SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. The pervasive focus on power management, the lack of papers on nanotechnology and software and the slow recovery of attendance were among the surprises for EE Times editors at the 2001 International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) last week.
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1) Power everywhere
The awareness of the need to squeeze every excess drop of current out of a design was clear in everything from processors to transceivers to medical implants. We saw more papers than ever put power figures prominently in their titles.
Clearly, MIPS and megahertz have given way to milliwatts and picojoules as the new figures of merit. Power is the new performance.
We thought it was especially interesting to see multiple papers on energy harvesting circuits. And one presentation even talked about work on a nano-Watt sensor node.
2) Software nowhere
Given power has become critical, we were surprised to see no sessions included software as part of a holistic approach to design. The enabling role software has in achieving low power goals—with hooks down to the transistor level—makes software and hardware inseparable.
The slow return of attendees to ISSCC was also a surprise. Attendance fell 30 percent in 2009 to just more than 2,300 after hitting 3,450 attendees in 2008. This year it bounced back, but only by 12 percent to about 2,700.
3) Attendees trickle back
Given the rosy expectations for semiconductors in 2010, we thought it would have bounced back more. Still, the crowds were strong, but with fewer engaging questions and panel-audience interactions than we have come to expect.
That said, ISSCC remains a favorite live social networking site for chip designers. In this era of virtual conferences and globally distributed design teams, the ISSCC coffee breaks and evening receptions were crowded with engineers from colleges and companies large and small.
Grad students with their first chip under their belts and master designers who were decade-long veterans of the show shared war stories and technical tips. And there wasn't an email lounge in sight.
The note on the history of ISSCC sounded very interesting. How about an article or interview by Ken Smith on the subject for those of us who weren't there? I'd be interested and I think others would, too. And it's important to keep track of our history.
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