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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.

DAC 2013: Cowboys, Revolutionaries, The Art of War

June 6th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

One would think if DAC were to be located in Austin, it would be natural to connect the dots between the kind of folk who come to the conference and the cowboy of yesteryear – that iconic, laconic, sole warrior and minimalist who rides the open range with few possessions and even fewer words, but carries big ideals of freedom and individual liberties in his saddle bag, as well as a respect for hearth and home – although he’s rarely there – and the ability to defend the weak and helpless from organized power brokers who put the interests of the few above the needs of the many.

Nope, those aren’t the folks who come to DAC. Nope, the designers aren’t cowboys, and neither are the CAD managers, nor the CAD tool vendors, nor the IP vendors, nor the system houses, nor the fab guys, nor the PR folks or the press, and definitely not the academics. Nope, not cowboys.

Perhaps, instead, one would think that if DAC were to be located in Texas, the natural thing would be to connect the dots between the kind of folks who attend the conference and the kind of revolutionaries who constantly want to change the world – those bristly, self-actualized, agitated, out-spoken, self-appointed thought leaders who want to throw out everything from the past and start afresh, over and over again, people who love churning through governmental structures so much that by the time you know it, they’ve had six different flags flying over this endless land of rivers and ranches and rolling hills that go on and on as far as the eye can see – and that’s without even taking into account the oil.

Nope, those aren’t the folks who come to DAC either. Nope, the designers aren’t revolutionaries, and neither are the CAD managers, nor the CAD tool vendors, nor the IP vendors, nor the system houses, nor the fab guys, nor the PR folks or the press, and definitely not the academics. Nope, not revolutionaries.

However, if one were to think that locating DAC out in the heart of the Wild West was an invitation to connect the dots between the folks who attend the conference and the precepts of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, one would be pretty much spot-on at last. Because, Sun Tzu understood over 2500 years ago what it takes to succeed for the stakeholders who come to DAC. It’s not about individual freedoms, it’s not about preventing the few from controlling the many, and it’s not about sudden, constant change and churning away from the status quo.

DAC is about war, plain and simple – strategic, well-planned, carefully conceived & executed war. And don’t be deluded otherwise just because dreamy, touchy-feely bloggers want you to think that DAC’s as benign and congenial as a family reunion or a sentimental confab of old friends. Nope, that’s not it; DAC is about war.

It’s about designers banding together to defeat their managers’ attempts to impose a tool flow that’s been selected and ordained from above. It’s about CAD managers trying to wrest better tool support from the CAD tools vendors, and better prices, and battling with Senior Management to loosen up some of those hard-and-fast budget constraints that make life so hard.

It’s about IP vendors using a mix of persuasion and FUD in attempting to impose their will over designers, CAD tool vendors and fabs – particularly those who also compete as IP vendors – and standards bodies who might be swayed to compose standards that will favor the particular structures of a particular IP vendor. It’s about system houses trying to outwit CAD tool vendors and IP vendors, attempting to pay the least to both of those factions, while still getting best-in-class products, yet complaining endlessly about the quality of everything’s that’s being delivered.

It’s about academics pitting their successes against fellow academics, their intellect and grad students against the other guy’s, and academics railing at industry for not coughing up sufficient money to fund BlueSky academic research, while their adversaries in industry rail at the academics for not respecting the BlueSky research that’s going on behind the corporate firewall. And of course, it’s always war between various factions in the PR world, not to mention between various factions in the Press, and if you don’t believe that, you’re really blind to the realities of the world.

Finally, it’s about Senior Management from EDA Company A trying to outmaneuver Senior Management from EDA Company B, using a complex arsenal of tools that includes everything from raiding the competition’s human resources, to discrediting the competition’s product line and attempting to sue the competition out of existence through patent attacks and/or accusations of IP theft, not to mention using the time-tested practice of destroying the competition through undercutting their pricing structure til they bleed and die.

So, perhaps you think this is a negative portrayal of DAC and the stakeholders who come there. Aw, come on. Really? It’s war. Admit it. It’s competition. It’s beating the other guy at their own game. It’s hoping to prevail to such a level that the other guy won’t be there next year. It’s a process that’s more ancient that Austin, more ancient than Texas, and far more ancient than the Wild West. It’s a process that takes a page right out of The Art of War.

And it’s a natural part of the human condition, particularly at DAC. Embrace it.


Sun Tzu: The Art of War …

Chapter III –

Thus we know that there are five essentials for victory:

1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Chapter VI –

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.


The Art of War
by Sun Tzu (c. 500 B.C.E.)
Edited by Dallas Galvin (2003)
Translated by Lionel Giles (1910)


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