On The Importance of Datasheets
When technology companies release products they publish documents called datasheets that serve as comprehensive guides to accompany their hardware and software. A datasheet contains information that supports end-user implementation and can help the user gather specific information about a product that would otherwise be unattainable or difficult to verify. For engineering, datasheets relay information about sensor limitations, material properties, electrical characteristics, packaging information, and much more. For example, the microcontroller at the core of most Arduino boards contains a data sheet more than 400 pages long that explicitly declares performance capabilities of the integrated circuitry. Below are the first 24 pages of that datasheet, and there is a link to the entire document at the foot of this blog entry.
A datasheet can serve as a tool for advancing new technologies without surrendering proprietary information that could jeopardize a company's ability to profit. When purchasing materials, a datasheet is used to disclose properties such as density, Young's modulus, dielectric constant, melting point, etc. depending on the material. For chemical applications, reactivity, flammability, and instability are often of primary concern. In electronics, a datasheet may even contain instruction on how to interface with circuitry. For example, Bluetooth technology has emerged as one of the key elements in the Internet of Things. A maker-level Bluetooth module called the HM-10 is a cheap, efficient, Arduino-compatible Bluetooth Low Energy device. The HM-10 datasheet contains wiring diagrams, performance measures, and a complete set of instructions on how to program the module to suit your specific needs. This device will be used extensively in this blog and its datasheet is constantly open when the device is being programmed. Datasheets are a lifeline for anyone working with innovative technology and any practicing engineer will gladly explain the significance that datasheets have had in their experience.
- blog title image courtesy of Atmel's ATmega328/P datasheet, see it and all its 442-page glory here