Tomorrow, Steve Trimberger is to be inducted as an ACM fellow – an honor given to the top one percent of ACM members for achievements in computer science and information technology.
This strikes me as a significant milestone – not just for Trimberger – who definitely deserves the honor, and not just for Xilinx – where Steve has done the majority of his work, but for the whole FPGA industry. It’s unusual for a non-academic to receive this honor. It’s also unusual for someone in an area as apparently tangential to computer science as FPGAs to be recognized. Trimberger’s induction proves that FPGAs – to which Steve has made a significant contribution – are now seen as key technology in the computing space.
Holding over 175 patents with dozens more pending, Trimberger is a fellow at Xilinx Research Labs where he has made significant contributions to FPGA technology, including architecture and tools for the XC4000 devices. Many of his contributions are in the area of design tools for FPGA design where he was an early pioneer.
As an interesting side note, one series of Trimberer’s patents – dated 1998 and 1999 – are for “Time Multiplexed Programmable Logic”. Sound familiar? Yep, this is basically the same thing that Tabula now calls “3D FPGAs” – for which they hold several of their own patents. Is Trimberger also secretly the father of Tabula’s technology? I don’t think there is an intellectual property equivalent of a Schwarzenegger or Edwards scandal hiding here, nor do I expect there to be any landmark litigation – unless, perhaps, Tabula hits a major market home run somewhere. Tabula’s patents reference Trimberger’s, so it seems that their patent attorneys and technologists, at least, thought there was some fairly solid ground to stand on.
We chatted with Steve about the induction a couple weeks ago at Xilinx. Steve was warm, funny, and humble. As he walked through the astonishing highlights of his long career as an inventor, it is clear that Steve has that magic curiosity and problem-solving drive that all engineers should aspire to embody. As he talked about the future, it was also clear that he is far from finished making major contributions to computing technology and to the planet.
What does one of the fathers of programmable logic technology do for an encore? Steve hasn’t confined his creative genius to the landscape of LUTs. Check out US Patent application number 20110005422 “Method and Apparatus for Cooling a Planet”. Uh, Steve? Please don’t test that one out in your backyard. One thing I’m sure of – just by his presence, Steve has already made the planet a much cooler place.