Microprocessor-Design: we solve problems
We thrive on solving problems, particularly those our clients haven't been able to solve themselves. Our areas of expertise include:
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Can we help solve your digital electronics problem?
Let's say your company has a problem in some area of digital electronics. It could well be that your senior engineers are committed already to other tasks where their intimate knowledge of your product and procedures are crucial.
Maybe you have to redesign a board at short notice to meet enhanced specifications, or to work around the discontinuance of a key component.
Maybe you need an interface or add-on to provide your customer with enhanced functionality. Maybe you need to use an off-the-shelf device in a new way and it's not the manufacturer's policy to let you have the necessary documentation.
Maybe you have a new product idea, a bit out of your own area of expertise, and you need a feasibility study or prototype design. Perhaps your new design just doesn't work the way it should and you need another opinion.
Or perhaps you need some software engineering that requires an intimate knowledge of the hardware issues or of the disciplines of mathematics or physics.
Yes, we most likely can help. All our clients were in a similar position and are happy they found us.
You can call on our expertise in any of these areas:
We are very clever, if not modest, so whether your problem is out of the ordinary or just too hard, please contact us for an initial discussion. We'll be delighted to help you.
Microprocessor-Design was formed as a proprietary limited company in Australia by Dr Mike Randall as the director and chief consultant. Associate consultants from a network of digital engineers are involved in our contracts when appropriate.
When Mike returned to New Zealand to take up a 'permanent' position he de-registered the Australian company and retains the name to cover his consulting business in New Zealand.
Mike began his career as a theoretical seismologist, publishing widely and gaining a PhD (with Distinction) in Planetary Physics at UCLA. He spent two years as a professor in geophysics at Brown University, Providence, and 12 years working in the Geophysics Division of the (then) Department of Industrial Research in New Zealand.
Why the career switch to microprocessor design?
Mike took up designing with microprocessors to develop a digital seismometer. His research needed good quality digital data from local earthquakes and the DSIR didn't have the instrumentation to collect it. So being a good Kiwi bloke, he developed a very successful instrument as well as a passion for electronic design.
A good Kiwi bloke? Well, they say New Zealanders can invent and construct pretty well anything from motley scraps and a piece of No. 8 wire. Microprocessor design does not use No. 8 wire, but Kiwi ingenuity and inventiveness is a boon in any field.
Salute to Galileo
OK, so we took a leaf out of Galileo's book*. We would like to think that we are the kind of people he would have enjoyed working with. Thinking outside the square was his forté too.
Needless to say, Galileo is our hero. While he respected authority he still felt the need to question its pronouncements on the world and to observe it. He was a founder of the scientific method http://bigbropoker.org, and one of its most painstaking practitioners. In his work on the physics of bodies rolling downhill, when he got to the limits of the measuring techniques of his time (the human pulse was the unit of measure of short intervals) he invented better (weighing the quantity of water that flowed in the time).
Though we love our work to be noticed, no doubt it will avoid the fate of Galileo's most famous book, "Dialogue on the Two World Systems", placed by the Holy Office of the Inquisition on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1633; it was not removed until 1835. Who will remember our work in even one hundred years?
Hire an expert. You never know, you might become today's Medici.
Previous digital electronics projects
Past projects of Microprocessor-Design include:
Encrypted VoIP for low-rate channels
Encrypted VoIP for low-rate channels
The hardware prototype had already been developed for project. My role was to do the CPLD design and Atmel processor firmware development. The aim was to demonstrate an application of the company's digital encryption technology in a low-rate environment (such as a band-limited satellite channel).
The data path (in both directions) was device-(serial link)-PC-(ethernet link)-PC-(serial link)-device. The PC part of the path required me to write a server-client application in Delphi.
Reference design for Altium DXP 2004
The company was commissioned by Altium (Protel) to provide a reference design applying their new DXP-2004 EDA software, which integrated FPGA design, soft embedded processor and peripheral design of and firmware all within the one EDA package.
We chose to develop an example which used a "one wire bus" thermometer device and an IrDA tranceiver. The prototype periodically collected temperature measurements and the state of several switches (emulating security door contacts) and reported the information over IrDA to a nearby PDA which acted as a display interface and data collector.
Low-rate data over GSM voice channel
This project involved working with a start-up company developing technology to transmit low-rate data over the GSM voice channel. The initial prototype successfully enabled proof-of-concept demonstrations and gave a platform for the software development. The design involved the integration of DSP, RISC processor, RAM and DATAFLASH memory and FPGA. The second prototype incorporated a GSM module, battery charging and power management and was ready for investor demonstrations in time.
VoIP for satellite data channel
This project involved the specification and design of a new product involving the convergence of telephony and broadband data over satellite.
It included a DSP to process voice to and from IP packets, an Atmel AVR flash-based processor to handle start-up, FPGA configuration and telephony. A telephone subscriber line interface allowed legacy telephony devices (phone/fax) to use the satellite data link while it simultaneously provided an ethernet data facility.
Mobile satellite telephony system interface
Mike Randall was able to meet a tight deadline to design a component of NEC Australia's mobile satellite telephony system — an interface within the satellite ground station between the satellite protocols and the land telephone network.
This involved Freescale's MC68360 32-bit communications controller, Texas Instruments' TMS320C31 digital signal processor, a Rockwell MODEM chip set, their individual memory subsystems and a shared dual-ported memory for inter-processor communications. Glue-logic functions were incorporated into PLDs and an Altera FPGA.
The success of this project led to further contracts to redesign this board and the base-band processor board of the mobile telephone unit for a military version.
This involved replacing the FPGAs on both boards with Xilinx Spartan FPGAs to allow for encryption over the air link. The main processor was also upgraded from an obsolescent 16-bit 69341 to the 68360.
Existing communications-related functions in the gate arrays were translated to suit the Xilinx Spartan chips and functionality added to allow the control processor and the DSP to have access to an encryption module.
IrDA protocol for Atek Pty Ltd
Microprocessor-Design was asked to research and implement the IrDA protocol for an 8-bit processor. This added functionality to a microprocessor-controlled security device to communicate data via GSM telephony.
We further enhanced the firmware to implement a command set and a GPS data interface.
This we found to be a particularly interesting project, as it would rely on data we had to discover for ourselves, the GSM telephone manufacturer not being forthcoming.
We even wrote a special-purpose protocol analyser in Visual Basic to determine just which parts of the many-layered IrDA protocol were used in the manufacturer's PC interface software. To distil this into firmware that would work in a micro with just 128 bytes of RAM was a challenge indeed.