Analog engineering legend Bob Pease remembered

-June 20, 2011

Read the first part of this story, Analog engineering legend Bob Pease killed in car crash, here.

EDN's Paul Rako and fellow engineers take time to share their favorite memories of Bob. EDN encourages its readers to share their own Bob stories in the below comments field.
This is one week I will never forget.  Two analog icons are now gone, but both have left a legacy of quality work and a passion for their craft.  I first met Bob 35 years ago when he joined National and I was a very young engineer well down the learning curve.  I had just written the draft for a thick app note on my third chip, a precision monolithic light sensor.  Somehow Bob got hold of a copy and the next morning it was bleeding red ink.  I had flashbacks to my 7th  grade English teacher!  But as I read the "Peasian" markings the meaning became apparent.  Bob was using his considerable proofing skills to help me.  That little episode got us off to a good start.  I made sure he was invited to my mask-set "beer checks" because his inputs were always valuable and he never failed to earn at least one beer.  Bob was generous with his time, his expertise, his humor, and also with his money.  For example, if he received an author or patent award it was commonplace for him to treat the lab to beer and pizza after work on Friday. His legendary office simply grew more and more legendary as time went by. An early modest version of his office won "Messiest Desk in Northern California," a contest sponsored by the local radio station.  The entry photo was taken from the top of a 10-foot ladder by Fran Hoffart with a wide angle lens after 7:00pm when most everyone had gone home. We told Bob about it the day we handed him the first prize check of $500. Of course, he took everyone out for beer and pizza.  Much later I found myself in the odd position of managing Bob (now there's an oxymoron for you).  One day the fire marshall gave me flack over this fire trap called Bob's office. I negotiated a compromise with the fire marshal and then approached Bob with the new rules.  Bob loved to beat rules and I knew that.  My deal was that all papers had to be inside his cubicle and piled no higher than the walls.  I reserved the right to drag a 2x4 over the top of the cubicle walls at end-of-day Friday and anything caught would go in the trash.  However within the cubicle, anything goes.  Bob thought that was reasonable.  As you may imagine the cubicle's overgrowth pattern was periodic, resetting every Friday at 5pm.  When Bob retired from National, we threw a big party for him on campus.  I can still visualize him on stage flashing "analog PowerPoint" and with a stack of signed books & posters "holding court" with his subjects.  I'll leave it to the others to tell funny stories about Bob's many shenanigans.  What I choose to remember most is his intellect, gregarious nature, generosity, broad interests, and true love of analog circuits.  Bob, you are gone now, but you will live on in the many writings, circuits and fond memories that you left with us. --Dennis Monticelli, fellow, National Semiconductor

[When I heard the news of Jim's death] sadness fell upon me so hard and fast that it is hard to understand. It was nearly as bad as when I heard my own dad had died. Bob was an inspiration to me and to a lot of people and a great friend. He was a rare breed of an engineer, a thinker, an innovator and one to look up to. The entire analog engineering world will miss him. We should all celebrate the fact that God blessed the world with him. I am lost for words and can think of nothing else to say. --Nick Gray, retired National Semiconductor applications engineer

This is tragically sad news about Bob. I can't count the number of entertaining conversations Bob instigated about things like the Taguchi method, Laws of Form, the many virtues of FR4 (it's both a floor wax and a dessert topping), and the use of neon bulbs as level shifters in the K2-W ("neon bulbs can do lots of things, none of them well - they're even crappy lights"). I always learned something when talking to him, even if we disagreed. We've lost an irreplaceable resource and link to the "golden age" of analog design. No more installments of "What's all this [insert topic here] stuff, anyhow" columns? Unthinkable. RIP, RAP. --Tom Lee, Stanford professor

Another great analog guru is gone.  I sat next to Bob from 1992 to 1996.  What a character he was. I first met him in person in 1990 when I join NSC. There was never a dull moment with him.  If you wanted an opinion on anything (and I mean anything) he would give it and back it up with facts.  But his great point was all of us nerdie analog engineers could relate to Bob.  We all aspired to be like him.  Reading his columns in EDN was both educational and entertaining. Only Bob could yell at upper management and get away with it.  The rest of us would have been fired.  I will sadly miss him. --Ed Fong, engineer, Space Systems Loral; instructor, Stanford and UC Berkeley

