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ECN Time Warp: April 1994

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 9:43am
Chris Warner, Executive Editor


ECN's "Time Warp" series takes a look back at the storied history of Electronic Component News, which has a legacy stretching back to 1956. Each installment looks at a retro issue of the print magazine, tracing the brand’s transformation and evolution over the preceding six decades or so.

Here at ecnmag.com, you can find what’s new and trending. Our home page is constantly refreshed with up-to-the-minute news from the wires plus new products and announcements as they cross our desks. Our Trending section tells you what your peers have been viewing the most, usually within the last day. Prior to the Web, news delivery was not so instantaneous.

New product news was delivered each month to our engineering audience through ECN’s print edition. Some old covers of ECN Magazine have been making the rounds, and we thought it would be fun to have a look back at ECN covers through the years.

This week’s cover goes back 20 years to April 1994. Schindler’s List had just won the Oscar for Best Picture, while The Body Guard earned Grammys for Record of the Year and Album of the Year. The Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl. Later that summer, Brazil would win the World Cup, the Houston Rockets would win the NBA championship, the New York Rangers would win the Stanley Cup, and OJ Simpson would tragically become a national obsession. In 1994, ECN was produced by the former Chilton Publishing Company — then owned by ABC — which was best known for its automotive repair manuals. Today, those manuals live on through Cengage.

This April 1994 cover offers an interesting blend of past and present.

Digital Equipment Corporation (bottom left) was still around in 1994, along with its AX-64 architecture, before being taken over by Compaq, and connector manufacturer Robinson Nugent (second product, first column) was purchased by 3M in 2001. Intel stopped making 80C196 (also known as MCS 96) 16-bit embedded MCUs in 2007. They were commonly used in real-time control applications in the 1990s, and the top right product shows a Nohau EMUL196-PC emulator board designed for that MCU. A competing magazine published the price: $1995; trace boards starting at $3,300, and the pods for the 196 derivatives were $1995. ICE Technology still offers the Nohau brand.

One development from the 1990s was the requirement of non-stop system uptime. Essential for telecom and financial institutions, hot swappable power systems became increasingly critical for business of all types as lost time and money due to power module replacement was no longer acceptable. Not surprisingly, a self-contained, completely wired (read: quick and easy installation) HotSwap redundant power system was featured prominently on the cover.

Touchscreens were also a cover-worthy technology. Although touchscreens were around for a while, they began to live up to their potential in the 1990s as the first touchscreen phones and PDAs (that’s personal digital assistant for you millennials) were being introduced. Resistive touchscreens were mainstream for these types of devices (The iPhone was still more than a decade away from turning the world onto capacitive touch.).

We routinely see new products and development tools/kits that promise to save engineers the hassle of programming. The Cognex Checkpoint announcement (lowest-right) reads like it could have been written in 2014: “…enables engineers with little programming experience to solve complex…tasks.” Today, Cognex, along with Elma and JKL Components are still familiar names to ECN readers.

Do you have any perspective on the products and technology on this cover? Do you have any memories or stories you can share about them? How about some of the other design trends in 1994? Did some of them simply fail to live up to their hype? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

 

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