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Bob Pease, analog guru, died 5 years agoBob Pease was a true standout, the gentleman genius.
Notorious analog engineer Bob Pease died fiveyears ago, on June 18, 2011. His passing wasall the more tragic since he died driving homefrom a remembrance for fellow analoggreat Jim Williams. Although it was a
Saturday, Bob had come to the service fromhis office at National Semiconductor, nowTexas Instruments. My buddy has asaying, "Everyone wants to be somebody, noone wants to become somebody."
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Bob's being the most famous analog designerwas the result of his hard work becoming abrilliant engineer, with a passion for helpingothers. Fran Hoffart, retired Linear Tech appsengineer and former colleague recalls, "Citing aneed for educating fellow engineers in thedesign of bandgap references, Bob anointedhimself 'The Czar of Bandgaps,' complete witha quasi-military suit with a sword and anecklace made from metal TO-3 packages." Hewould help any engineer with a problem, evenif it did not sell chips for National Semi. Hewould help those who joined him on hisHimalayan treks. He would help his sons reachtheir dreams and help his wife Nancy in all herendeavors. He was both extremely intelligentand extremely kind, a very rare combination inSilicon Valley. Dennis Monticelli, retired fellowemeritus at Texas Instruments recollects, "I wasa fresh college grad when Bob helped me bythoroughly editing my first application note. Healso facilitated a connection with Bob Widlar."
Beside smarts, Bob had wisdom. As staffscientist at National Semiconductor, it wasnatural that he knew analog chips andsemiconductor technology. But Bob was firstand foremost a system engineer. He was not atall a chip salesman. I credit this to his startingwork at Philbrick Researches, where hedesigned tube op-amps. He knew what it waslike to design and manufacture workinghardware assembled from dozens of discretecomponents, including vacuum tubes. Siliconcame later. TI fellow Monticelli notes, "Bobwould often say that the actual active device didnot matter. If you were a good analog engineerit didn't matter whether it was a vacuum tube, agermanium transistor, or a bipolar or MOSFETtransistor. He felt he could design withanything, and he probably could."
After coming to National Semi, Bob learnedanalog IC design, back in the days ofhand-cutRubylith masks. There was no Spice simulatorback then, and Pease had deep ridicule forengineers that relied on computer simulations,insteadof thinking through the problem andmaking some quickback-of-envelopecalculations. He accepted that Spice was usefulespecially for inexperienced engineers, but wasconcerned thatengineers were substitutingcomputer smarts for real smarts. JoeSousa,curator of the Philbrick Archive comments,"Regarding Spice, he tended towardshyperbole. He certainly had no patience for theover-use of Spice. Atone point I asked what hethought about analog simulation at Philbrick,but he did not answer. When he started atPhilbrick in1961, it was morphing from ananalog simulation company to the first op-ampsupplier for end-user applications."
National Semi would have demo days toshowcase new products and designs.
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Pease would show up in his hiking jacketfestooned with Nepal patches. His prototypetechniques were famous. He would stringtogether circuits by air-wiring components tothe chips, as well as dead-bugging the chips to aboard, and incorporating evaluation boards soldby National. Paul Grohe, Pease's protege, nowprecision signal path application engineer atTexas Instruments points out, "The air-ball onthe front of his troubleshooting book is theLM131 V-F (voltage to frequency) breadboard.He always used low-ohm resistors instead ofwire to model trace resistance, and megohmresistors and reversed diodes as 'supports' tomodel the substrate effects." Pease also loved touse plastic wafer carrier buckets, in this caseinverted to give him a place to mount somebanana jacks.
.Here we see another wafer carrier, with thecircuits suspended in mid-air. This circuit is acurrent measurement circuit for 60Hz ac wallvoltage, you can see the cord on the left. In thiscase Pease used the wafer carrier for safety aswell. With a clear plastic cover, people couldcheck out the circuit without gettingelectrocuted. These air-wired circuits had someadvantages, due to the low capacitance of theair-wiring, and some drawbacks, because of thegreater inductance of the long leads. At lowfrequencies, neither of these mattered too much.
Monticelli notes, "Bob did stay away fromhigh-speed circuitry. His bread-boardingtechnique could only go so far and hemistrusted the simulator."
.Pease's circuits could be simple or complex.The hand-drawn schematic of the current sensor(inset) was complicated. His method to evaluatethe distortion of an amplifier, which I re-drewin OrCAD, was a picture of simplicity.Although National's parts had poorer dc offsetvoltage than some at the time, Pease was anexpert in using ac circuits to great advantage.While Pease's complex circuit above is a bitmoot, since mixed-signal chips can bettermeasure ac currents, the simple circuit is still agreat way to evaluate distortion, and it is amethod that is very low in cost. Hoffart notes,"Bob designed some of the first 3-terminalnegative voltage regulators and enjoyeddesigning V to F [voltage-to-frequency]converter circuits." Paul Grohe recalls twospecific Pease parts, the LM337 regulator andthe LM331 V-F converter.
