Economic issues top many lists of New Years'resolutions and goals for 2009. With business prospects weak for the foreseeable future (can anyone really "see" the future?), most readers are looking for ways to save or cut costs and these strategies apply not only to financial planning but to circuit designs as well. The time has come when the cost of components, circuit materials, and packaging must be considered as part of a design along with the electrical parameters and tolerances of those components. Aiming for the highest performance is a noble goal, but usually expensive. Achieving somewhat less, but satisfactory, performance for a given application may be an approach more in line with these economic times.
Watchful cost planning can also apply to testing. With the growing number of affordable Universal Serial Bus (USB) test instruments on the market, including power meter/sensor combinations and signal generators, simple measurements no longer require expensive, high-end instruments. In some cases, it may make more sense to use a simple USB-based instrument setup to take a few readers and check the progress of a design. During hard times, limiting the choices during the design and evaluation stages of a project can deliver much-needed cost savings.