Discrete RF Semiconductors: Alive and WellSource: Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
This article is part of a series of quarterly guest columns by Rick Cory, Applications Engineering Manager, Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
In the early 1980s, I was faced with a choice. I was working for a small microwave diode manufacturer as a test engineer, happily integrating stand-alone test equipment into systems controlled by first-generation IBM personal computers. My division vice president walked into my office one morning and said, in a rather abrupt manner, "Our applications engineer just quit. You are the closest thing to him we have, so you are our new applications engineer as of right now." He vanished as suddenly as he had entered, leaving me wondering what just happened and whether it was good or bad for my family and me.
Commercial RF/microwave integrated circuits (RFICs) were establishing a credible toe-hold at the time, to the extent that the prevailing conventional wisdom held that discrete RF semiconductors were on a sure, quick path to obsolescence. My gut reaction told me that my new assignment had placed me on an inescapable one-way trip to the unemployment office, so I sought career advice from some more ex-perienced colleagues. The very small majority of those whom I consulted advised me to make the shift into RF discrete diode applications engineering, the most prescient of whom told me that as a test engi-neer I was really "just a computer programmer, who are a dime a dozen" (his words – not mine!) and that if I was able to become a reasonably good RF/microwave applications engineer, I could "write my own ticket" (he was a tad optimistic on that point). He said that discrete RF/microwave semiconductors were going to be around for a long time.
Fast-forward to 2009. The market for discrete RF/microwave semiconductors is not just alive and well, it is as healthy as any in the electronics industry, and is weathering the current recession very well in-deed.
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