How can we deal with the extremely complicated VLSI system design?
Carver Mead proposed and promoted a new methodology to divide the increasingly complicated design process of very large-scale integration (VLSI) systems into logic, circuit, and layout designs, and to separate them from the manufacturing process. He also contributed greatly to the advancement of computer-aided design technology and paved the way to the electronic design automation of VLSIs that led to the immense development of VLSI-based electronics and industry.
A number of innovations were required before it was practical to design complex integrated circuits, containing millions of transistors, and create the mask patterns for their production. First, the semiconductor community needed to be convinced that ultra-small transistors would function properly. Then a design paradigm was needed wherein all stages of the design—Function, Architecture, Logic, Circuit, and Mask Geometry—were specified by computer programs rather than by hand drawings, and that an overall interconnection strategy guided all steps of the design. Then computer tools were needed that would generate pattern-generation code for a computer-driven precision pattern generator. Once such a design paradigm was shown to generate working VLSI chips, it was necessary to create a unified view of the physical integrated circuit that could be understood by non-specialists, and incorporate the entire corpus of material into an academic course. The result has changed the world.
A problem was no longer, "How do you make better transistors?" It was, "How could you ever make anything with 10 million moving parts and have it work?"
Profile is at the time of the award.