Pease was always known as a wacky character,starting with the days when he used to sprint upthe steps in lederhosen at MIT. I asked himabout it, and he responded"That is how I got myexercise in between all the studying. Since itmade me sweat, I wore shorts."
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.Here we see Pease and his beloved doctoredVW bug, which he called "The Storchilon". Thestegosaurus fins on the top proudly proclaimedhe was an analog dinosaur in the days whendigital was sweeping the engineering world.Hoffart remembered "It resulted in the turningof heads whenever he would drive by." Groheremembers two "Bobisms" he learned workingwith Pease. "If you measure something'funny',record the amount of 'funny'" and"Application engineers tend to get 'nibbled todeath by ducks,'" something Grohe and otherslive with every day.
Bob lived in San Francisco and worked inSunnyvale, 40 miles south. To occupy hisvoracious mind, he kept a record of every carhe saw stranded on the side of the road. Hereare the notes from just one year, 1991. BarryHarvey, staff design engineer at LinearTechnology remembers, "In spite of Bobclaiming more dead Saabs than VW's, healways listened respectfully when I talked aboutmy Saabs; not even a snicker." Pease wouldalso maximize his mileage on the drive, takinggreat pride in getting 30 mpg in his antique VWbug. While I appreciate the virtue of driving aPrius, there is also virtue in keeping 50-year-old
car on the road, so you don't have to spend theenergy to build a new car.
.Semiconductor engineering pays very well, so Iasked Bob why he didn't move closer to his job,to save himself the grueling commute. Heresponded that both his sons were in a churchchoir that they really liked, and he could nottake them away from something they soenjoyed. Nancy Pease recalls, "Both Ben andJon were boy sopranos, first at St.PaulCathedral in Boston then at Grace Cathedral inSan Francisco where they attended CathedralSchool for Boys. We were both active membersboth while they were there and after they wenton to high school and college. Bob was usuallyworking the sound booth recording organ orchoir concerts, or ushering." This was typicalfor Bob, willing to suffer a bit for the benefit ofothers. When flying around the world on theanalog seminar, Bob would fly coach eventhough we had authorization for business class.
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I told him that was foolish, he was only savingthe CEO's money. Pease rebuked me, "Its ourmoney I am saving."
.Bob was notorious for his design chops, butalso for his messy office. Here is one of hisearly offices at National, where he won acontest from a newspaper for messiest desk.Nancy recollects, "It was a San Jose MercuryNews messiest desk contest. Someone entered apicture of his office in his behalf, and askedhim if he won a big prize would he share it.Bob didn't know what the prize was at the time.The competition was in no way up to hisentry,so they gave him 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes.The prize was for office furniture. Bob sold it toNational and threw a pizza party with themoney." I took a video of Bob's office when Iworked at National Semi.
The Sunnyvale Fire Marshal said he would citeNational for the office.Fran Hoffart remembers,"After being told that his desk presented a firehazard, Pease hung a smoke detector from theceiling."
Monticelli recalls, "I had the privilege ofmanaging Bob, an oxymoron if there ever wasone, back in the late 1980's. It was only a matterof time before Bob's legendary messy office gotme into trouble with the Fire Marshal. Notwanting to reign Bob in excessively, I decidedto take advantage of the fact that the FireMarshal did his rounds on Saturday. I told BobI would look the other way during the week, butend-of-day Friday I reserved the right to drag a2"x4" lumber stud over the top of his cubicle.Whatever it caught was gone. You can imagineBob's creative response. Monday morning theoffice began to disgorge papers through everypore. That grew linearly until late Friday, whenthere was an abrupt reset as all papers weresuddenly sucked back in. I think it representedthe most impressive sawtooth waveform Peaseever built."
.Engineer extraordinaire Alan Martin,applications manager at Texas Instruments andmember of group technical staff, was thoughtfulenough to snap pictures of Bob's office soonafter he died. Bob cleaned up his act after he
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moved into Building C. Alan is tasked withorganizing all of Pease's papers at TexasInstruments. He helped supervise getting Bob'spapers removed from his home in SanFrancisco. Bob's widow Nancy remembers, "Atthat time they took a couple hundred xeroxboxes out of the house and two years ago fivepallets of stuff. Joe Sousa came and got a lot ofPhilbrick stuff. I had to go through it all lookingfor any personal stuff, but never did find wherehe stashed that.They also culled the MANY,many duplicate copies." Alan thought he wasgetting ahead of things until Nancy said, "Doyou know about the two storage units in SanMateo?" Alan observes, "This is one of thosesituations where you volunteer to do somethingnoble, not realizing what you are getting into. Iget regular inquiries from the campus facilitiesmanager about progress; to the point I nowdodge him in the lunchroom." Joe Sousarecalls, "My interaction with Bob was becauseof the Philbrick Archive. He contributed manyemails, many of which I found relevant toPhilbrick history and posted in the Archive. Healso willed to me his Philbrick papers, which Icollected from Nancy shortly after his death."
