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Holiday Reading List

As I began this post, I felt as if I’d be talking only to chip design verification readers and leaving out more science oriented readers.  However, if you have any kind of programming project coming up, this post may be of help.  If you’re looking for a kitschy read to impress your friends with however, skip to the end.J

One of the similarities between industry and academia is the holiday shutdown.  As we approach the holiday season, in the event that you find yourself out of pocket, unable to find your colleagues, and heaven forbid, with nothing better to do, I present you with three rather dry pieces of literature that may help build your career skills.  In case, you’re looking for more of an off-topic lark, then skip to the bottom for links to a rather kitschy popular science book and a rather surreal science short film each written by the premiere quantum physicist George Gammow.

Design Patterns by Erich Gamma, et al.

If you’re using an object-oriented language like C++ or SystemVerilog, and you have a large project that must succeed and be maintainable for years to come, this is the book for you.  Even if you’re just peripherally involved in the architecture of your software system, but for example, ever wondered where the term ‘factory’ crept into software, this book holds the answers.  Each ‘design pattern’ is a bit of software architecture that will make your programs more easy to expand and maintain.  Each pattern includes a use-case that describes the scenarios where the pattern is typically deployed.  While I found the book to be very academically toned, with a little bit of work, I could get the gist of each pattern.  I didn’t develop a real love of the book until I started to run into programming issues where I could apply the patterns I’d learned.

Planning Extreme Programming by Kent Beck and Martin Fowler

The architectural viewpoint described in the last book is all well and fine if you have a huge, somewhat forward-looking project and you’re given the time to succeed.  In the semiconductor industry as well as academia, this is frequently not the case.  We often find ourselves in more of a hit-the-ground running and get something, (often anything), done mode.  Planning Extreme Programming can give you at least an idea of how to operate in this mode and yet still maintain a modicum of ‘executing towards a plan and schedule’, even if you do have to change said plan and schedule every week.

Aspect-oriented analysis and design: the theme approach

If you’re using Specman and the e verification language, or you want to look into aspect-oriented programming in Java, this book is a great source of insights.  The book is overkill for the typical verification project and as such, I’d recommend it as more of a library read than a purchase.  It will, however, reward your reading effort with a much more informed view of what you can accomplish with aspect-oriented programming constructs.

And finally, the kitschy book and film I promised earlier…

Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom by George Gammow

The Mr. Tompkins series of books were irreverent popular science books written in the 1950s.  These books explain various scientific concepts through the dozy eyes of Mr. Tompkins.  In each of the books, Mr. Tompkins watches a scientific lecture or reads an article and then promptly drifts off to sleep to interact with the topics of the lectures in his often surreal dream world.  The books are very entertaining, and you can impress your friends with a bit of trivia.  George Gammow was a Russian physicist who successfully described radioactive alpha decay using quantum mechanics.

One of the Mr. Tompkins books was even made into a short film.  The film is shown below with an intro from George Gammow himself!

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