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What will be your engineering legacy?

Having just published a list of ‘Top 10 analog engineers’, it got me to thinking about how we record the achievements of individual engineers nowadays. Maybe the argument for doing so doesn't stand up quite as well as the days when one engineer could design an ic in entirety? Certainly, the semi-egalitarian, multidisciplinary teams of today make it pretty difficult for those trying to ascertain who contributed what to a particular chip or even system design.

Admittedly, the process of gathering names for my list was far from an exact science. Arranged in semi-historical order, it pulls together strands and snippets of industry folklore, passing over hundreds of eminently talented candidates in the process, I am sure. Hopefully though, in harnessing the power of the Internet, this may provoke a few more suggestions.

What was interesting was the similarity in the educational background of many of the engineer's I came up with. Most attended MIT and then joined a handful of companies – National Semiconductor, Fairchild Semiconductor, then Linear Technology – places that offered superb training grounds and career opportunities for analog ic design at the time. It might seem at first glance that these engineers were automatically guaranteed a place in the annals of engineering history. When you probe a little deeper though, the path to success of these individuals wasn't quite as smooth as the passing of time makes out. Which is why it is sometimes a good thing to take the time to understand and remember how past achievements came about.

From Bob Pease's contributions to the Philbrick Archive, to Jim Williams recollection of working with Bob Widlar, many of these engineers have paid tribute to each other, if not necessarily at the time, certainly in years after. They had also, almost universally, lectured, mentored, written papers and contributed articles, ensuring that their valuable knowledge would be passed on and, unwittingly, ensuring that their own contributions wouldn't be completely forgotten.

You may be, or know, some of the people that are laying the foundations for the analog semiconductor industry of the future. Non-disclosure agreements excepting, don't forget the importance of recording and sharing (when appropriate) your achievements and those of your colleagues. And if you feel inspired to share your analog design expertise with a wider audience, or to document the achievements of your team, then you know who to contact, as on a personal note, it would be good to recognise the talents of some of the latest generation of analog engineers in ADLE in 2009.

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