I first met Jim Williams when I was a freshman at MIT in 1972. Jim was a regular visitor to the Molecular Beams Lab, where I worked, because our group shared a common culture with him- "if you really want to understand how something works," he would say, "build it yourself."
When I told Jim I had taken my first analog electronics class from Steve Senturia he pulled me aside and told me, "Let me show you what you can really do with an op amp." He took me down to his lab in bld 20. It was filled wall to wall with shelves and tables and desks covered in wires, parts, circuit boards and finished projects. He walked me around the room to show me different projects he was playing around with.
He had this foot diameter Styrofoam sphere with thermisters mounting in a 3D grid throughout the volume. Wires came out of the sphere like it was growing hair and each one went to an instrumentation amplifier and drove an LED. He would put a short pulse of current into one thermister to heat it and then point to the LEDs lighting up as the very slow thermal wave passed through the Styrofoam from that tiny heat pulse.
He had just built a scale for the Nutrition Department that was so sensitive, it could measure the blood pumping up and down your body. After he filtered out the pulse information, he showed how sensitive it was by standing on the scale, showing his weight, then took a bite out of a donut and showed how much the piece of donut weighed.
It is a testament of Jim's infectious enthusiasm and love of all things analog that here I am, more than 35 years later, and I can still remember many of the tricks I learned from Jim Williams, master of the analog world.
This is really sad news. A crushing blow to our hearts. I met Jim in 1989 when I was a newly green engineer at Apple trying my best to absorb as much as I could in analog design. Jim was incredible with his breadth of real world science, physics, electronics, system design, hard core analog design. He was a scientist of the first order. What was amazing beyond even Jim's analog design capabilities was Jim's knowledge of the digital world. Which was an incredible complement to unique system architecture and design. Real world stuff!!!! When I was at Apple, all of the young engineers looked forward to Jim's articles in the trade magazines. We all had our binders to store away these treasures of analog circuits.
Now after working at Linear Technology for several years, I have had the priviledge of learning first hand from Jim Williams. In so many ways and with so much value that it is priceless. I guess remembering Jim as the great Analog Guru, The Great Scientist, or the Wizard of Circuits is one thing. But with his patience to teach and share his knowledge, I would like to remember Jim in a simple three word phrae "He was Beautiful"
I was another EDN managing editor lucky enough to have worked with Jim for many years. I cherished our frequent phone calls where nothing was taboo. He made me laugh, and I always hung up the phone with a smile and some new piece of insight. Gone way too soon.
I have been priviledged to be a labmate of Jim's for the past 17 years. We wrote app. notes together and repaired test equipment together. Just last Thursday we repaired a blanking pulse problem on a TEK 547 Oscilloscope. He had the required transistor in his desk drawer! He went home just a shade early that day and I never saw him again.
I never once received a discouraging comment from him. He was in all ways encouraging to everyone who had some interaction with him. You always went away from Jim feeling somehow smarter and ready to conquer whatever problem you were facing. If somehow I couldn't noodle through the information I was getting from an unruly circuit, I could always talk to him and we would unwind it together. My work world will be different in all ways with him gone.
This is sad news indeed. I had the privilege of working for Jim in 1973 as an undergrad at MIT. Jim gave me my first exposure to practical electronic design and started me on a career that has continued since. Much later, I had the considerable good fortune to work with Jim at Linear Tech. Always an electronics super-wizard, Jim also had a charming personality with a wit that would sometimes catch you off guard. Fortunately for the rest of us, Jim leaves behind an archived legacy of contributions to the electronics art. He will be sorely missed.
Jim was a true junk man, like all brilliant analog engineers I have known in my IP law career of 30 years. Knew Jim for a decade, constant as his acoustic thermometer. Will miss burger cruising in his Jag. What a guy, will miss him desperately.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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