I Became An Engineer: Because Of A 1930s Vintage Radio

Source: ECN

April 6, 2018

Jennifer DeLaOsa – Associate Editor

***Editor’s Note: The “I Became An Engineer” blog runs every Friday. To share your story email jennifer.delaosa@advantagemedia.com***

This week’s story comes to us from ECN reader Dr. Lauro Rizzatti.

My interest in engineering started when I was about 14 years old. I disassembled my dad’s old 1930s German radio, encouraged by my brother-in-law, a naval engineer.

(Image Credit: Dr. Lauro Rizzatti)

It took me three days to layout those red-glowing vacuum tubes, capacitors, resistors, inductors, and transformers neatly on a table. What impressed me was the craftsmanship and the quality of the components, particularly the capacitors.

From then on, I was intrigued by electronics and read everything I could about the subject. My second project was to build a radio transmitter.

In high school, I liked (and thrived at) physics and mathematics, but did poorly in literature and philosophy, compulsory in the Italian education. We were required to read the great literary authors of the Italian Renaissance, Latin and the French and German philosophers of the Enlightenment, and capture the essence of their thinking in writing. I hated it. Fortunately, I outgrew that aversion, and now I enjoy reading and writing almost everything.

Once I graduated from high school, I went on to college where I earned a doctorate in Electronic Engineering from the Universita` degli Studi di Trieste in Italy. In those days, it was all or nothing, no Bachelor or Master degrees—the first two years were general topics related to physics and mathematics and years three through five were focused on electronics.

Instead of the typical thesis for a doctorate degree, I did a three-month internship at SIT-Siemens in Milan where I designed and built an electronic clock using TTL (transistor-transistor-logic) ICs from Texas Instruments, almost unheard of in Italy back then. Back to the university, I presented my clock to the examiners as a practical application of electronics and got my degree. I still remember vividly powering the clock with a car battery much bigger than the clock.

(Image Credit: Dr. Lauro Rizzatti)

My internship paid back with a job offer from SIT-Siemens, where I worked as a digital designer. My second job as an application engineer took me to Germany, and from there I traveled the world. I moved to the U.S. and worked for Teradyne in Boston, where I first came into contact with logic and fault simulation, and hardware modeling/acceleration technologies—areas of chip design verification I still enjoy and work in today.

My move to Mentor, a Siemens Business, in Portland, Ore., launched me fully into hardware emulation, a design verification technology that continues to fascinate me. In 1995, emulation was expensive, hard to use and eminently unreliable. The huge machine sat in a dusty corner of a CAE/CAD department and functioned with one user at a time. Only the largest and most complex chip designs ever went near an emulator box.

Around the turn of the Millennium, I dipped my toes in the startup waters, joining first Get2Chip, an innovative logic synthesis firm, and then Emulation Verification Engineering (EVE), a hardware emulation startup where I worked until a successful acquisition. Today, I consult about hardware emulation. Obviously, I caught the emulation bug.

The technology has come a long way in 30 years to where it’s a mandatory tool for chip design verification. It can be used for hardware design and software development. New advancements make it a data center staple available to several concurrent users worldwide any time of day.

From my teenage years, my passion for electronics has grown. Watching a technology like emulation become a fundamental tool for design and verification groups continues to inspire me.