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.
David, excellent question, and you've prompted the TI folks to dig into that. It turns out Bob's workspace at National was a big of, um, a hazard shall we say. But we'll work to solve this mystery.
One thing I like about Jim Williams is that if anyone tells me my workbench is a mess, I can tell them I'm in good company! It is right that it has become a shrine of sorts. I wonder what happened to Bob Pease's bench? Brian....???
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.