TechCast #105 – Chip Design Legend Bill Mensch at IoT Fusion

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Today’s podcast features Ken Rimple’s fireside chat with Bill Mensch, a pioneer in microprocessing and chip design.

Bill Mensch grew up on a farm near Philadelphia, and didn’t think he’d end up as an engineer. But by studying his areas of interest such as math and science, he eventually ended up at Philco Ford, which gave him a taste of the field of semiconductors. He ended up becoming a driving force behind the microprocessor and personal computer movement, working at Motorola alongside Chuck Peddle, the inventor of the 6800 microprocessor, moving with him to Commodore to roll out the 6502, and eventually founding the Western Design Center, where he designs semiconductor microprocessors and controllers for his clients.

Bill was our featured guest at Chariot’s IoT Fusion conference this Spring. Our fireside chat focused on chip design, and how IoT impacts the way developers interact with hardware.

Ken and Bill talk about:

  • Bill’s early career moves all the way up to his final design of the 6502, and how he carefully skirted Motorola….
  • Some tech lore: Bill’s bold bet with the Operations VP of Manufacturing at Motorola.
  • The decision to use Verilog over VHDL, despite European standards.
  • How Bill’s design process has changed over the last thirty years.
  • Complex instruction sets vs. ARM (reduced instruction set) processors: how would Bill compare the two in their respective applications?
  • Why Bill turned down working with Acorn Computing, the British empire’s equivalent of the Apple 2 operating system.
  • The draw of RISC-V, the open core (open-source) hardware.
  • Say someone wanted to get started with an IOT solution. What are some of the ways to go to the next step? How does one move from a bunch of wires hanging on a board to actually manufacturing something?
  • What are the ways that IoT developers can get up to speed on electrical engineering? By burning out boards? Some frank advice from Bill.
  • Some semantics: why Bill thinks Embedded Intelligence is to Artificial Intelligence like a square is to a rectangle.
  • A questions from the audience about Edge (explicit data graph execution).

More information about Bill Mensch and his work can be found on the Mensch Foundation website.