to be one, but was just happy or had no choice but to write these application. I got bored in 3 months time, and protested with the management, who were gracious enough to allow me to write firmware. I did not last long in this company, as the company of my dreams came calling … SCM Microsystems

It was here, my real career started, I started working on Manufacturing test application, then I wrote WDM (Windows Driver Model) device drivers, and after toiling with drivers and applications for almost 2 years I started writing embedded software for 8052 based digital media readers. From then on, I wrote embedded software for more than 7 years, spanning SCM Micro, ROHM, EPSON, Canon, OMRON, … etc … until recently I started working on Image processing and very recently … VLSI design. Yes, 10 years after being offered a job as a VLSI design engineer, today I am designing (testing to be precise), some neat next generation hardware. I am a learner, and so it gives me immense satisfaction when I find that I am learning something new … Off course all satisfaction due to learning will make you happy if it helps your bank balance. The trend in India is, embedded software engineers are paid better than application developers, and VLSI design engineers are paid better than embedded software developers. I just thought that this trend might continue if I go even a step down, start working on ASIC backend … Placement and routing :) …

I was only shocked to learn that, in Japan, VLSI design engineers are not paid any more than embedded software engineers. And worse, some guys working with say, iPhone, earns more than a guy slogging with gates and verilog. So I was stuck … the satisfaction of this new education may not help my bank balance. But it gives me immense satisfaction, when I can say, I know how (High level software code) is turned into (Assembly language code), I know how the processor will react to the assembly language code, and I probably can implement the hardware to execute the assembly language code, and know the gate arrangement, … I wish I know the transistors that make-up all those gates … phoo … I have reached the bottom, almost …

When I was working for Onspec, I have often heard about this guy Larry Jones. I never got a chance to meet him though. I heard he made a whole working processor using transistors, and showed every engineer from the company who visited our US office. Back then I use to think, what a genius of a guy … Probably in some more time … yours truly is another Larry in the making … Thanks Shockley

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