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 What Would Joe Do?
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.

Editor’s Notebook: ISSCC Mobs, Flash, and Dash

February 22nd, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena


This week, a mob of more than 3000 people from all over the world has packed into the subterranean conference space of the San Francisco Marriott Hotel to attend ISSCC 2012, the 55th annual IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference.

Getting there in time for the opening keynotes first thing Monday morning was easy – no traffic, thanks to the Presidents Day Holiday – but once you came down the escalators into the bowels of the Marriott, it was a total zoo. Of course, ISSCC always is.

As the granddaddy of all solid state conferences, it’s the place where some of the most historic circuit design announcements have been made over the years. Everybody wants to be there, and this past Monday nobody appeared to regret not having the day off – particularly during the plenary session when the cavernous hall was filled with thousands of people sitting in countless tidy rows, stretching off into the darkness. Even the keynote speakers commented on the impact of looking out across that sea of people. Yeah, ISSCC is really something.

This year’s keynotes included SanDisk co-founder Eli Harari talking about the history of Flash, a technology he said is now both ubiquitous and unstoppable, and well on its way to eliminating HDDs in its meteoric rise to success fueling the consumer electronics industry.

STMicro Senior EVP Carmelo Papa spoke of a critical synergy between energy consumption and semiconductors: More people and bigger cities in the coming decades will exceed all power utility capacity, he said, unless smart chips, bodies, homes, grids, and governments build together on the efficiencies and intelligent promise of IC-based systems.

In a similar vein, Renesas EVP Yoichi Yano promised MCUs, in combination with Flash, will ease a plethora of power-demand problems and will go a long way to making the world green, at last.

Finally,  Intel EVP David Perlmutter gave an emotion-packed keynote that laid out strategies for optimizing transistor-level power consumption, invoking all the usual suspects – smaller process technologies, 3D stacking, and heterogeneous multi-core devices. Perlmutter’s address was as close as it comes to a rousing stump speech and call to action for the uber-nerds of the semiconductor industry. It was fabulous.

Between keynotes, major awards were presented at ISSCC on Monday morning. Of interest to those in EDA, stalwart industry legend Ron Rohrer received the 2012 Gustav Kirchhoff Award, and UCLA’s Behzad Razavi received the 2012 Donald O. Pederson Award. Those who know Rohrer would not be surprised to learn that when he stepped to the podium to thank the IEEE, he first acknowledged SPICE-collaborator Larry Nagler, and then got a huge roar of laughter from the enormous audience when he admitted that Kirchhoff’s Laws are the only laws he has managed to obey throughout his life.

During a break in the 4-hour plenary session marathon, I dashed into the Press Room for a cup of coffee, a carb, and a chance to catch up with various colleagues. Dave Bursky was there – busy with his new enterprise, PRN Engineering Services, and continuing to astound by attending more conferences per week than anyone else in the industry.

Tets Maniwa and Pallab Chatterjee were also there, animated in talking about their publication, Media & Entertainment Technologies. Tets let me know that at least one senior leader in EDA is reporting that his kid, working in the gaming industry, is handling more budget dollars these days than the dad. Was Tets illustrating that EDA is in decline, or that the Gaming Industry is a total Monster Money Machine?

Several folks from UBM were also in the Press Room, including EE Times’ Rick Merritt, who was happy to report that various UBM alumni are doing quite well, thank you: Mike Santarini at Xilinx, Ron Wilson at Altera, and Richard Goering at Cadence. Really, what publishing concern could ask for more?

Before hurrying back into the plenary session, I spoke briefly with Paul Dempsey, who is collaborating with Luke Collins and Chris Edwards to reinvigorate EDA Tech Forum. Given the energy and intelligence with these guys, my guess is they’re guaranteed to succeed.

So, it was back to the cavernous ballroom and the keynotes, and then off to find long-time ISSCC Press Liaison, Professor K.C. Smith of the University of Toronto, who’s been an institution at ISSCC for 40+ years. Unfortunately, he could not attend this year, but his marvelous wife, IEEE Editor Laura Fujino took a moment from her responsibilities in ISSCC Command Central to say K.C. would hear that he was sorely missed in San Francisco.

Finally, before dashing to the car – Monday was a holiday, after all – it was lunch with the Women in Solid State Circuits, headed up by the dynamic Terri Fiez, EE Department Chair at Oregon State University. Terri worked the room, meeting and greeting, and then introduced the keynote speaker, EDA’s own Mar Hersehnson.

Mar proceeded to share her enthusiasm and energy with the lunchtime crowd. Mar came to the U.S. from Barcelona 17 years ago, got her Ph.D. at Stanford studying under Tom Lee, and finished in 1999 during boom times in Silicon Valley.

Per Mar, “Everybody was crazy back then, everything was being sold online, and companies were going public madly. I had a couple of job offers to teach at several great schools, which had been my plan, but instead was swept into the craziness of doing a start-up.

“If you haven’t been in a start up,” she told her audience, “it’s something to try, even though it takes over your life and is an experience that’s difficult to explain in words. We raised a tremendous amount of money, $30 million – it was unbelievable – and I learned something very important at that start-up, something which has carried me forward since then. You have to trust yourself and trust your instincts.”

Mar has continued to trust those instincts. After founding Barcelona Design in 1999, she went on to found Sabio Labs in 2006 [acquired by Magma], served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Foundation Capital in 2010, and now has launched her newest enterprise, Revel Touch.

Mar noted, “Revel is the fastest growing start-up of any of my companies. We’ve already been profiled in Forbes, the NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal – but I have to say it all comes at a price.

“I wake up every morning at 4 am – luckily I don’t need a lot of sleep – I work very hard, and I have 3 kids. So the second shift starts at 6 am, which also requires 100 percent of my effort. Parenting is not something you can outsource.”

Mar concluded by pointing out the obvious: “That idea of Balance of Life & Work is not a reality for me.”


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