Next Up On “Wheel of Chip Shortages (Part III)”: Op-Amps
I first mentioned, about a month and a half ago, that chip shortages are strongly affecting the Alan-1 design and production cycle — to the point that they’re becoming a primary driver of the design cycle, and delaying the release of otherwise-finished products.
Well, just when we thought our Regulator/Audio II++ was out of the woods and ready to test, we got hit with another one: the humble op-amp. This is like opening up your toolbox and finding out all your adjustable wrenches are missing: they’re basic tools used just about everywhere. A look through any classic Atari schematic will reveal a plethora of LM324s and/or TL084s in the audio path.
In this case, we’re probably OK. The part in question comes in several different variants like “extended temperature range,” which work basically the same. But they cost more, and we need six of them per board, and while it’s a lot cheaper than revising the PCB to use a different op-amp which might go out of stock two weeks later anyway, it’s still going to impact the price.
Price inflation isn’t magical: it’s the result of increasing production costs. (However, don’t make the mistake that increasing prices are the cause of inflation! Like anything else, the underlying value of money is controlled by its supply vs. its demand…but an explanation of how money is created and destroyed is far beyond the scope of a footnote.)