Vonada’s Electrical Engineering Maxims

A list of electrical engineering maxims by DEC Engineer Don Vonada:

  1. There is no such thing as ground.
  2. Digital circuits are made from analog parts.
  3. Prototype designs always work.
  4. Asserted timing conditions are designed first; unasserted timing conditions are found later.
  5. When all but one wire in a group of wires switch, that one will switch also.
  6. When all but one gate in a module switches, that one will switch also.
  7. Every little picofarad has a nanohenry all its own.
  8. Capacitors convert voltage glitches to current glitches (conservation of energy).
  9. Interconnecting wires are probably transmission lines.
  10. Synchronizing circuits may take forever to make a decision.
  11. Worse-case tolerances never add — but when they do, they are found in the best customer’s machine.
  12. Diagnostics are highly efficient in finding solved problems.
  13. Processing systems are only partially tested since it is impractical to simulate all possible machine states.
  14. Murphy’s Laws apply 95 percent of the time. The other 5 percent of the time is a coffee break.

Source: Computer Engineering: A DEC View of Hardware Systems Design, 1978, Digital Press, Chapter 1, “Seven Views of Computer Systems”, by C. Gorgon Bell, J. Craig Mudge, and John E. McNamara, Table 5

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