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Chuck Alpert - the General Chair for the 53rd DAC
Chuck Alpert - the General Chair for the 53rd DAC
Chuck is the Group Director for Cadence Digital Signoff Group. Prior to joining Cadence he spent 17 years working at IBM Research in Austin, developing internal EDA tools. He received B.S. and B.A. degrees from Stanford University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA in 1996.

#53DAC, 7: Fly brains, trillion-transistor devices and tales from a Steve Jobs alum

April 26th, 2016 by Chuck Alpert - the General Chair for the 53rd DAC

All of a sudden it’s nearly the end of April, high time to switch from months to weeks (just six to go now!) in the countdown to DAC, which I can guarantee is going to be a great conference. One big reason I’m confident is that, as always, we have an excellent lineup of keynoters as worthy of a stage at TED or SxSW as at the world’s premier design automation conference. See my past posts on Peter Stone (Thursday keynote) and Lars Reger (Monday) for a refresher. And don’t forget the luminaries sandwiched between the two of them:

Tuesday back-to-back big thinkers will take the main stage. One is Louis Scheffer, a researcher at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Shcheffer has spent a lifetime studying whether it might be possible to reconstruct the nervous system, a challenge given the boggling complexity in even the simplest animals. The humble fly brain that Scheffer studies has about 100 million connections. The success of Scheffer and his colleagues in mapping a small fraction of those connections, the region of the fly’s brain that processes vision, warranted a 2013 publication in Nature, likely the world’s most prestigious scientific journal.

The other is Sameer Halepete, vice president of VLSI engineering at NVIDIA. Halpete is a specialist in high performance ASIC and CPU design who’s also not shy when it comes to bandying about huge numbers in front of large crowds. In 2012 he spoke of the challenge moving to a trillion-transistor device by the end of the decade (eat your heart out, Drosophila!) In that speech Halpete noted that physical design teams had increased in size 30-fold since 1994, around the time he graduated from Stanford and got his first industry job at Sun Microsystems. “We cannot do this again for the next generations without hiring all the physical design engineers in world,” he said, according a good summary by EE Times’ Rick Merritt that’s worth a read.

Wednesday’s keynoter will be Mark Papermaster, CTO of AMD and something of an éminence grise, albeit with a few battle scars. When he appeared on NBC’s tech talking heads show press: here in 2014, the host described Papermaster as having worked for just about every important U.S. hardware company. Okay so that’s maybe a slight exaggeration; for the record the list includes IBM, Ciso, and Apple, where he worked for a time for Steve Jobs, who NBC described as the world’s most difficult boss. (Why not ask him after his talk if that’s an exaggeration?) Papermaster was around for the iPhone 4 antenna issues, which generated no small amount of attention at the time as I’m sure you recall. I love how Papermaster gently reminded his TV interviewer that the story ended well for Apple given the eventual and seemingly inevitable market success of the iPhone 4. He wraps up the interview perhaps foreshadowing what he’ll talk about in his DAC keynote, billed as The Challenge to Develop Truly Great Products. “It’s all about the applications,” he told the NBC interviewers. “As companies come together and create an application development platform, the use cases take off.”

Fly brains, trillion-transistor devices and tales from an alum of the Steve Jobs school of management — just a few reasons I hope you’re making plans to be in the crowd at #53DAC!


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