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Are there really any stupid questions?
Well, of course there are. Try asking your high school graduate whether he would prefer a new car or a hearty “well done” as a graduation gift, and you will get a look that tells you that you’ve just asked a really stupid question. In fact, just asking if there are really any stupid questions proves the point. But now that I’ve gotten your attention, let’s take a deeper look.
Many of us who have been designing boards for years have had to deal with annoying questions from “the kids.” You know who I mean: The rookies, newbies, greenhorns, or puppies just starting out in their design careers. We’ve all had to answer questions like, “Why is library development so important?” or “Why is solder mask green?”
In my position of working with customers, I often meet people who are just starting out in the design industry. Because of this, I have been asked a lot of questions that show how little some of these new designers know of board design, how board design relates to the larger fields of fab and manufacturing, and board design history.
Try telling one of these kids, “Back in the day, we used to lay out tape-up boards by first sticking down dollies,” and you will get a very strange look in return. So, I understand the temptation to ignore questions that seem trivial, but I believe we do ourselves a great disservice by doing so. I’m sure that we can all remember times when those who were older and wiser helped us out when we were just puppies in this business.
Our PCB design industry has changed a lot through the years. When I first started designing boards in the ‘80s, many designers still created tape-up designs on drafting boards. These people were artists and the fact that some of these tape-up designs are still being fabricated today is a testament to the durability of the design and the skill of the designers. But many of these original designers did not make the transition to computers and our industry saw a great reset.
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Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.