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25th Anniversary: Hogan on EDA History and Three Little Words

Comments(2)Filed under: Cadence, EDA tool companies, EDA tools, EDA, EDA companies, Joe Costello, Brian Fuller, Jim Hogan, design automation, EDA vendors, electronics design, IC design, circuit design, EDA software, Fuller View, 25th anniversary, Jim Solomon

In the quarter century that Cadence has existed as a company, one man who was there from day one says it has always been defined by three French words.

"Cadence has never lacked for esprit de corps," said Jim Hogan, the EDA industry legend (pictured right), who was there when Cadence emerged from the crucible of the merger of SDA and ECAD. "Cadence has always been great at rallying to a crisis and kicking butt. Everybody feels they can bring something to the party. They can help and they want to help."

If you weren't there, here's a recap:

SDA (Solomon Design Automation) Systems started in the early 1980s with a dissatisfied engineer named Jim Solomon who happened by a brilliant analog design. Working at National Semiconductor, Solomon was frustrated by the lack of analog CAD tools, and he saw the need for a standard format for design data storage.

1980s EDA revolution 

Solomon wrote a business plan at National Semiconductor, and while he wasn't originally intending to run a new company, that's what happened. SDA received start-up funding from National Semiconductor, General Electric, Harris Corp., and L.M. Ericsson. The company developed an integrated suite of IC physical design tools.

Hogan, in an interview, describes the 1980s in EDA as a revolutionary time, especially around the rise of hardware description languages.

"At the same time, large place and route came around, and you had Gate Ensemble from Tangent, later Cadence. You could describe your circuit and implement large digital circuits in a structured custom fabric," Hogan said.

By the mid-1980s, Synopsys burst on the scene with synthesis Design Compiler, so designers could move from behavioral languages to gates and gates to silicon implementation.

"The 1980s saw incredible innovation and emergence of technologies that still persist today," Hogan said.

Another of the early startups was ECAD, founded by Glen Antle and Paul Huang. Antle, a veteran IC designer, had worked at Texas Instruments, ITT, Teledyne, Data General, and subsequently the Systems Engineering Lab (SEL), where he headed the microelectronics product division. While developing a new 32-bit computer design, the CAD group at SEL wrote a new, and very fast, algorithm for design rule checking (DRC). Huang directed the development of this IC physical verification technology. In 1982 Gould Inc. bought SEL, and Gould granted Antle and Huang the marketing rights to the technology.

Tying the knot 

In February 1988, ECAD agreed to acquire SDA in a $72 million stock swap and on June 1 emerged from the chrysalis as Cadence Design Systems. Huang became a vice president of R&D, Solomon (pictured, left) became president of the Cadence Analog Division, and Costello was named Cadence president and CEO.

Cadence cofounder Jim Solomon

Hogan, a veteran mentor himself, says that, pretty much hands down, Solomon was the best boss he's ever had.

"I'll go back to Analog Artist days. We'd work all day 8, 10, 12 hours. And then we'd gather outside of Solomon's office and argue for another four hours. Fist fights would occur.

"What Solomon was disciplined aboutand this was different from working at a semiconductor company and moving into EDAhe let every voice be heard. I'm full enough of myself to say ‘Hey I got the right answer,' but he'd just say ‘Sit down, take it easy. Have a piece of pizza. We're going to listen to this.' And he would allow every voice to be heard.

"And then out of that collection of voices, we'd synthesize something. That's a luxury that a lot of people don't do. It's all because we all respected him so much that if he said it we'd do it. If I said it, nobody would do it."

"Tormentorship" 

Hogan also tips his hat to Cadence's first CEO, Joe Costello, later CEO Ray Bingham, and venture capitalist Don Lucas as good bosses, but he notes there's a secret to a good boss, both being one and learning from one.

"I say you don't have a mentor. You have a tormentor. And tormentorship is about pushing people outside their comfort zone. Solomon, Ray, Costello, and Lucas: those guys always took every opportunity to push me outside of my comfort zone and beyond what I thought I was capable of. Did I come up short sometimes? Yeah. But I actually delivered on a few things too."

"With all managers and bosses, you should be a tormentor," Hogan added.

The complete video interview with Jim Hogan will be available online later this month.

—Brian Fuller

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