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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Fabulous Fabless: Nenni & McLellan offer cure for common clutter

July 28th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

There are three kinds of written word in the world today: books, newspapers/magazines, and all of the rest of it which now lives on the shifting sands of an ever-evolving electronic substrate. Even today, however, even as those ‘effervescent electrons’ garner more and more readers, it’s books-on-paper that continue to hold the most caché, the most gravitas-laden sense of permanence, and the most awe-inspring-for-the-ages kind of wow factor: Really? You wrote a book? Wow!

Hence, when a 220-page book-on-paper called Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry was made available to the EDA community at the 51st annual Design Automation Conference this past month in San Francisco, it was worth noting for several reasons: For the gravitas of the offering; For the permanence of the tome; And for the price, which thanks to eSilicon Corp. was free to all for the taking.

Written by gurus Daniel Nenni and Paul McLellan, this Fabulous Fabless book-on-paper was handed out during a buzzy networking event on the spacious East Side of Moscone Center early one evening during the week of DAC in June. At that noisy, ebullient reception, the libations were flowing liberally and so was the printed word.

Anyone milling about in the crowd quickly became the proud owner of Nenni/McLellan’s cheery, well-written history of the world  that special world consisting of everything termed “technology” since 1947  and could even get signed copies, if they were able to elbow their way across the room to where the authors were perched side-by-side at a table with the express purpose of applying ink-to-paper on the front piece of their book.

But that was then, and this is now, and here’s the thing: It’s rare that one sits down to read a book that, at first glance, contains things that one already knows.

So, it’s taken many weeks since receiving my signed copy of the book on that evening at DAC to finally sit down and flip through a tome whose chapters are titled: The Semiconductor Century; The ASIC Business; The FPGA; The Fabless Model; The Rise of the Foundry; Electronic Design Automation; Intellectual Property; and What’s Next for the Semiconductor Industry.

Well, having pretty much read the book now cover to cover, I’ll be honest it’s great. In fact, it’s downright enchanting. And why?

Because this book from Nenni/McLellen offers something that they themselves could not have possibly foreseen: A cure for the common clutter that chokes off file cabinets, bookcases, old desk drawers, miles of closet shelves, bankers boxes, and foot-lockers, both in the house and out in the garage.

Seriously. How many of you have held on to project reports, spec sheets, white papers, bound proceedings, magazine articles, special anniversary editions of journals, notes from conferences — in particular, visionary keynotes — copies of PowerPoint presentations, both electronic and on paper, marketing collateral, company brochures, business cards, fliers, press releases, CDs, DVDs, business cards, chotskies, massive copies of EETimes from 1993 or 2000, posters, banners, conference bags, and even lava lamps, hoping against hope that all of this crap clutter will somehow remind you of all of your good times over the last 6 decades in this industry that you love so well.

Stuff you hope will remind you, particularly, of those things, projects, initiatives, and products that you yourself were somehow involved in, things that happened because of your efforts, or the efforts of others you worked with for years, competed with, knew of, emulated, or even detested.

Well, guess what. Your troubles are over. Get out the trash bags. Pull the recycling bin right up to the door. Empty the drawers, the closets, the file cabinets, the bookshelves, and the old Rolodex you’re holding onto for sentimental reasons.

Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry is now all you’ll need to keep your memories alive. The whole story is in this book.

Practically everybody you ever held responsible (culpable) for developments over the last 60 years is in there: Bardeen, Brattain, Shockley, Kilby, Noyce, Moore, Sanders, Floyd, Canaletto, Wetlesen, Fairbairn, Mead, Stein, Conway, Harding, Neiman, Freeman, Barnett, Vonderschmitt, Sarnoff, Carter, Campbell, Banatao, Chang, Manocha, Jha, Bennett, Sorgie, Swerling, Samco, Willett, Stedman, Bruggere, Langeler, Moffenbeier, Rhines, Grodd, Kresh, Todd, Hinckley, Maulsby, Potts, Rajski, O’Brian, Leef, Mitchell, Morrison, Moshe, Antle, Huang, Solomon, Newton, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, Costello, Harding, Bingham, Fister, Tan, QEII, Lund, Krieger, de Geus, Gregory, Rudell, Chan, Hauser, Saxby, East, Segars, Yassaie, Gavrielov, Bose, Kranen, Kaul, Anantharaman, Janac, Halliday, Tanner, Wania, Kaiser, Shelton, Wertheizer, Pierce, McConaghy, Jamiolkowski, Sawicki, Kengeri, Goldman, Leung, Goering, Dingee, Miller, Esteve, Payne, and Fangaria.

Yeah, maybe a few names are missing on the list that you might have compiled  maybe quite a few names  but overall, the book is great. And come’on, admit it. We’re all the same. Nobody wants to lose track of their history, particularly their professional history, but everybody is sick of the clutter that they hope will keep those memories fresh, lively, and of good cheer.

Again, now you needn’t worry.

Not only have Nenni/McLellan provided a readable, almost chatty retelling of the last 60+ years, they’ve also invited a plethora of others to speak with differing voices  everything from the totally personal (leaders of the Xilinx, Synopsys, Mentor, Cadence, ARM, Atrenta, eSilicon, Jasper, Imagniation, Calypto, Cliosoft, Arteris, Silvaco, Tanner, Sidense, Docea, GSA, Ceva, Sonics, Solido and Coventer) to the totally corporate-speak (third-person histories of some of the greatest companies in the industry written by the companies themselves).

All have chimed in to help recount what happened, why it happened, which companies influenced the arc of history of the industry, and how the end results of all of those decades of work, those gazillions of man-hours, have led us to where we are today: On the edge of the future, looking back and forward with eyes both in the front and back of our heads.

As Nenni said in his closing paragraph of his and McLellan’s lengthy book: “We as an industry do not do a great job of communicating our amazing story to the outside world. That is the real motivation behind and this book; to remind everybody that the fabless semiconductor ecosystem made semiconductors what they are today a critical part of modern life.”

Read this book, and you too will see how cooperation, collaboration, consolidation, competition, dynamic momentum, advancement, stupendous challenges, solving the unsolvable, improvement, productivity and progress have all been part of the history of the semiconductor industry that you have made happen.

Most of all, for those of you who think you’re among the elite who have brought it all to pass, swallow your pride of place and provenance enough to sit down for an hour, two, or three, and read this book cover to cover. Because, in truth, the story isn’t just about you, or the story wrapped up in your clutter, it’s actually about that ultimate nexus of human endeavor, the cross-over that distinguishes us from all other lifeforms that cover the face of the globe.

Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry is about nothing less than the magical interface of Engineering and Business.

So embrace your inner algorithm and your inner balance sheet, and know that it really doesn’t get any better than this. The book’s about your story, your diverse skill-sets, and how you’ve changed the world.



Editor’s Note …

If you didn’t get a free copy at DAC, you can now buy the book on Amazon for $16.99 plus shipping.


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