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Breakthrough Technology for Digital Design Analysis Defined by Intensive Market Research


Tektronix has debuted an innovative platform, concept and product series that redefines the measurement tool used for digital design analysis. The TLA 700 Series is everything needed for digital design analysis -- faster, wider and deeper than conventional logic analyzers -- to meet the challenges of today's convergence era and beyond. With 500 picosecond (ps) timing and up to 136 channels per module, the TLA 700 Series doesn't miss anything.

Not only does the TLA 700 Series have capabilities beyond conventional logic analyzers, but it's far easier to use than any other logic analyzer. In fact, if you've been using Windows® 95, then you already know how to "drive" this new logic analyzer.

How did such an innovative breakthrough technology for digital design analysis come about?

It wasn't by taking the latest technologies and stirring them together until something fell out. And it wasn't by assembling a secret engineering dream team and waiting to see what they came up with.

It came about by returning to the basics: intensive and in-depth market research. Market answers to key questions such as, "What do you really need?" and "What do you really want?" drove this breakthrough digital design analysis technology. Except the questions and answers were really never quite that simple until the end. Actually getting there required extraordinary market research discipline and perception coupled with Tektronix' vast experience as a breakthrough leader in signal acquisition and processing technology.

The Enemy of Time

Solving any problem requires first that the problem and its root causes be recognized. Anyone who has been involved in a product development cycle soon recognizes that time is always the critical factor. A tug-of-war between time-to-market and design issues is inevitable.

But the real enemy of time is the unknown. Latent timing problems can manifest themselves anywhere in the development cycle, but the most elusive ones often occur toward the end of the cycle, where all of the design elements first come together in an integrated prototype. And this is where the unknown is the most costly, too. Because, until the engineers know what is wrong, they can't start to determine what it will take to fix it. This is where timelines begin to fall apart. And this is where engineers are hampered by the inadequacies of traditional logic analyzers.

Because logic analyzers lack the timing resolution needed to verify system timing in today's digital products, separate state and timing modules must be used. Separate modules mean that a second set of probes must be connected for high-speed timing, which takes significant amounts of precious time. And in many cases, the connections are so complex as to be impractical. As a result, full timing measurement is prohibited; consequently, measurements are made on only a few channels with high risk of being misled by a partial view of actual timing.

While going up against the unknown with less than adequate tools can be extraordinarily time-consuming and risky, experience indicates that it is unavoidable in most product development cycles. Even when things seem to be working, engineers are tasked with making sure they are going to work right, every time, under all conditions. That's their job. To do that job they must have adequate tools to stress and characterize the product to the point where they are sure that the design and implementation are sound. And the sooner they are able to do that, the sooner the product can be released into the marketplace with confidence.

A Market-Driven Solution

Once the inadequacy of today's digital design verification tools were identified as key contributors to the time-to-market problem, Tektronix made a major market research investment to ferret out possible solutions. Extensive market surveys and focus groups were used to identify the critical technical issues and to test product concepts. Panels of experts were interviewed on key topics such as effectiveness of operability and usability. Multiple user interface concepts were tested. Then all of the results were tabulated, collated and analyzed.

The goal was to distill all the input to answer the "What do you really need?" and "What do you really want?" questions. This is shown in the following table where key responses are categorized as Greatest Source of Frustrations/Dissatisfaction (What do you really want?) and Rationale for Logic Analyzer Purchase (What do you really need?).

Primary Source of Frustration/
Dissatisfaction:
Rationale for Logic Analyzer Purchase:
User Interface DifficultNeed more timing resolution
Setup DifficultNeed more channels
Limited speedNeed deeper memory
Limited memory depthEquipping lab for new project
Limited triggering capabilityNeed more units/work group has expanded
Too many connections/probesOld logic analyzer broken/needs replacement
NothingEasy to use

Of the various answers, two held an overwhelming majority -- the need for greater speed and the desire for an easier user interface. A particularly telling aspect of the market research involved investigation of user interfaces. In broad questioning about platforms and user interfaces, it was found that there was an overwhelming preference for the Windows environment. This realization was a key turning point in the TLA 700 Series design and resulted in the plan to embed the Windows 95 operating system.

However, the most important results were those relating directly to functionality -- the need for speed, more memory, more channels, frustrations with setup difficulties and the number of connections. These findings drove development of this breakthrough technology for digital design analysis.

Leveraging Proven Technology

In creating a breakthrough technology for digital design analysis that gives digital designers a window into their designs, Tektronix leveraged its leadership position in digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) technology. In particular, Tektronix employed an asynchronous digital oversampling technology to provide both depth and speed. New, high-speed probes with only 2.5 picofarad loading were designed to provide a single connection for both state and timing measurements. The key benefit of this latter feature answers the desire for fewer and simpler connections to the system under test.

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The asynchronous digital oversampling -- achieved through a breakthrough technology called MagniVuTM a super-fast digital sampler that enables the TLA 700 Series logic analyzer modules to offer 500 ps timing resolution on all channels -- is a key element in the TLA 700 Series architecture. With MagniVu, the logic analyzer modules offer 2 GHz timing analysis on up to 136 channels per module and up to 680 per instrument. The 500 ps timing resolution is available on all channels and can be used in "zooming" from a state view to a timing view to investigate glitches or other anomalies. Additionally, 500 ps glitch detection marks the data display if a glitch has occurred even though you may not have been looking for one.

Viewing fine timing detail is achieved through the high-speed MagniVu memory (2K deep at 2 GHz rate), while memory depth is provided by the main memory (512K at 250 MHz).

IMG00003

All of the key "wants" and "needs" revealed by market research are addressed by this new logic analyzer technology. These include:

TLA 700 Series Features:Meet These Wants and Needs:
Simultaneous state and time measurements through the same probes= Quicker and easier connections to the system under test
500 ps timing resolution on all channels= More timing resolution
500 ps timestamp resolution on state acquisitions= More information
500 ps triggering resolution on setup and hold violations= Fewer unknowns
500 ps triggering resolution on glitches= Easier to uncover unknowns
200 MHz acquisition speeds= More speed
Up to 136 channels per module with up to 512K memory per channel= More channels

And it's all provided in a single, card-modular system that is both easy to use and easy to expand for future needs.

Mainframes

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Color Benchtop
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Color Portable
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DSO Modules
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LA Modules

What Does It All Mean?

When time is everything, the TLA 700 Series is the answer. It provides the speed, width and depth capabilities necessary for keeping pace with rapidly advancing digital design technology. With its 500-ps timing resolution, digital designers will be able to see details of system timing they could never see before.

When time is everything, simultaneous state and timing through the same probe simplifies connections to the system under test.

When time is everything, a simple user interface makes setup and analysis quick and easy.

When time is everything, this new logic analyzer technology from Tektronix provides the capability that digital designers need to conquer the unknowns and satisfy time-to-market demands.