Twenty years? PCB West is 20 years old? I feel like Rip Van Winkle all of a sudden. I close my eyes, take a walk around the block and poof, those years have flown by. And at the risk of dating myself, I was barely in my forties when we started PCB West. (You do the math.)
It only seems like a long time when I think about some of the shows and things that happened back in the heady days of the 1990s. Then there are some photos floating around of those early PCB West shows. Looking at those pics, I can see I’m not the only one who has aged a bit. And speaking of age, in some ways the PCB design world has also aged. I’m sure some of you remember the PCB Benchmark that we used to do at PCB West. Back in those days, it was not unusual to have more than a dozen different EDA vendors participating in the benchmark. Today most of those companies have been gobbled up by three or four companies. During the days of the first PCB Design Conferences, personal computers were just coming into wide use. The DOS OS was still limited by hardware and software, and most design systems were still operating on UNIX-based machines from Sun or HP. By comparison, I expect any day to hear of some EDA company releasing a product optimized for the iPAD.
In the early days as editor of Printed Circuit Design magazine, I used to talk about the Buck Rogers syndrome: When I was a kid, everyone expected us to be walking on Mars and riding around in flying cars by the year 2000. It’s what we saw on TV and what a country and society that knew few boundaries could imagine. While we may be a bit more realistic about expectations these days, the pace of change has accelerated. Think about this: When we started the PCB Design Conference, there were no cell phones or laptops (at least not for the masses), and we didn’t even imagine email or the Internet.
The technology has changed over the years: finer features, many more pins on the components, and signal integrity issues are the norm. But, basically, it is the same process. In some ways PCB design has changed a lot in 20 years, but in some ways it is still the same. In my mind it’s a lot like the people involved. You’ve changed in some ways to keep up with the technology, but in the end, PCB designers are still the ones who turn that idea, that concept, into a tangible product. To me that means you are still the indispensable link in the chain.
Thanks for all you do, and thanks for the first 20 fantastic years of PCB Design Conference. We couldn’t have done it without you.