Backward Compatibility for OEM Designs

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Laser Barcode ScannerEveryone knows that advances in technology end up driving performance up and cost down over time.  In 1965, Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors which could be placed on an integrated circuit had doubled every two years since 1958 and that the trend would continue for at least ten years. As it has become known, Moore’s law has proven true for over 50 years.  Exponential increases in performance have driven technology improvements in processing speed and memory capacity in almost every electronic device used today.  This pattern holds true for OEM designs, as well.

As a vendor to OEM customers, we take into account the installed base of our customers as we move from one generation of product to the next.  Sure, the new technology may be higher performance, smaller and less expensive.  But these features are not always enough.  Questions about spares for the installed base, compatibility with device drivers, and application software all come in to play.  The good news is that we feel strongly about doing our job right the first time, so the next generation is less expensive, higher performance and backwardly compatible with earlier generations of product.

Backward compatibility is a great goal, but requires a significant amount of engineering to achieve.  Maintaining compatibility requires an understanding of:

  1. The application.
  2. The application environment.
  3. The software commands to and from the device.
  4. Supported Device Interfaces.
  5. How the operating system interfaces.
  6. Supported Operating Systems and device drivers.
  7. Mechanical mounting.
  8. Interface cables.
  9. Power requirements.
  10. Appearance.
  11. EMC considerations.
  12. User documentation and service guides.

Once we understand these key attributes, we can engineer a backwardly compatible, next generation product.  These requirements also allow for testing prior to deployment.

Many OEM designs require development of I/O, which may interface with a PCI card or other I/O interface.  Changes in technology and speed affect these interfaces, many of which have been replaced by higher speed interfaces every few years.  Maintaining interfaces to legacy I/O is key to providing service to OEM customers.

OEM-related questions or comments?  Feel free to leave me a comment below or email me at rad.derose@L-Tron.com.