As part of the 'Analog Profiles' series in which we dig a little deeper into the backgrounds of the people shaping the analog sector, ADLE interviews Jim Solomon, Executive Chairman at Gemini Design Technology.
What his CV says:
Jim is recognised worldwide as a pioneer of the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry, and was a co-founder of Cadence. An EDAC Phil Kaufman Award winner, Solomon is a Fellow of the IEEE, holds 23 patents in IC design, is the author of over 50 technical papers, and is considered to be the foremost authority on analog design technology. During his tenure at Cadence, Jim held a number of roles, including President and CEO, General Manager of the IC unit, and Chief Technical Officer for the company. Notably, Jim also founded and managed Cadence's Analog/Custom Business Unit, where he initiated the development of Spectre " today, the most widely trusted analog simulator.
Jim is now Executive Chairman at Gemini Design Technology, and on the board of a number of other companies, including Applied Wave Research, Ciranova, Nascentric, Pyxis Technology and Silicon Navigator.
In his own words:
ADLE: What or whom inspired you to become an engineer? Did your original career plan involve analog design?
JS: It started with my father. He worked in the telephone industry and as a young boy, I would tag along and help him on the installations, called private branch exchanges (PBXs) in those days. My hobbies were fairly typical for someone with a budding interest in engineering; amateur radio, and lots of physics - I used to build cloud chambers.
Somewhere in the middle of deciding which path to pursue, the nuclear bomb went off and I mentally became a nuclear physicist. However, I got disillusioned with that when I arrived at Berkeley, where they were having peace marches. I was simply intrigued by electronics though. Whilst I had had a little exposure to digital at school, it was clear that the real challenge was analog - real men do analog if you like!
ADLE: At Berkeley, you studied under IC design pioneer Professor Emeritus Donald Pederson. What impact did he have on your career decision?
JS: Don Pederson was the most influential people in my life. I was fascinated by miniaturisation (Pederson was instrumental in establishing the first integrated circuit fabrication facility at UC Berkeley in the early 1960s). Don't forget, when I got out of school, even single transistors were brand new! The idea of going from vacuum tubes to integrating many transistors on a chip was very exciting, and I lived through that whole era.
(After University, Solomon spent seven years at Motorola, designing analog ics and ultimately a solid state TV receiver. He then moved to National Semiconductor as a designer and design manager, where he made the transition from analog to digital signal processing. Along the way he invented the biFET op amp and wrote a paper that gained him an IEEE Fellowship).