History of Semiconductor Engineering, By Bo Lojek
For the last couple of years Bob Pease has been enthusiastic about a book he has been helping Bo Lojek with. Bo works over at Atmel Corporation, a great outfit but one I am still a little mad at after I designed a whole Point of Sale terminal around one of their AVR series micro-controllers and then they went and discontinued the part. Oh well. Bo has written a great book, The History of Semiconductor Engineering and I see why Pease is so stoked about it. Bob helped Bo with the proofreading and put the language into a more colloquial English than Bo was used to speaking. Based on Bob’s recommendation I bought two books from him, autographed by Bo no less. They are something like 75 or 80 bucks each. That is a picture of Bob with the book when we met at Bldg T, the Tasty Subs on Lawrence Expressway. This is a great book. It has pictures that have never been published including one of Bob Widlar hugging the sheep that he brought in to National Semiconductor to eat the grass and make fun of some cost-cutting measures. There are blurbs on the back of the book by Jay Last, Jack Gifford, Bob Dobkin and Hans Queisser. They are all just as excited about the book as Bob is.
I put in a picture of my buddies Earl Craig (in red) and Tom Gross checking out the book as we did some critical analog team-building and intra-company outreach. Earl works over at Semtech and Tom is a Linear Tech guy. Everybody that was there that night thought this was a great book. Several of my pals said they were going to buy the book. Come on folks, order one up, your company will spring for it.
I bought two copies so I could give one to an engineer at Linear Tech that I interviewed a few days before. Hang on….Let me find his card— Robert G. Swartz, oh excuuuse me, General Manger of High Frequency Products. Well, I like the guy so lets not let it get out he is in management. Robert worked at Bell Labs back in the days when my brother was at the Allentown Bell Labs. My brother was working on undersea fiber optic cable repeaters. My brother told me that they had bet the whole division on using silicon for the repeaters as opposed to gallium arsenide. My brother was proud because they did have a huge success and silicon was obviously the right thing to do even though everybody said gallium arsenide was the way to go. Well guess what—Swartz was at the Homedale Bell labs and he was the guy that got the silicon to work. Small world huh? Swartz told me that gallium arsenide was always going to be the hot new thing—for the last 20 years. Kinda like 42 volts cars and the foveon CCD chip.
So why am I going to lay my extra book on Swartz rather than, say, the third lucky commenter to this blog? Well after Robert had told me about Linear Tech’s cool bunch of new RF parts, I asked him about silicon-germanium (pdf). An IC designer buddy had pointed out to me that SiGe Ft-speed versus emitter-current was on the exact same slope and laid right on top of the curve for silicon. My pal said that the only thing about SiGe that made if faster was that you could run higher emitter current densities and therefore get the blazing speed it is known for. Swartz said that , while this was true the real deal with SiGe is that it has better mobility in the base and that the base can be made much thinner so things get to work very fast. I asked him about gallium arsenide and he said that GaAs had even thinner bases and faster electron mobility’s. So I asked him why he bet the company on using silicon. His answer was two words: “No Oxide”. Silicon oxide is glass and it makes a great insulator and gate dielectric. He said gallium arsenide did not have a viable equivalent. Pretty cool. See, writing is just like being a consultant—the first rule is that you have to learn more than you teach or you will go out of business. Well, Swartz taught me a lot and he is getting the book.
Update: Bob discusses the book here.