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The Past, Present and Future of the Design Automation Conference

It’s over. After weeks of preparation (on my part, a year on the part of countless others), and a week of staying up late then getting up early, the 46th Annual Design Automation Conference has finally come to a close.  One of the main highlights of the conference was the Synopsys-hosted Conversation Central interactive forum on social media.   I also enjoyed my opportunity to participate on a Pavilion Panel on “Seeking the Holy Grail of Verification Coverage Closure”, to present the new VMM 1.2 updates in the Synopsys theater, and to give a presentation entitled “Zero to Sequences in 30 Minutes” in the OVM World booth.  Special thanks to all of you who spent time talking with me on Monday and Tuesday sharing your thoughts with me on that topic to help me prepare for the panel.  And of course, there was the ever-enjoyable Denali Party (click here for pictures)!

Throughout the conference though, I had a nagging suspicion that I was missing some perspective on where we’ve been as an EDA industry, where we are currently, and where we’re going in the future.  This being only my third DAC, it wasn’t clear to me if anyone was around from the earlier days who would be able to help me fill a gap in my industry knowledge.  After asking around, I quickly realized that I needed to speak with Marie and Pat Pistilli, founders of the aptly named MP Associates and organizers of the very first DAC back in 1964 (and every DAC since).  At the time, DAC was, according to Pat actually called SHARE, which stood for the “Society to Help Avoid Redundant Effort”. 

Pat Pistilli, MP Associates

Pat Pistilli, MP Associates

I was able to arrange a time to meet with Pat on Wednesday evening before the DAC party.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and Google wasn’t much help.  So naturally, I asked Pat to tell me about his background and how he ended up founding DAC. In the late 50s Pat was working at Bell Laboratories on a project called “Safeguard”.  (For info on Safeguard, check out the ever-useful Wikipedia. Also, this site dedicated to the Mickelson Safeguard Complex contains a list of references that appear to be relevant).  The idea of the project was to create a computer that could quickly identify which Soviet ICBMs were duds and which were real during a nuclear attack.

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