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Embedded Technology

Pioneer in Obsolescence Management and Legacy Sustainment for embedded technology

  • What do vintage cars and embedded boards have in common?

    What do vintage cars and embedded boards have in common?

    They both get harder to maintain as they get older, and if you don’t plan for obsolescence, they can both fail.

    It’s common sense.  As things get older, they become more expensive to maintain. For example, an antique car was state-of-the art when it first came out. It performed beautifully, and the parts were easy to find. If it had any real problems, it could be taken into the dealer for repairs. However, now that the car is a classic, it requires a lot more upkeep. In the past, it only needed to be taken in for oil changes and tune ups. Now it needs a new transmission, replacement brakes, a new timing belt and a new radiator… and as time passes, the mechanic can’t even get the parts he needs to fix it.

    As the components become harder to find, the odds that your car can even feasibly be repaired get more remote.  At first, you might scour junkyards and advertise online, looking for those crucial pieces of equipment, but eventually you will probably end up having to find someone who can reverse engineer or custom build  the needed parts for you. And now a part that may have been $300 new is going to cost you hundreds more — if not thousands.

    With each transaction, that car gets more and more expensive to fix and maintain, but some cars just can’t be replaced.

  • Obsolescence and why you can’t always just make more.

    Obsolescence and why you can’t always just make more.

    When I first began my work with GDCA one of the questions I had was “Why is dealing with obsolete components not just about making more parts?”

    As I have come to learn, unfortunately, obsolescence management is not just as simple as “making more parts.”

    Imagine you manufacture various components.  In the 1960s, the computers you were making parts for were relatively simple, without many customers who could even afford computers; quantities were low, the manufacturing was relatively easy, and products generally lasted longer.

    Let’s jump forward to today. Over time, and as technology has evolved (Moore’s Law), your fabrication company’s production has also evolved. Now with each product line, you are cranking out hundreds of thousands of parts each day. Customers who need 50 parts are not happy to hear of a 5000 part minimum order quantity (MOQ).  And besides, to some the manufacturers even a 5000 MOQ on an older part can be a distraction.

  • No one wants to be left with EOL overstock

    No one wants to be left with EOL overstock

    On one of the blogs I read, someone commented: “If you’re concerned about counterfeits in obsolete components… don’t worry about to-be-discontinued components — just design them in, and buy what you need to support the product anyway.  Then you won’t have to worry about counterfeits.” On the surface and if you are only worried about […]

  • GDCA: Celebrating 25 Years of Legacy Support

    1987 takes us back: a dozen eggs were 65 cents, a gallon of gas was 89 cents, you and the family may have tuned-in to watch the premiere of a show called The Simpsons.  The last 25 years have been exciting for everyone. Technology has evolved at an amazing rate, and we are honored to support the legacy of this growth. It is because of this technology evolution that GDCA exists.

    In 1987, the embedded industry was only just beginning to feel the early pains being caused by the growing gap between obsolescence and the support needs of long-life systems.

    Foreseeing the difficulty and expensive this would mean for both OEMs and their customers to support what eventually became known as legacy applications, Martin Plotkin recognized the embedded industry needed an alternative.

    This vision paved the way for us to bridge the embedded obsolescence/legacy gap. We are proud of how far we’ve come in the 25 years since we opened our doors as GD California.  Today, as GDCA, we are still a quality manufacturer of legacy products, but with an accumulated track record and experience that provides insight and support for businesses worldwide.

  • Does the prospect of overstocking kill your critical embedded systems?

    With last-time-buy solutions, customers find themselves faced with either over-stocking so-called “obsolete” components, and phasing out older systems.

    2011 wasn’t an easy year for DRAM manufacturers. The move from notebooks towards tablets and technology using NAND flash did nothing to bolster a struggling semiconductor industry. In this type of scenario it becomes common for manufacturers to shift their focus from older technology to newer ones.  This process often leads to End-of-Life (EOL) decisions and component manufacturers sending out Last-Time-Buy (LTB) notices.

    In addition to the immediate challenge of feasibly supporting products with obsolete components, embedded OEMs must focus on latest-and-greatest solutions, developing new solutions to satisfy their customers’ evolving demands.  As the embedded industry shifts from older technology like DRAM to newer and more popular applications like NAND, customers can find themselves faced with a choice between over-stocking of so-called “obsolete” components, and phasing out older and less popular systems.

    So where does this leave older products that don’t have a lot of sales, but are still used by valued customers?

  • What does obsolesence, trains, and Embedded World 2012 have in common?

    The low-speed Birmingham International Airport maglev shuttle was in operation for less than eleven years before obsolescence problems made it inoperable.

    I must admit, I’m looking forward to the upcoming Embedded World 2012 presentation on Model Based Design and Testing of Embedded Systems for the Train & Transportation Industry by Franck Corbier, with Dassault Systèmes.

    Why? Because I have an old-fashioned side of me that loves nothing more than hours on a train, traveling across country.

    The first successful locomotives were built by Richard Trevithick, in 1804. Since then the train and railway systems has been an invaluable resource when it comes to transporting passengers and heavy commercial loads across towns, cities and even nations. And with the emergence of embedding computing technology, everything from train operation, to signaling, to track switching relies on ever growing embedded systems that few of us ever think about.

    In countries like France and Britain, it isn’t unusual to see 30-50 year old legacy systems that need to be maintained, being integrated with increasingly more sensitive and sophisticated systems with significantly shorter life-cycles.

  • Could Stephen Hawking’s voice go end-of-life (EOL)?

    Intel engineer Travis Bonifield holds a replica of the custom PC he recently created for Stephen Hawking

    Whether  you’re checking out his illuminating talks on the nature of the universe, theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity; watching him play himself on Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons and Futurama; or geeking out to MC Frontalot’s rap, science, and quotations; chances are you’ve heard Stephen Hawking’s iconic voice.

    What most people don’t realize is that while Stephen Hawking is very much alive, his voice could risk going end-of-life (EOL). Until recently, the computer responsible for helping Stephen Hawking communicate with the world is made up of three parts: a Lenovo X220 tablet PC, a custom black box containing various peripherals, and the hardware voice itself.

    According to Sam Blackburn, the technician, who for five years kept Stephen Hawking’s communication systems running, the card inside Stephen’s hardware voice synthesizer dates back to the 1980s, “this particular one contains Stephen’s voice. There’s a processor on it which has a unique program that turns text into speech that sounds like Stephen’s, and we have only two of these cards. The company that made them went bankrupt and nobody knows how it works any more.”

  • Reflecting on VITA’s Embedded Tech Trends (ETT 2012)

    Reflecting on VITA’s Embedded Tech Trends (ETT 2012)

    Following its development in the late 1970s by Motorola, VME bus continues to see wide use across many different equipment industries today. In fact, the first COTS VME boards to enter the domestic market (c 1983) were the MVME101 CPU and MVME110 CPU, both of which are still supported by GDCA today (though no one’s asked in a while).

    Founded in 1984 from the VME Manufacturers Group, the VMEbus International Trade Association (VITA) champions working groups formed to develop specifications and standards important to designers of critical embedded systems around the world.

    Considering our VME legacy and long-standing support for the folks at VITA, you can imagine how excited we were when VITA debuted their new, member-only conference, Embedded Tech Trends, January 16th and 17th, in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

    Formerly known as the Bus and Board Conference, Embedded Tech Trends (or ETT 2012) is the “business and technology forum for critical embedded systems.” This year’s focus was VITA technology applications, and the “fruits of the spec-developer’s labor.”

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