The Shaughnessy Report: The EDA Tool Conundrum


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You’ve likely been using EDA tools for 30 years or so. And you probably use your PCB design software just about every day. Does your tool do what you want it to do?

I don’t know if EDA tools are getting better or if designers are just mellowing with age, but I don’t hear as many of you griping about your tools. You all used to complain constantly about your software. If four or five designers got together at a conference, eventually the conversation would devolve into a bitch session.

To hear you all tell it, your tools were crap, barely able to get the job done, and only after you set up patches and workarounds. Also, your managers were idiots for forcing you to use Mentor Graphics or Cadence or Zuken or Altium or Intercept, because it’s just not designed to do what you’re doing. How did they get to be managers, anyway?

And boy, wasn’t P-CAD just the best tool ever? I still hear that a few times each year, actually.

It was almost a point of pride that you knew how to use this buggy software. You were part of a special club. And you UNIX users had an almost cultlike affinity for your tools. How many of you swore you’d never move to Windows tools? With UNIX, you could revel in the knowledge that no one else in your office could operate your software.

What job security!

Over time, the EDA companies started to take note. Now, every new rev of a design tool boasts that it’s more “user-friendly” and has an “improved GUI.”  And they seem to be trying to make PCB design tools so simple that even electrical engineers can use them. (OK, I stole that line from one of the designers at IPC APEX EXPO. But it is funny.)

You may recall last month’s column in which I shared feedback from the attendees at the SMTA Atlanta Designers Roundtable. I asked the group, “What do you wish your tools would do that they don’t do now?” Read the full column here.Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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