Nancy Pease was Bob's rock and idealcompanion. Together for 49 years, it was nosurprise that Bob stuck by his collegesweetheart. How she put up with his messinessor hoarding or compulsions was something weall wondered about, however. Much to Bob'sbenefit, Nancy stood by him all those years andwould enjoy treks in Nepal as well as summervacations in their house on Cape Cod.
Nancy remarks, "Bob and I were married 49years, 10 months and 23 days. I loved himdearly but didn't always quite like him,especially for his hoarding tendencies. But Iaccepted him for who he was. We weren'tcollege sweethearts, but I was dating a friend ofhis who hung out at the MIT outing club.
.I think the friend got Bob a job at Philbrickafter his junior year. When we were married hewas still 20 and I was an old woman of 23. Hewas 21 a few weeks later and graduated fromMIT the next month. I had gone on a wintermountaineering trip in the White Mountains inNew Hampshire with Bob and three guys in a1959 Beetle.I think he figured if I could survivethat, I was the one for him. It took me a fewmonths to make up my mind, but he wasbrilliant, sweet,and I made the right decision."
Another thing Nancy had to put up with wasBob's extended training tours all over the world.Here is Bob in 2000, with his ever-presentvideo camera. Marcello Salvatierra, Bob's closefriend and retired Texas Instruments amplifierapplication engineer recalls, "During theAnalog Seminar he would record every meal onvideo. I asked why and he responded, 'So I canenjoy it again later'". Indeed, the first time I metPease was shortly after I moved to SiliconValley. He was in the Fry's Electronics storeand filming a short clip
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of the long lines at the registers. I went up tohim, awestruck, and like with everyone, he wascordial and friendly. I met him again at anEETimes analog conference and heremembered the first meeting,almost 10 yearsearlier. When I got tired of start-up companies,Bob was instrumental in getting me a job atNational Semiconductor, although he never toldme at the time. He was such a modestgentleman, one of the things that made himgreat.
National Semi did not charge engineers toattend the annual design seminar series.Indeed,they got a free lunch. I doubt attendees realizedhow much it cost. Bob and six other high-dollarengineers would fly to their location, stay athotels, rent a conference room, and eat at thehotel restaurant. Bob had convinced NationalSemi that if they could get 30 engineers to signup, we should go to their city. Gayle Bullock,media relations manager at Texas Instrumentsobserves, "We didn't have the ability to connectelectronically with folks as well as we do today,and Bob felt that person-to-person learning wasvital. Few companies supported this model aswell as National Semiconductor, but Bob andhis team made the investment worth it. He wasthe analog rock star of the day."
Such small audiences were not the norm. Atone point Bob felt National Semi was under-serving foreign engineers struggling withanalog design. So after one seminar series, hedecided to fly, coach of course, to India andChina to give the entire seminar by himself.After all, he had just heard it presented 30 or 40times by the team. Bob defended his decisionbut there was a great deal of drama around thisindependent endeavor. The seminar he did inIndia had 600 people before the fire marshalshad to stop new arrivals. The China seminarBob did was equally popular. Bob wasinstrumental in bringing the wonder of analogto regions outside of the U.S., at a time whenthe cost and effort was largely prohibitive.
.Bob also used his influence to get me on theBob Pease show, later called the Analog byDesign show. Here you see web productionmanager Tanya Quach getting the plug stripstraight, while Bob slouches in his chair, next tome talking with Paul Grohe, Bob's protege, whohe hired right out of college. Bob was loyal tothe friends that supported him like he was loyalto his wife and his company. If Pease was yourfriend, you had a friend for life. I learned thathe would often stopoff at Jim Williams' housein Palo Alto on his way home. Despite Jimworking for a competitor, he was
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still a friend and Pease was loyal to the end,dying as he left Jim's remembrance.
Bob also had a unique interview style, Ratherthan try to stump you with something he hadbeen working on for three years, he would ask"Whats 12 times 13?" If you added 12 to agross to get 156 he beamed with delight. Hewas more concerned with your thinking processthan any arcane knowledge you committed tomemory.
