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Good board design is a subtle art - auto-routers simply don't cut it. Or should that be etch it? My experience of mech. engineers designing boards is that they tend to be, er, rather orthogonal...
It seems like you work with Maurice Moss.
I don't, but he's on the right lines! ;-)
And to be fair, it's generally the digital designers who've never worked with any analogue stuff who do it worst. They don't seem to understand that when it comes to board design, *everything's* analogue!
As an analog electrical engineer of 40+ years' experience, it seems to me this sort of thing happens more now than ever. Some things just don't scale down so well (or so cheaply) as ICs, resulting in occasional weird mixes of sizes on a PCB. Esthetically handsome board layouts are rare, and the ubiquity of automated assembly makes it arguably harder to achieve. Still, about the ugliest boards I recall were those in a 1980s arcade video game -- not a single component orthogonal with another. And those boards were laid-out and assembled by hand.
Yes, I used to do them with tapes as well, and you could easily end up with tracks all over the place! Didn't have to worry about auto-placement then, though. I'm quite happy with orthogonal component placement, but I'd still rather do the routing myself, especially if there are likely to be any noise issues. As a sort-of compromise, quite often I'll route all the power and critical signals, and then let the auto-router have a go - and modify the results by hand.
Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder
Wish it was as simple as that, but I don't think it is. This shares a lot with good mechanical design - a really good board design has an elegance of its own, as well as functioning better. A board can *look* wonderful, but it it's unstable, or thermally unbalanced it's not exactly useful, is it? So that board has hidden ugliness, which is even worse than the visible sort. Good board design is holistic...
I think we can forgive you for making a crystal oscillator look like a high-tolerance resistor, or an oddly colored diode.
Forgive me for the design of this board, I'm a mech.