Lynn Conway's VLSI Archive (cont.): Links re Impact
Compiled by Lynn Conway

[V 3-04-08]


Following are links to documents regarding the impact of the Mead-Conway VLSI design revolution. In most cases, the links go to html pages that provide overviews of the documents and then links to PDF versions of the documents. The red links go directly to those PDFs.  An overview of each document is given in the annotated links below. Those overviews can be accessed by clicking on the item numbers at the left.


Links re Impact of the VLSI Design Revolution:

Following are links to information about the impact of the Mead-Conway work:

1.    Mead-Conway Impact  PDF (6p; 230kb)

2.    NRC Historical Book 

3.    Dealers of Lightning

4.    Electronic Design Hall of Fame



Overviews of the documents regarding Impact :

1.  Mead-Conway Impact  PDF (6p; 230kb)

This page provides an overview of the impact of the Mead-Conway innovations in VLSI design methodology, and of the rapid-chip-prototyping system innovated by Lynn Conway at Xerox PARC (demonstrated during MPC79, and later becoming the MOSIS service).

2.  NRC Historical Reports and Book: 

By the mid-1990's, the Mead-Conway work was considered foundational in modern computing knowledge, as seen in the following figures from National Research Council publications in 1995 (with links back to the original sources). These figures show the main threads of knowledge that developed and intertwined to produce modern information technology:


Figure II.13 Technological Developments in Computing. From [ISBN 0-309-05347-1]: "Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology", National Academy Press, Washington, DC 1995, page 75.


Figure 1.2 Government-sponsored computing research and development stimulates creation of innovative ideas and industries. From [ISBN 0-309-05277-7]: "Evolving the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative to Support the Nation's Information Infrastructure", National Academy Press, 1995, page20.


In the late 90's, the National Academy Press published a history of microelectronics which among other things documented how the Mead-Conway methods had a foundational impact on the industry - see the following excepts from Chapter 4 of "Revolution in Miniature" - including text and diagrams:

3.  Dealers of Lightning

The book Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael Hiltzik (HarperCollins Publishers, 1999) reports on the early history of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, and the tremendous contributions to modern computing technology made there. The book captures well the youthful spirit of adventure in the air at PARC at the time, and tells the amazing story of how modern networked personal computing was born there during the 1970's.
One of the book's chapters tells the story of the Mead-Conway collaboration and the innovations in VLSI design methodology and implementation systems made at PARC, including how the Mead-Conway team exploited and built upon the innovative computing environment under development at PARC at the time. (The book is also available in paperback form.)

4.  Electronic Design Hall of Fame

Electronic Design

50th Anniversary Issue

October 21, 2002


In this special issue, Electronic Design magazine officially launched its "Hall of Fame" of electronic design with a list of 58 individuals who have made landmark career accomplishments in electronics. The list was developed during an open voting process in the electronic design community. The Hall of Fame includes such notables as Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, Nikola Tesla, Edwin Armstrong, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, John von Neumann, Hedy Lamarr, William Shockley, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, William Hewlett, David Packard, Bernard Gordon, Steven Wozniak, Steven Jobs, Robert Widlar, J. Presper Eckert, John Mauchly, Charles Kao, Robert Metcalfe, Jim Clark, Marc Andreessen, Linus Torvalds, Al Shugart, Dennis Ritchie, Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Jack Kilby, Andy Grove, Ted Hoff, Grace Hopper, Vint Cerf, Seymour Cray, John Backus, and other major contributors to electronics design. Carver Mead and Lynn Conway were inducted in the Electronics Design Hall of Fame in recognition of their pioneering work in VLSI chip design methods:


"By the mid-1970s, digital system designers eager to create higher-performance devices were frustrated by having to use off-the-shelf large-scale-integration logic. It stymied their efforts to make chips sufficiently compact or cost-effective to turn their very large-scale visions into timely realities. In 1978, a landmark book titled Introduction to VLSI Systems changed all of that. Co-authored by Mead, the Gordon and Betty E. Moore professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, and Conway, research fellow and manager of the VLSI system design area at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the book provided the structure for a new integrated system design culture that made VLSI design both feasible and practical. Introduction to VLSI Systems resulted from work done by Mead and Conway while they were part of the Silicon Structures Project, a cooperative effort between Xerox and Caltech. Mead was known for his ideas on simplified custom-circuit design, which most semiconductor manufacturers viewed with great skepticism but were finding increasing support from computer and systems firms interested in affordable, high-performance devices tailored to their needs. Conway had established herself at IBM’s research headquarters as an innovator in the design of architectures for ultrahigh-performance computers. She invented scalable VLSI design rules for silicon that triggered Mead and Conway’s success in simplifying the interface between the design and fabrication of complex chips. The structured VLSI design methodology that they presented, the “Mead-Conway concept,” helped bring about a fundamental reassessment of how to put ICs together." - Electronic Design Magazine, 2002 > VLSI  > Lynn Conway's VLSI Archive > Links re Impact