He who controls the Spice controls the universe

The SPICE circuit simulator originated from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1972, Professor Ron Roher left Berkeley to become head of the EE Department at SMU. I was an EE undergraduate student there at the time, but my first use of SPICE came at Collins Radio.

The SMU intern program added a year to your graduation in exchange for multiple semester/summer internships. In my first internship, I designated most of the bike lanes for the City of Dallas – interesting but irrelevant to my studies. My next two internships were at Collins Radio (before it became Rockwell Collins, before it became Alcatel).

Solving for currents and voltages with R/L/C components with paper and pencil was painful, and with active components it became ridiculous. But SPICE and a card-deck changed everything. If you don’t know what a card-deck means, see this post.

Skip forward another semester and I was measuring S Parameters for 2N2222A transistors used in baseband circuits for the X.25 microwave systems that Collins was famous for.

One of the engineers I helped had spent several months in Australia working on an installation. While he was there he built an airplane, disassembled it and shipped it back in a container with company radio equipment. At that company and probably others at that time, engineers punched a time-clock, expenses and travel were scrutinized. He thought it was hysterical that the company paid to ship his airplane, and told the story often. His other hobby was playing with some magical stuff coming out of Texas Instruments – digital logic like J/K Flip-Flops and NAND gates. Several years later I ended up in a division under a VP who had co-developed 74STTL. My department head and I were pitching him on a new methodology to drastically reduce IC design time for a small decrease in area efficiency (i.e. ASIC design). He looked at a chip layout I created and told us there was no f’ing way TI would waste that much Silicon. Afterwards my boss told me to “do it anyway, just don’t let him find out”. But he did find out, when Wally Rhines took over a restructured division for Application-Specific Integrated Circuits products, services and software.

 

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