Functional vs. Fictional Design


I grew up in the sixties. As a soon-to-be engineer, I was enraptured by two things (a third was girls, but that’s not the point here); the space program and cars. Space was out of reach for me, but cars… ah… cars were everywhere, tangible, achievable, they were earth-bound rockets that if you had the means (or a friend with means) you could pilot an SS396 Chevelle a Boss429 Mustang (or as I did, a 440 Charger RT).

Looking back on these marvelous machines I realize now that these were anything but functional designs. They were, as many have said about these cars, “unguided missiles” and any assertion that they were elegantly designed cars is pure fiction. Indeed, my 2017 Chevy Volt is only about one second slower than a Boss351 Mustang to the quarter mile mark and gets about 10 times the fuel economy! I would call this functional design.

Biggest, baddest

I only mention this example because it relates to the designs that we here at Abaco are engaged in. We take processors of all sorts (our “engines”) and put them into our circuit boards and computing systems (our “cars”). Often the temptation is to put the biggest, baddest processor out there in a board because we can show great processing speeds (and, well, it’s cool), but in reality there is much more to functional design than that.

We have a saying around here; “It’s not what it is, it’s what it does”. What our products must do is fit the needs of the customer; effective interfaces, ease of integration, ruggedness, power, weight and space constraint, reliability and support are all just as important as outright “horsepower”.

When I was young I worked at a dragstrip in the summer. The announcer there had a saying whenever a car would “burn rubber” and lose a race: “It’s not how much horsepower you’ve got, it’s how much you can put on the ground”.

Here at Abaco, we are all about putting processing power “on the ground”.


Larry Schaffer's picture

Larry Schaffer

Larry Schaffer has been with us in a business development role since 2001, and works to create and maintain long-term, strategic relationships with key companies engaged in embedded computing for ground systems applications with a strong emphasis on image processing and distribution. He was born in Pennsylvania and educated as an Electrical Engineer in New Jersey and California (where he now lives). Just don’t ask him to tell you about being a war baby…

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