electronic engineering
facts and factoids

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PCB Layout Software
Electrical Engineers in History
Electronic Parts Distributors in Canada
Engineering job boards in Vancouver, Canada
PCB fabrication houses
Hobby electronics resources

PCB Layout Software
If you are in the market for a package, start with Wikipedia EDA software comparison. This table lists some basic facts.
A few things to remember:
  • Cost is not an indicator of quality. Neither is popularity or the celebrated status of some packages.
  • Consider the features you need. There is no point purchasing spice modeling, FPGA simulation, 3D modeling or fancy autorouters if you are not likely to use them.
  • Packages coming with large parts and footprints libraries should be explored with caution. Having pre-made parts saves a lot of time but I find that seasoned designers often end up creating their own parts.
  • Some packages are tied to a PCB fabrication house. This is OK but I like the flexibility of universal Gerber and NC drill output which any manufacturer would accept. It also allows you to check the output file yourself.
Here are the packages I used myself:
OrCAD - Cadence OrCAD is a favorite old-timers.
PADS - Mentor Graphics PADS is a heavy-weight player in the layout software world. Many professionals swear by it.
Altium - it used to be Protel, one of the early packages catering to users on a budget. It came a long way since then.
Eagle - if you think that you always gets what you pay for, try the paid version of CADSOFT Eagle. I was pleasantly surprised.
CADSTAR - another old-timer package.

Which one is my personal favorite? each has its quirks and all take some time to learn. Having spent significant time with all of them, I can work in either and would not prefer one or the other. For basic functionality, then, I would go with price.
Electrical Engineers in History
Edwin Howard Armstrong - radio modulation techniques.
Jean-Maurice-Emile Baudot - first digital code communication.
Hendrik Wade Bode - immortalized in the Bode plot.
J. Presper Eckert - ENIAC lead hardware engineer.
Ralph Hartley - gave us the Hartley oscillator.
Oliver Heaviside - some of the fiercest engineering math.
Jack St. Clair Kilby - inventor of the integrated circuit.
Harry Nyquist - of Nyquist frequency fame.
Claude Elwood Shannon - information theory.
Kalman Tihanyi - storage effect, plasma TV and more.
Electronic Parts Distributors in Canada
These are the outlets I use all the time for prototype purchases because they have lots of inventory and their delivery in Canada is relatively cheap, quick and reliable:
Digikey
Newark
Mouser

These distributors seem to target larger buyers. They often hold technical seminars. All employ friendly sales people and knowledgeable application engineers:
Arrow Electronics
Future Electronics
Avnet Electronics
Electrosonic

Distributors with retail stores in Canadian cities:
Active Electronics
RP Electronics
SMI Industrial Electronics

Brokers. These good people will get you obsolete and short-supply parts that no one else carries.
American Electronic Source
Job boards in Vancouver, Canada
A short search will net dozens of job boards operating in the southern BC job market. One should not leave any stone unturned in the job search. The following are my personal favorites rather than a comprehensive list.
T-NET Employment Board is by far the best database of high-tech jobs in southern BC.
Craiglist, under arch/engineering and software / qa / dba. Buyer beware: if the employer does not list their name and the job description is vague, you may want to take the opportunity with a grain of salt.

PCB Fabrication Houses
Elecrow - my favorite in China. Good quality, unbeatable price, fast delivery.
SeeedStudio Fusion Service - another good quality, low-cost house in China.
Advanced Circuits - a solid US-based design house. Delivery to Canada is relatively expensive.
AP Circuit - in Alberta, Canada

Fabrication houses in southeastern BC I have used:
Canadian Circuits
Omni Graphics
Enigma
Dyco Circuits

This page lists quite a few worldwide manufacturers. Prices, where listed, should be verified with the actual companies as they tend to change and be subject to small-print restrictions. Always inquire about shipping charges, especially when crossing a border.

Makerspaces and hobby electronics shops
Shopping for projects, parts and ideas:
AdaFruit - The hobby professionals. A US-based hobby electronics heaven.
SparkFun - US-based, an excellent source of amateur electronics hardware and advice.
RobotShop - a medley of amateur electronics, toys and expensive robotic devices. Delivery from Canada.
SolarBotics - Canadian amateur electronics. Courteous and friendly service. Delivery from Canada.

Maker spaces and the amateur electronics community in southeastern BC:
MakerLabs is a commercial creative space in Vancouver. Pleasant, competent staff and affordable prices.
Vancouver hacker space - a well established non-profit maker space.
Fraser valley MakerSpace - rapidly growing in Langley, BC.
Zen Maker Lab - a makers' educational hub in North Vancouver.
MakerCube - a new makerspace in Surrey, BC.

This page has a thorough list of maker resources in Vancouver.