Sep 21, 2013

The Day I Looked Back

On June 18, 2011, Bob Pease died.  The San Jose Mercury News reported, "An elderly San Francisco man was killed after his car hit a tree...  The driver's 1969 Volkswagen Beetle veered to the right off of the roadway... The 70-year-old was not wearing his seatbelt..."  I knew Bob Pease, not well, but I spent a few years working at National Semiconductor while he was there.  The shocking part of the news was that he had just been attending a private memorial service for Jim Williams who had died the previous week.  I knew Jim Williams, too.  The thought crossed my mind that we need to put bubble-wrap around those remaining famous analog characters before the next one dies!

And then I thought that someone needs to write a book about those famous analog characters.  For months, I thought seriously about writing that book.  I started doing more focused research instead of the casual reading I had done in the past.  But I'm not an author.  At least not in the way people of my age think of an author.   Today, however, is the day when everyone is an author and everyone can publish their epic masterpiece.

To the outside world, Bob Pease was an elderly San Francisco man.  To those of us connected through the analog segment of the semiconductor industry, Bob Pease was a larger-than-life character.  His persona was a bit eccentric, perhaps.  Jim Williams was another larger-than-life character but more approachable and subdued.  Both were widely known because they authored a great deal of material on analog circuits - authored in the way people of my age think of an author.  Many young engineers learned the practical aspects of circuit design by reading their works, complementing their education.

Bob Pease joined National Semiconductor in Santa Clara, California, in 1976.  Longtime readers of his know that he spent many formative years at Philbrick (George A. Philbrick Researches) which he joined after studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  In 1979, Jim Williams joined National Semiconductor.  After leaving Philbrick.  After being at MIT.  It struck me that they walked down the same sidewalks, up the same steps and down the same hallways.  Literally in the same footsteps.  Of course, as we'll share in later posts, they did not follow the same footsteps, figuratively.

Bob Pease visited Linear Technology several weeks before he died.  He walked down the hallway to see Bob Dobkin; he probably walked right past Jim Williams' office.  Literally in the same footsteps as Jim did that day.

A few weeks after Jim died, I attended a tribute hosted at the Computer History Museum.  It was a panel discussion with several key people from Jim's life.  It's strange listening to people reflect on times and events that I shared.  That's the day I looked back and saw the footsteps.


NOTES:

1. Bill Schweber, "Analog expert Bob Pease dies in tragic accident," EE Times, June 20, 2011, "http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1259751".

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