When a museum display of the late analog engineer Jim Williams' engineering bench ended, the question loomed: What to do with it?
MILPITAS, Calif.--Jim Williams' death
last year stunned the analog world, which would be staggered again days later when another analog engineering giant, Bob
die in a car accident after returning from Williams'
The shock eventually wore off, although few days pass here at Linear
Technology, Williams' employer, without some invocation of his
spirit. The more time passed, the more the spirit picked up around
Williams' memory and, in fairly short order, his legendary engineering bench had a
temporary home in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
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That installation ran its course and then the question became, what
to do with that famous bench and everything that goes with it? John
Hamburger, Linear spokesman, said some folks kicked around the idea
of donating it to a university. That idea didn't last.
"Suddenly, I got a lot of phone calls from longtime Linear engineers
who said in no uncertain terms 'That bench belongs here!'" Hamburger said.
Where to now?
The question then became, where? Linear has a modest corporate HQ
lobby with a large display case of industry and customer awards.
There isn't a lot of room, but that would be one obvious and public
place for the bench. Instead, a few weeks ago, the bench found its
permanent home in Eric Soule's lab, where it sits as a testament to
one engineer's life and an inspiration to all the analog engineers
who pass by every day.
Says Linear CTO Bob Dobkin, a close friend and decades-long partner
of Williams, "We miss him, sure. If someone needed an oscillator
with 1 ppm distortion, you can't go out and buy that. He built it."
What follows are some photos I took on a recent visit that hopefully
capture the spirit of one of history's most unique analog designers.