Power Electronics

Wrappers Lend Value to Complex Chips and Concepts

There's a wonderful expression that people sometimes use to describe a controller chip or power module that looks digital to the outside world, but still employs the fundamental analog control techniques inside. They'll say, “It's an analog controller with a digital wrapper.”

I always smile when I hear this expression. Maybe because it sounds like someone is describing a stick of chewing gum, rather than a complex little power-supply circuit.

Of course, they're really talking about a component's communications interface, but a wrapper is such a handy way to describe it. The digital nature of the interface suggests you can program the part and obtain information from it without having to delve too deeply into the part's inner workings.

Maybe I like the phrase “digital wrapper” because it resonates with what I attempt to do here every month in my editorial: Take the really technical discussions that flow through the pages of this magazine and wrap them up neatly with a column that talks about technology and industry trends that shape the development of power components and systems.

Just as a digital wrapper on a controller IC doesn't require that you master the inner workings of the chip to control it, this column doesn't require you to read and absorb all of the technical feature content to get a sense of the issues that guide the development of these features. Of course, my editorial isn't always about what's inside a particular issue. But the themes expressed here are constantly touched on in the technical articles.

Magazines are governed by formats and styles, therefore, the wrapper analogy extends to other aspects of producing a magazine. Magazines maintain consistent formats from issue to issue for a variety of reasons, ranging from printing requirements to readability. For example, every month my colleagues Emily Saarela and Carrie Parsons labor over the articles to smooth out the writing, correct spelling and grammar, and enforce a consistency of style in the way technical terms are expressed in text, equations and drawings.

With regard to the last element, Emily and Carrie are assisted by our artists Tony Vitolo and Jim Miller, who work diligently to bring you clear and readable diagrams, photos and the like. Tony also creates the thought-provoking covers, the visual wrappers that help signal the important issue themes.

In matters technical, there's sometimes a tendency to emphasize function over form. After all, many brilliant ideas have been scribbled on napkins. But as a forum for discussing ideas, a magazine needs its formats and its styles — its wrappers, if you will — for the content inside. These wrappers provide the element of familiarity that helps readers navigate through complex technical waters.

Normally, we let the magazine's contents speak for itself. However, as this will be my last issue as editor in chief of Power Electronics Technology, I wanted to take this opportunity to take the wrapper off the inner workings of the magazine. In doing so, I aim to express my gratitude for the team who does such a skillful, yet unsung job of creating every issue.

I also would be remiss if I didn't thank the many engineers who have labored over test benches and work stations to create the detailed technical articles that are the heart of this magazine. There are too many to name here, but their bylines will forever be popping up in Google searches.

Finally, I'd like to thank my two predecessors at Power Electronics Technology — Ashok Bindra and Sam Davis. Both of whom set high standards for content and built a level of reader loyalty to this magazine that continues to amaze me. Although this column puts a wrap on my enjoyable tenure here, I'm confident that readers can look forward to many more thought-provoking issues in the months and years ahead.

And finally to readers everywhere, thank you for your support, encouragement and inspiration. Though you may labor behind the scenes, here's hoping your skillfulness and creativity in applying the electronics arts will never be kept completely under wraps.

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