Book Review: Bebop to the Boolean Boogie

Clive Maxfield's encyclopedic treatment covers digital electronics in a light, clear, and thoroughly irreverent style.

01/21/2009


Oak Brook, ILIt was a dark and stormy night,… does not sound like a promising start to a complete description of modern digital electronics. Clive Maxfield’s Bebop to the Boolean Boogie, third edition , on the other hand, is not your typical electronics book.
Unlike the Standard Handbook of Electronic Engineering , it keeps its form down to a svelte 540 pages of humorous, clever, and highly readable prose by concentrating on topics relevant to digital electronics. In the process, however, it loses the Handbook ’s useability as a doorstop or a sleeping potion.
Bebop does a credible job of covering the whole of digital electronics. After explaining why he started with the totally extraneous quote from Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (via Charles Schultz’ beloved cartoon author, Snoopy), Maxfield settles down to delineating the fundamentals of digital electronics technology. Appropriately beginning at the beginning, he reminds us of the difference between analog and digital electronics, the physical basis of semiconductor electronics, and proceeds to build all the way up to Karnaugh maps before coming full circle to digital signal processing (DSP). That’s just Section 1.
Section 2 looks at components and processes physically embodying digital electronics. Again, he begins at the beginning with the first integrated circuits and fabrication processes, then proceeds through a laundry list of memory devices, programmable devices, application specific ICs (ASICs), and on to packaging and interconnect technologies, finally ending up polishing his crystal ball for a look at future technologies to watch for.
The third and final section describes tools digital-electronics engineers have available to develop today’s complex designs, such as Verilog hardware description language (VHDL), schematic capture, and test techniques. Entitled “Design Tools and Stuff,” the section sounds like a catch-all, but really covers what digital-electronics designers actually put their hands on. They constitute the typewriter Snoopy uses to write: “It was a dark and stormy night….”
Never flagging in humor, the book manages to cover its subject thoroughly without lapsing into pedantry. Unlike the Standard… Handbook , Bebop to the Boolean Boogie can be read straight through as a fun way to learn,
Maxfield, C., Bebop to the Boolean Boogie , 3rd Ed., ISBN 978-1-85617-507-4, Newnes imprint of Elsevier, Inc., Burlington, MA, USA, 2009, 540 pp., paperback.
– Edited by C.G. Masi ,
Control Engineering News Desk
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