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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Martin, Lavagno, Scheffer, Markov: Assembling a Mighty Tome for the Ages

 
July 13th, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena


It was a great pleasure to sit down recently with Grant Martin
– Distinguished Engineer in the Tensilica R&D/IP Group at Cadence – to discuss the 2nd edition of the 2-book compendium he is so closely associated with:

Volume 1: Electronic Design Automation for IC System Design, Verification, and Testing
Volume 2: Electronic Design Automation for IC Implementation, Circuit Design, and Process Technology

Grant Martin did not assemble and edit these mighty tomes as a sole practitioner. Also listed on the covers are Luciano Lavagno, Louis Scheffer, and Igor Markov – representing, respectively, the Politecnico di Torino, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and University of Michigan.

All four of these remarkably accomplished technologists had a hand in the newest edition, although according to Grant Martin, it was he, Lavagno, and Scheffer who oversaw the original effort in 2006.

When the publisher suggested an update to the set in 2011 – 5 years on – it ended up taking so much longer, it was actually 10 years before the 2nd edition was complete. Meanwhile, Prof. Markov had joined in on the work in 2014, so was appropriately added to the list of editors in 2016.

All of this Grant Martin carefully explained to me over coffee, while also pointing out that the books together have 52 chapters.

Of those, 42 were in the 1st edition and updated for the 2nd by the original authors, or like-minded technologists if those folks were no longer available, while the 10 additional chapters were added by necessity into the 2nd edition to round out the books and give adequate coverage to topic material that had emerged as critical in the 10 years between 2006 and 2016.

So back to the coffee house: As Martin recited the quite fascinating history of these books, I actually had trouble concentrating on his narrative. Because as he was speaking, I was flipping through this remarkable set and becoming quite overwhelmed by their depth and breadth.

These books are so massive, a total of 1436 pages, and so weighty – Martin said together they weigh 11 pounds and “can serve equally well as a handbook on EDA or a doorstop.” – I had trouble grasping the scale and heroism of assembling such a work.

The topic material is so comprehensive, the list of chapter authors so astounding, the sheer volume of journal and conference papers referenced at the end of each chapter so complete.

It was clear, sitting there over coffee, that if you’re among the lucky thousands who a) truly understand what EDA is about, and b) truly love the technology – these volumes must be on your bookshelf.

And you should own a second set to use as a doorstop. What more appropriate device to keep people out of your study, as you spend hours and hours reading what all has been accomplished since ‘the dawn of time’ in EDA, than the books themselves? A classic example of form and function perfectly aligned.

Again back to the coffee house: As our visit concluded, Martin kindly offered to carry the 11 pounds of books to my car for me, so I could fully review them over time in my own study. I may be fit as a fiddle, but it was great to take him up on that offer.

And now as I write this – as I look again through these books, marvel at the vast scope of the technology involved in chip design and manufacturing, and the number of people who have contributed their ideas and history to the development of these ideas – I am struck again by the profound and heroic nature of this effort. And I am reminded of my father.

My father used to say – and I believe he was not the only one – that after all the joys, sorrows and foibles of human life had come and gone there would be a contemplative fortress somewhere in the universe where all knowledge would be cataloged and protected for eternity. Guarded by Warriors of Wisdom, this encyclopedic place would contain all of the aggregated knowledge of humankind.

This is distinctly the idea that comes to mind in looking at these books. Here, in these two books, resides that level of knowledge. This is an encyclopedic place, one that would be a starting point for anyone who wants to understand EDA.

Which is why I asked Grant Martin: “Could these be textbooks for a new PhD candidate in EDA? Or even students at the undergraduate or Master’s level?”

Martin said that idea had been a motivation, but the outcome is unclear: “We were actually never quite certain if they were used as textbooks.

“We do know there have been some professors who have assigned a chapter here or there as required reading, but no one grad student is going to try to understand all of this.”

“And,” he added, “it’s a book. People don’t really want to read books, they want an electronic version. So you can own it electronically instead, for your Nook or Kindle.”

I expressed my own lack of enthusiasm for those devices – so difficult to flip back and forth between chapters, so hard see the great illustrations in the book.

Martin agreed somewhat, but also mentioned: “What you’re looking at is a book, and a paper version is very difficult to update.”

It’s the electronic version of texts and references, he emphasized, where updates can occur easily when an idea or strategy becomes obsolete – not in books on papers.

Be that as it may, my advice would be to ignore Martin’s advice. Get this book on paper, add it to your bookshelf, and take it down regularly. Read the whole thing – all 1436 pages – and revel in all of this knowledge.

Back one last time to the coffee house: Before we concluded our visit, I asked about the fundamental underpinning of EDA, the tools.

“Can or will,” I asked, “the electronic design automation tools being developed today eventually replace the human in the design equation?”

Grant Martin answered with confidence and certainty, “No.

“The tools have helped, and will continue to help, but there will never be a substitute for good training or great imagination.”

Good training. Great imagination. Great intelligence. Great stamina. Great dignity.

It’s all there in these books. You should own a set. And you should read them.


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For further exploration …

Below are the online listings for these books, both volumes.

You can click on the links and then “Look inside” the books to see the various chapter headings and authors for all 52 chapters.

Volume 1: Electronic Design Automation for IC System Design, Verification, and Testing

Volume 2: Electronic Design Automation for IC Implementation, Circuit Design, and Process Technology


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Volumes 1 & 2: An admirable dedication …

“The editors would like to acknowledge the unsung heroes of electronic design automation, who work to advance the field in addition to their own personal, corporate, or academic agendas. These men and women serve in a variety of ways – they run the smaller conferences, they edit technical journals, and they serve on standards committees, just to name a few. These largely volunteer jobs won’t make anyone rich or famous despite the time and effort that goes into them, but they do contribute mightily to the remarkable and sustained advancement of EDA. Our kudos to these folks, who don’t get the credit they deserve.”


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