Application Specific Integrated Comedy

Application Specific Integrated Comedy
by Paul McLellan on 06-11-2015 at 7:00 am

 Tuesday night I got to meet an old colleague. OK, this is DAC, that is hardly a story. I was at the Synopsys media dinner and John Koeter handed out free wristbands to the Stars of IP party taking place later that evening. Remember, Synopsys is #3 in IP overall and #1 in interface IP. Talking of which, earlier in the day I was at the Synopsys custom IC lunch which I will cover later which had an especially interesting presentation from the Synopsys IP group who, not surprisingly, are big users of the custom IC product line.

The party was the 3rd Stars of IP party organized by IPextreme (although now most of the IP companies participate too). I had lunch with Warren Savage a few years ago and he told me the genesis of what became IPextreme. At the time he was at Synopsys. Also at the time, ARM supplied their microprocessor as hard IP, a physical process-dependent layout. Actually there was really only one core back then, the ARM7TDMI which became the standard in mobile phones and set ARM on the course to where it is today. As an experiment Warren and his team did a synthesizable version of the ARM7TDMI, after all they were at Synopsys. ARM were skeptical it could be done. What nobody, even Warren, really expected was that the synthesizable core would turn out to be smaller than the hard core. It wasn’t an overnight change but it completely altered how cores would be delivered. Except for a parts of the PHYs for interfaces, and some other analog areas, everything would be synthesizable, which is where we are today.

 Performing at the Stars of IP party was Don McMillan. I first met Don when we were both at VLSI Technology where he was an IC designer. Last night I talked to Don about his early days in stand-up and he told me he was at a comedy club on open-mike night. “You mean I can just go up there and perform?” So he tried it. As he says, there is probably no business where you get quite such instant feedback. In 1991 he won the 16th San Francisco stand-up competition and then was the overall winner on Star Search the following year. By then he’d given up being a chip designer and was doing stand-up full time. Although he has performed on the tonight show and done commercials for Budweiser and all sorts of other things, a lot of his bread-and-butter comes from being able to do comedy in technical environments where he actually is as much of a geek as his audience. Engineer jokes are just a lot funnier coming from an engineer.

Another person working the same idea is Scott Meltzer who I hired for his first time at DAC when I was at VaST and for many years has been seen on the Apache booth doing a strait-jacket escape on a unicycle and other things. He has a degree in computer science from Berkeley. At VaST he ran the demos himself since he already knew Linux.

When I was at Compass we would hire Don to be our presenter on the booth, although the most interesting performances were always the last couple on the last day when we told him we couldn’t face hearing his routine about our products one more time and we just unleashed him to do whatever he wanted. It was always the biggest crowd of the entire show.

His first time working our booth we had a big deep-submicron (DSM) theme going so he came up with the first deep-submicron joke. And I still remember it:”A neutron walks into a bar and says how much for a beer?”
“For you, no charge.”

OK, I’ll stick to blogging. Don’t forget to tip your server.

Don’s website TechnicallyFunny is here.