EDA People: Footprints on the Sand of Time

EDA industry is what it is today because of contributions of lots of people: academics, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, and developers from all over the world. There are some who stand taller than the others leading, inspiring, innovating. Their contributions have had a broad impact and lasting influence on the industry.

As per me there are two significant events in EDA
  • Invention of transistor, integrated circuit. With no electronics what would be designed and what automation?
  • The register-transfer level (RTL) methodology. RTL has defined design automation tools for the last quarter century. It increased designer productivity from a peak of about 20,000 gates in 1986 to nearly 250,000 gates in the mid-1990s, essentially turbo-boosting the ASIC industry into what it is today. Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Dataquest, said Cadence's Verilog XL simulator, Synopsys' Design Compiler RTL-to-gate synthesis tool and Quad's Motive static-timing tool were essential ingredients to the rise of RTL methodology. "Verilog XL established a common language to build the register-transfer level," said Smith. "Design Compiler then could take that language and translate it to gates. Motive added the exhaustive timing analysis that was lacking in Verilog XL."
My tribute is to the people that made it happen.

William Shockley co-invented the transistor at Bell Labs in 1947. In 1956 William Shockley opened Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory as a division of Beckman Instruments in Mountain View, California; His plan was to develop a new type of "4-layer diode" that would work faster and have more uses than current transistors. Traitorous Eight resigned in 1957 because they did not agree with William Shockley's managerial style and started Fairchild Semiconductor. The eight men were Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts. His attempts to commercialize a new transistor design in the 1950s and '60s led to San Francisco's "Silicon Valley” becoming a hotbed of computer innovation. It is said “William Shockley is the man who brought silicon to Silicon Valley”

Robert Noyce is credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip although Kilby's invention was 6 months earlier. He co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He was the first CEO of Sematech, an industry-manufacturing consortium set up in 1987 to counter the Japanese. He was one of the Valley's most likable pioneers and was nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley".

Most of discussions on EDA do not go without mentioning, yes you guessed it right the “Moore's Law”. This observation was stated (yes not authored) by Gordon Moore in 1965. It is said that Moore may have heard Douglas Engelbart, a co-inventor of today's mechanical computer mouse, discuss the projected downscaling of integrated circuit size in a 1960 lecture. Gordon Moore's observation was not named a "law" by Moore himself, but by the Caltech professor and entrepreneur Carver Mead. Moore co-founded Intel in 1968 with Robert Noyce and others and then drove it in the relentless pursuit of his law, first as executive vice president and later as CEO and chairman. Quoting Brian Halla of National Semiconductor "If you tried to apply the same kind of law to any other industry, you'd have a Rolls Royce anyone could buy for a quarter, drive downtown and throw away." Satoru Ito, Renesas Technology says, "Because of Moore's Law, the industry has had a common road map for technological innovation. This allows partnerships and planning for investment."

Phil Moorby while working in Gateway Design Automation, in 1984 invented the Verilog hardware description language, and developed the first and industry standard simulator Verilog-XL. Before Verilog-XL was introduced designers didn't believe that simulation was useful for verification because it was too slow. At that time, hardware accelerators like Zycad hardware accelerator were hitting the market and were quite popular even though they were difficult to use and were expensive too. Verilog-XL was software-only software and was designed and implemented with every optimization trick to compete with hardware accelerators and were one-third of the cost. “Phil's work had as much impact on hardware design as the C-language had on software development in 1970”Alain Hannover Viewlogic founder said. In 1990 Cadence Design Systems purchased Gateway. In 1999 Moorby joined Co-Design Automation and in 2002 he joined Synopsys to work on SystemVerilog verification language.

Aart De Geus led the team that created synthesis, a leap forward in EDA that saved chip designers time and money. Synthesis automates reading a high-level electronic design description and implements it at a lower level of abstraction-work that used to be hand-cranked.

De Geus did much of the development work at General Electric and as part of his doctoral dissertation for Southern Methodist University. When GE decided to exit the semiconductor business, in 1986, De Geus convinced GE to fund a spin-off. He moved his team from North Carolina to Silicon Valley and founded Synopsys, which produced the first commercial design compiler. Synopsys' Design Compiler is largely considered the crown jewel of the RTL flow and arguably the crown jewel of the EDA industry. While numerous simulators and static-timing tools have moved in and out of the top seed, Design Compiler, years after its introduction, still dominates the market-share lead in logic synthesis The Design compiler is still its leading product, but Synopsys, through innovation and acquisition under CEO De Geus, grew into a billion-dollar EDA enterprise.
Professor Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli is a professor in Berkley. He helped start two big EDA companies “Cadence Design Systems” and “Synopsys”.

His academic career is unparalled. With over 500 technical publications to his name and fourteen books-spanning the areas of EDA, control theory, systems theory, and applied mathematics just to name a few-Alberto has educated and mentored a generation of distinguished university faculty and industry leaders.

In 1981, Alberto joined Jim Solomon, then at National Semiconductor, and Richard Newton as they sought for ways to get some of our early Berkeley CAD tools and ideas supported by industry. After six months of talking with companies like Daisy Systems, Mentor Graphics, Comsat General, Valid Logic Systems, and even the Microelectronics and Computer Consortium (MCC) in Austin Texas, and finding no takers, Jim decided to start a company to support and develop their ideas for commercial use as SDA Systems and eventually Cadence Design Systems.

Alberto was also a key contributor to the founding team of Synopsys and was the founding chair of the Synopsys Technical Advisory Board. Alberto's Ph. D. students, in particular Rick Rudell and Albert Wang, formed a core part of the product team for Design Compiler. Design Compiler was influenced very strongly by the Berkeley work of Bob Brayton, Alberto, and their students in the area of multi-level logic synthesis. In 1991, Cadence and Synopsys had grown to the point where they were beginning to compete in the marketplace and Alberto was forced to make a choice.

Quoting Richard Newton ”When you think of Cadence, remember that the 'a' in Cadence stands for Alberto-without the "a", without Alberto, the company would just not be the same.”

When I started my quest to find out the “Hero's” of EDA, my search led to awardees of Kaufman awards. It is presented annually by the Board of Directors of the Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDAC), honors an individual who has had demonstrable IMPACT on the field of electronic design through contributions in Electronic Design Automation (EDA). Kaufman awards have been won by following.

Robert Dutton 2006
Phil Moorby 2005
Joe Costello 2004
Richard Newton - 2003
Ron Roher- 2002
Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli- 2001

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Review Article
  • Missing November 30, 2006
    Reviewed by 'Crit'
    Fill the gaps. Lot more work required to finish this mammoth work.

      4 of 5 found this review helpful.
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