VLSI Faced Three Challenges

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“Three major problems having to do
with designing ‘systems on a chip’ and
putting them to use must be solved,”
Lewis Branscomb told a banquet audience
of 700 at the first IEEE International
Conference on Circuits and Computers,
sponsored by the Circuits and
Systems Society and the Computer Society.
Nearly 1200 persons-an IEEE
record for the first conference in a
series-attended ICCC 80, held Oct. 1-3
in Port Chester, New York.
Branscomb, an IBM vice-president
and chief scientist, said the problems
have arisen because the electronics industry
is once again poised on the brink of
a new era. Research laboratories are
fabricating VLSI devices with features
approaching one micron in size. Production
will follow some time in the 1980’s.
“But even as VLSI approaches reality,”
Branscomb observed, “uncertainI
ty persists about where it is going and how
fast, and what we will use it for, and who
can afford it.”

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Although they may become cheap to
replicate, presently VLSI devices are “extremely
expensive and difficult” to
design, fabricate, and test. Nevertheless,
some analysts project that VLSI will
become a $40 billion industry by the end
of the decade. But first the challenges
have to be overcome.
The first challenge, according to
Branscomb, is to establish a reliable and
reproducible high-density fabrication
process with dimensions smaller than two
microns. This capability will be required
to produce 256K-bit random access memories
and 32-bit microsystems on a chip.
The second challenge is to integrate
VLSI chip fabrication, design, application
will follow sometime in the 1980’s.
“But even as VLSI approaches resemiconductor
fabricators and system
designers, Branscomb believes.
The third challenge involves the automated
software design techniques that will
become essential as component counts rise
and designs grow too complex for any

designer’s mind to encompass. “Like
custom VLSI chips, these software tools
will be exceedingly difficult to create, but
easy to reproduce,” Branscomb said. The
way they are developed and applied and
the nature of ownership relations will be
”a key ingredient to making it big in the
make-it-small business.

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Quality is the key. “As technologists
achieve greater packaging densities and
computer usage becomes more diverse,
our approaches to quality will change,”
said Arthur Anderson, IBM vice-president
and group executive in his ICCC
luncheon address. “To build quality
products consistently, we must have
quality organizations and a strong
management commitment to quality.
“There is nothing more important to
the computer industry over the next
decade than quality,” Anderson emphasized.
“It may spell the difference between
success and failure for individual
companies and the industry as a whole.
Those with high quality will lead and succeed;
those without, may fall by the

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Thursday afternoon’s panel discussion
to assess the impact of VLSI was attended
by 900 ICCC 80 registrants
(above). Panelists were Gordon Bell of
DEC (shown above with IEEE Northeast
Director Hans Cherney and IEEE General
Manager Eric Herz), Erich Bloch of
IBM, Kaneyki Kurokawa of Fujitsu, Bernard
List of Texas Instruments, Thomas
Longo of Fairchild, Joachim Saehn of
Siemens AG, Leslie Vadasz of Intel, and
John Welty of Motorola. At right are Arthur
Anderson, Mrs. Young and IEEE
1980 President Leo Young, and Lewis
Branscomb. Anderson and Branscomb,
both of IBM, were featured speakers at
ICCC 80.

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