SARATOGA, Calif. Ė The lines between hardware and software engineering have blurred beyond recognition, but the outlook for ASIC design is still healthy, says David House, the chairman of Brocade, an EE by training, and a 40+ year veteran of the electronics industry.
In a wide-ranging, 90-minute interview in his home in the hills above Silicon Valley, House shared his views on the state of engineering and the outlook in communications. In a second part of this interview to be posted July 7, House will recall his experiences with the Intel Inside program and his views on high-tech management.
"When I started my career there was a clear distinction between hardware and software, but today it's all shades of gray -- there's no real boundary line anymore," said House.
For example, House recalled his first days at Intel in 1974 seeing the Rubylith of an as-yet unreleased 8080 microprocessor stretched across a table. "There were red sheets of mylar, and you would use an X-Acto knife and tweezers to peel off layers to create masks."
"If you walk through the engineering department these days the hardware and software groups all look the same -- just a lot of people at computer screens and keyboards."
Sometimes even the end results are the same, he told us, noting a chip he heard about recently was developed by a software group. "They knew the functions they needed and just had to learn the tools.
"The tools have allowed us to abstract ourselves from many of the physical characteristics we used to worry about like the resistance, inductance, and capacitance -- it's almost like we've taken the electrical out of electrical engineering," he said.