What terrible news! There are no words that can describe my pain for the loss of Jim and Bob. I often worried about Bob Pease as he looked so fragile lately and was still driving. May Bob rest in peace. -- Siu Williams

We are losing the old wise ones and it is a sad thing. I hope you are correct that others are filling in the positions. My dad, Hermann, who worked at Interdesign (Plessey Semi etc.) and passed in January, was not one of the published analog greats, but he worked with them. I'm afraid I see the old group of analog wizards heading out. --Otmar Ebenhoech, Cafe Electric founder and inventor of the Zilla electric car controller

When I was printing Jim Williams' memorial booklet, I started thinking about Bob, and when will I be starting his booklet? While I was waiting for the printer, I decided to check my email, and I couldn't believe what happened to Bob Pease. We left Jim's celebration around 4:30 and we passed Bob's VW on the way down. It's really sad. --Fran Hoffart, application engineer, Linear Technology

I knew of Bob Pease from reading his articles in EDN and Electronic Design. Then Steve Ohr, the editor of EETimes, asked me to participate in an analog seminar. Bob was at that seminar and we sat on a panel together. We hit it off right away. I saw him at the next EETimes analog seminar, as well. Once I was in Fry's electronics and saw Pease with his video camera. He was filming the long lines at the checkout counter. I said hi and we spoke for a half-hour about analog electronics. Around 1999 I was tired of being a consultant. I had lost both HP and Schlumberger as clients and I wondered if it was better to just work a steady job. I called Bob up and asked if there was anything at National Semiconductor. In a couple of days I was interviewing with Fred Hamilton and Emmy Denton for an application engineering job in the temp sensor group. I thought that it seemed pretty easy to get in and get an offer. It was only years later that I heard that Bob had greased the skids for me and given me a great reference. Rather than take a good job at a great analog company, I got stars in my eyes and joined an Internet startup. By 2000 that startup had tanked and I went to another. That one was looking shaky when I called National again. I was too embarrassed to talk to Bob, since I figured he had helped me the first time and I turned National down. The HR people told me both power applications jobs were filled but there was an un-posted application opening in the amplifier group. It turned out that this was Bob's group. Even though I did not ask Pease for help, the first thing Al Kelsch, the hiring manager did was ask Bob if he knew me. Bob once again gave me a great recommendation and that time I was smart enough to take the job. Bob worked in a different building, even though we were in the same group. We all joked that it was because his office was too cluttered for anyone to consider moving. Bob would drop by my cubicle weekly and leave five to 20 sheets of paper, usually copy paper he had salvaged from the wastebasket and made clipping copies on the unused backside. They were always interesting and I began to do a line-by-line commentary on them in e-mails back to Bob. I think that endeared me to him, that I took the time to not only read his clippings, but to comment on them. I suspect Bob recommended me to go on the analog seminars, where we became even closer friends, as is often the case with "road warriors." I must have held my own on those seminars since Bob recommended me to help him on his Bob Pease web-cast shows. It was those shows that caught the eye of EDN and ultimately led to the job I have here as technical editor. So I think it fair to say it was Bob Pease that not only got me two job offers at National, he was directly responsible for getting me the exposure that led to my current job. Once I took the job at EDN five years ago, I didn't see Bob on a daily basis but we would try to have lunch or a beer at least every month or so. It was one of those situations where I would promise myself to get together with Bob, even if I had to drive up to San Francisco. I was happy when EDN was bought by UBM, because they had offices up in San Francisco and it would give me an excuse to be up there where I could call on Bob. Now it is too late. You can bet I will forever remember that quirky gentle soul that so helped me, not just with career moves, but also with the fundamental understanding of analog electronics, as well as a goodly bit of human philosophy. I will miss you Bob. I am sure you will be keeping fit running up and down the stairway to heaven. --Paul Rako technical editor EDN


EDN encourages its readers to share their own Bob stories in the below comments field.

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