In this interview, we talk to John M. Reyland, author of the book, Software Defined Radio: Theory and Practice. We discuss the motivation behind writing the book, the target audience, the most useful aspects of the book, the challenges of writing the book, and advice for other engineers who are considering writing a book.
John M. Reyland is a distinguished professional in the field of electrical engineering, specializing in digital signal processing (DSP) and software-defined radio (SDR) systems. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Iowa, where he earned recognition for his groundbreaking research in system identification. With a passion for education, John has been actively involved in teaching and mentoring, conducting public short courses and graduate seminars. John M. Reyland’s impact on the field of electrical engineering and his dedication to bridging theory with practical applications make him a distinguished authority in digital signal processing and software-defined radio systems.
1 . What was your main motivation behind writing your book?
I was inspired by Richard G. Lyon’s book “Understanding Digital Signal Processing”. This book makes a complicated subject more accessible to the average engineer or hobbyist. There are DSP textbooks that are absolutely mathematically rigorous in their analysis but lack a colloquial style that can facilitate understanding. So, it occurred to me that a book on communications theory and practice could fill a similar purpose as Richard Lyon’s book. Since the software defined radio approach has become popular, why not start there? Couple SDR with a full featured DSP tool like Simulink and the motivated individual can accomplish some amazing designs without having to spend a fortune. My chapters 11, 12, and 13 attempt to get the reader started on just that.
2. Who is the main target audience for your book and what will they appreciate the most about the book?
An engineer may want to supplement his or her education to help open up new job opportunities. A hobbyist may want to learn new background material just for personal interest.
3. What do you see your book being most useful for?
I anticipate that engineers and SDR hobbyists will make the most use of this book.
4. How did you find the writing of the book? Do you have a specific process or are you quite methodical in your writing approach?
I collected all the books I could find on software defined radio. Then I made list of the entire range of topics they covered. So, first, I needed to cover all those topics. Then I made sure I did a better job (in my opinion) of covering that material.
5. What challenges did you face when writing the book and how did you overcome them?
My first challenge was working with the LaTeX typesetting language – it was not easy. Fortunately, LaTeX editor is widely used and it has been around for a long time so there are lots of on-line tips available. An second challenge was getting the right to use photographs. I only have a few but their ownership status has to be understood to stay out of trouble. The third one was finding all those references, extracting useful information and then quoting them.
6. What advice would you give to other engineers who are considering writing a book?
Although it’s important to be familiar with other books on your subject, don’t write a “me to” version of those books. Even if your subject has been covered by other books, your book should offer something of value that is not available in other books. Also, don’t underestimate the time it takes to produce a well written book. This book took about two years working mostly weekends. I don’t know how many hours; I wish I had kept track of them. Since your employment and family come first, be realistic about how long this book of yours will take.
7. What are you working on next?
I recently became director of KMHV 89.5 FM in Kalona, Iowa. Our ID tag is “Catholic Radio for South-eastern Iowa”. This station is being built from the ground up, mostly by volunteers, so there are plenty of challenges. I’m not planning any new book because, quite frankly, I’m not really qualified to write on any other subject. However, I hope there is eventually a second edition of this book.
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