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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.

Chuck’s Posse: Keeping DAC Weird, Nerdy, Alive

June 7th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena

A big 10-gallon hats-off to Charles Alpert & Team
for injecting fresh creativity and energy into the 53rd annual Design Automation Conference. Those who knew little about Alpert, and I’m among those few, were overwhelmed by the DAC General Chair and Host of the Opening Session who took the stage Monday morning in Austin.

Straightaway, Charles shed his corporate persona in favor of his Texas roots, welcomed us all to his home town, asked that we call him Chuck, offered photos and first names only of the entire DAC Executive Committee, showed us a map of a new and innovate layout for the DAC Exhibit Hall – including a central boulevard that Baron Haussmann himself would have celebrated – and then asked us to help him do two things:

Keep Austin Weird, apparently a principle plank in the City’s Charter, and ergo to Keep DAC Weird, as well as Nerdy, Fun and Alive. And no sooner did Chuck extend this request, than it was …

Boom. Done.

The remainder of the opening session was infused with Lone Star State hospitality, industry leaders such as CEDA’s Shishpal Rawat, ESD-Alliance’s Bob Smith, and DAC 2017 General Chair & Adapt-IP CEO Michael McNamara among the many presenting awards for technical achievement and/or service to the community.

The Phil Kaufman Award was re-presented to Dr. W. C. Rhines, CEDA’s Outstanding Service Award was presented to Mentor’s Anna Cirkel, and the ranks of IEEE Fellows swelled with four additional names: Notre Dame Prof. Sharon Hu, Texas A&M Prof. Jiang Hu and Prof. Peng Li, and Cadence’s inimitable Dr. Chris Rowen of Tensilica fame.

The IEEE Transactions on CAD Donald O. Pederson Best Paper Award, the Richard Newton Technical Impact Award, the ACM TODAES Best Paper Award, the ACM SIGDA Outstanding New Faculty Award, the ACM SIGDA Outstanding PhD Dissertation Award, and three new ACM Fellows were all announced.

The ACM SIGDA Distinguished Award was presented posthumously to University of Pittsburgh Prof. Steve Levitan and was received on stage by his wife, Prof. Anna Balazs. The Marie R. Pistilli Women in EDA Achievement Award was presented to Tufts Prof. Soha Hassoun, and the P.O. Pistilli Undergraduate Scholarship for Advancement in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering was presented to Columbia freshman Nicole Amoako by Pat Pistilli himself.

The Awards having been presented, it was on to the keynote address, a mega-commercial for NXP/Freescale that shamelessly bragged on the company’s prominence in the semiconductor-for-autos market and declared they have solved most of the major challenges in setting up a safe and secure network to operate your autonomous self-driving car.

Even if you never make time to look up that keynote, soon to be archived on the DAC website, at least do yourself a favor and buy NXP right now. At this writing, it’s selling at around $90/share, but if the DAC keynote is any indication the future for the company is profoundly up and to the right.

[Editor’s note: In 1999, Intel’s Paul Ottelini gave an equally rousing sales pitch/keynote at the 36th DAC in New Orleans when he argued that every chip should be designed on an Intel-inside workstation. His talk generated complaints back then, but I’m not sensing the NXP/Freescale offering in Austin will generate that same level of negative feedback.]

Keynote properly attended to, the big winner of the day – besides Chuck’s howdy — was a walk through the Exhibit Hall. Cleanly laid out and full of delights such as the World of IoT and the NXP Race Car Challenge race track adjacent to the NXP IoT Truck, the commercial half of DAC 2016 was inviting and attractive.

So much so: Although the bad news during the Opening Session was the Monday tutorials could not be attended free of charge, the good news was the Exhibit Hall offered a great alternative for spending the day.

Of course, some sessions up on the 4th floor of the Convention Center were free on Monday – I attended “Custom Hardware for Algorithmic Trading” – but a lot of super tutorial content could not be had without a fee, and some of us had already exhausted our budgets attending workshops on Sunday. Oh well.

Those small items aside, it’s clear that the 53rd DAC, organized by Chuck’s enthusiastic posse, marks a turning point in the history of the conference.

That DAC is no longer just about EDA is clear – tracks this week in Austin include Automotive, Design, Embedded Systems, IoT, IP, and Security, as well as EDA – but there’s more to it: The EDA industry is too consolidated and staid in its current instantiation to draw in legions of the young and the restless.

But given the type of energy that Charles Alpert conveyed to his audience on Monday morning in Austin, and his brilliant homage to the weird, nerdy, and wonderful in technology, it’s going to be a month of Sundays before anybody can again accuse DAC of fading out of relevance to the world of electronic design automation and all it entails.

[Addendum: The Art Show in the lobby of the Austin Convention Center this week is another innovation worth noting, the pieces all related in some way or another to the Art of Chip Design.]


Worth 1000 words …

DAC 53

Plenary 1

Plenary 2

Plenary 3

Plenary 4

Plenary 5

Plenary 7

Plenary 8

Plenary 9

Plenary 10

Plenary 11

Plenary 12

Hall 1

Hall 2

Hall 2-

Hall 3

Hall 4

Hall 5

Hall 6

Hall 7

Hall 8

Hall 9

Hall 10

Hall 11

Hall 12

Hall 13

Hall 14

Hall 15

Hall 16

Hall 17

Hall 18

Hall 19

Hall 20

Hall 21

NXP Track


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