Learn Hardware and Design Your Commercial Product

I am certain the first question in everybody’s mind is: “Why should I learn this tiresome hardware design in my spare time? I like to listen music, to play games, and to eat pizza. I just want to relax!”

There is absolutely noting wrong with listening good music and eating pizza in your spare time, but… Living our life is, unfortunately, harder and more demanding with each passing day. If you have a good job today, you also have 75% chances to lose it, tomorrow. This is the new trend in our social life: jobs are not secure anymore. Even worse; if you do manage to “keep” a job for sometime, you could discover, after ten years of dedication and hard-work, you didn’t manage to set aside your 100000 $ “safe cash buffer”. Realistically, our life today means a permanent search for the next job, a never-ending and terrifying resume work, and also an acute lack of sufficient money for anything.

Our society is polarized into employers and employees; between the two, being an employee it is far tougher! Some time ago a manager was required to know how to work with many, psychically different employees; today, it is the employee who must know how to “deal” with the managers. More often people retire and they have to sell their homes, because they cannot afford continuously increasing costs of living–no, Sir; not anymore. Well, think ahead tiger.

Now, which is the right way to become an employer? If you want–mind this, please: only if you want to–you could start working on becoming an employer today, and hardware design is one (important) way that leads to building your own commercial product and your future business. Besides, it will also increase your chances of employment, so… there are only benefits ahead for you. Please note, our entire social activity it is strongly–if not totally–dependent on hardware, firmware, and software technologies.

The first thing you should know about hardware design is, it doesn’t work by itself–well, not much. Hardware it is driven by firmware and/or software most of the times. This complicates things a little, but not too much–don’t worry about this. Now, let’s detail the action plan, a bit. The first thing you need to do is, start with a reasonable life-plan. For example, you could decide in ten years from now you are going to start your “J J Hardtronics Technologies Ltd.” business. Ten years is a good time-buffer, in which you will learn everything you need to know about hardware, firmware, and software design. However, please be aware the most important thing, during these ten years, is to discover your future commercial product!

There are millions of good commercial products waiting to be discovered, and do not look at the high-end technological monsters like cell-phones; this market is so fiercely driven by competition that the best thing is to stay away from it. This doesn’t mean you cannot design a good product for the cell-phones industry if you want to. A quick example is a cell-phone utility software program, or a game.

Truth is, the most beneficial applications are the industrial ones. There are thousands of industrial sensors that may be embedded into nice applications; a quick example is the acceleration sensor, or the one that measures the O2 concentration in water. You could design commercial motor-drivers, particularly for brushless DC or steppers motors. Other promising applications are: designing an instructive toy; you could break into the display-signs industry; or you could start building light-organs if you are a true music lover. The analog light-organs were a mandatory accessory in the 60s and 70s; without one, you simply couldn’t understand music, because you missed the related visual analog equivalent–please, take this last one just as a personal opinion. (The right way to relate colored light to music is: blue for low frequencies produced by the bass-guitar or drum, then green for solo-guitars and normal organ notes, red for voice, and finally yellow for the highest and most delicate frequencies which few people manage to hear.)

I have seen an automotive coolant sensor controller selling very well for 35 $, and it contained only 2 transistors and few resistors; a temperature transducer was efficiently sold for 20 $ and it contained only resistors! A friend of mine has sold for half a million dollars the license of a tiny, intelligent controller for boilers. Please note, he was a beginner designer, and the application itself was nothing past beginning hardware design level. Of course, my friend was very lucky to find the right people who needed that particular application, and who were willing to pay handsomely for it. This is in fact the difficult problem: finding the right and the needed commercial product, and this is why I said you should allocate ten good years to research the market, or to find the opportunity. Sure, you could discover even ten commercial products in ten years–the more they are, the better it is!

So, the need to become an employer and of improving your skills are sufficiently strong motivations to start learning hardware design. You could still be unclear about why hardware design in particular; why not firmware, or even software design? This is true, and you could do it anyway you want; however, starting with hardware design it is particularly beneficial. First of all, hardware is the beginning of the hardware-firmware-software chain, and it is best to start everything from the very beginning, one step at a time. Secondly, hardware design helps building your commercial product as an independent unit, or as a perfectly contained application. Next, the range of beneficial hardware applications it is way larger, and the competition is a bit less brutal, when compared to firmware and software. On the other hand, hardware design is going to lead you, naturally, to firmware and software design. My belief is, starting with hardware design it is the best method of learning, because you take everything from ground up.

All right, I am certain you are motivated enough by now. Your next question is: “How do I do this?” You see, this is in fact the easy part! Incidentally, you could start by visiting my home site, Corollary Theorems. Have no fears, my friend; you are going to discover that hardware, firmware and software design are very easy to learn, and they are even fun!

Little relaxation in your spare time it is very good and quite necessary. Although you do not hear much about this, lately, when I was a bit younger we were encouraged to experiment with “active relaxation”. This means, by reading an instructive, useful book, you could get the same level of relaxation as when listening music, or playing PC games. However, the lecture of a good book is going to enrich your level of knowledge, and you will gain valuable skills, instead of just “killing time”. This is the theory behind the active relaxation concept. Nice, aye?