.Here Pease is explaining the fine points ofmeasuring amplifier settling time. Bob and PaulGrohe both had an interest in amplifier settingtime. This was coherent with Pease's love of thetime domain. Unlike IC designers that wouldonly think and communicate in the frequencydomain, Pease understood that most of us startwith oscilloscopes, not network analyzers.
I called a settling time summit and invited theselect few engineers who loved the subject.
.Here are the attendees for the settling timesoiree, Barry Harvey then at Intersil, JimWilliams from Linear Tech, Bob Pease, andPaul Grohe. When it comes to intractableproblems, analog engineers stick together. Iasked Barry and Jim if they would get introuble for "consorting with the enemy". Theyboth scoffed, and their attitude was clear. No,they would not discuss product plans or designsecrets. But having all the analog companiesagree on how to measure settling time would begood for the customers, who could then makefair comparisons. This was the honor, thedecency, the integrity of analog engineering atits best. The customer came first. Harveyremarks, "There's no doubt that Bob was acraftsman in electronics. Pease didn't confuse itwith art or just a job. The settling time effortwas beyond our job requirements but like therest of the settling time cohorts, Bob could notresist the beauty of this exercise."
Unlike some engineers, Pease was verysociable and really did love people. Here he isat the eFlea in August 2009 talking to Lineartechnology co-founder and CTO Bob Dobkin.Pease drove down from San Francisco to hangout with his fellow tech types. He brought someof his books to peddle, but was there more forthe camaraderie. He came to the eFlea breakfast
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.afterward, a treat for all my friends. You cansee Bob's book about avoiding accidents on thetable. An irony, since he died in an autoaccident. It is thought he had a stroke as hedescended the steep hill at Jim Williams'remembrance.
.As a loyal employee, he was heavily invested inmaking National Semiconductor products andpeople successful. Here he holds a plaque for30 years of service. Although he slowed down a
bit toward the end, he never left the companyhe so loved. While he might be shocked withthe Texas Instruments sign out front of theformer National Semiconductor facility inSanta Clara today, he was delighted to see thatNational got bought by people who were fullycommitted to analog, and who shared hispassion for pleasing customers. Joe Desposito,his editor at Electronic Design magazine noted,"Bob was unrivaled as a columnist in thisindustry. Though he was certainly an analogguru who could write about the nuances of avery difficult subject area, he also talked abouteveryday (and not so everyday) life situations."
.So goodbye Bob, friend, confidant, and analoggenius. I have your poster in my lab, and I thinkof you every day. Pease did groundbreakingwork developing concepts like laying out chipsalong a thermal centroid, and improving yields.He was even more amazing for the friends hecultivated and cared for, like MarcelloSalvatierra, seen here with Bob while on theroad with the analog seminar. Salvatierrareminisces, "I went around the world with Bobon the Analog Seminar. Between lectures visitswe always took the road less traveled. Peasecould converse about any subject and makesense. He loved to read, his suitcase was full ofbooks. Bob Pease really understood analog
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circuits and he unselfishly shared thatknowledge.He was a great teacher. I learned somuch from him, not only about semiconductorphysics, but about life itself." Bob's love ofteaching was demonstrated when he attendedthe annual Analog Aficionado party with fellowengineers and downed a few beers. He couldkeep us rapt with his stories, both technical andotherwise,all night long.
Pease was the most remarkable engineer I haveever met. He had the MIT degree and all thetheory and math. So that was the theoretical, thePlatonic side. But he also loved the lab andreal-world circuits and manufacturingproblems, so he also had an Aristotelian side.Like the scientific method, he balanced theoryand experiment to advance the art of analogelectronics. There are stories of a morecantankerous side of Bob, evident when heconversed with people with dumb questions. Henever did it to me. The man I saw was politeand cordial with everyone, especially with thecreative people in National's marketing andvideo production. Bob Pease was a truestandout, the gentleman genius.
Bob's friends remember:Bob's son Ben Pease reports, "My mom ishaving the San Francisco house made ready tosell this summer; it's preternaturally clean. Inoticed the other day the painters had carefullymasked around dad's calculator-pad burglaralarm keyboard. I removed it along with about100 feet of 12-volt wire and the big woodenbox with his home-built burglar alarm, so thereare fewer electrical mysteries for the newowners. I also removed a parallel set oflow-voltage wires for piping the stereo torandom monaural speakers all over the house. Isaved the controls for a home-built metaldetector that never worked, but a good exampleof his neater circuitry. I perused his boxes of
old balsa wood/tissue paper airplanes. There's amix of gas and rubber-band powered models,plus a few built for show back before there wasmuch in the way of plastic. I photographed a bitof his intricate, fragile construction, seeingdaylight for the first time in years. I foundmany archaeological clues as to his existence,but more so I find myself living some of hispatterns, and strengths."
Ben continues, "Hanging in the shadows ofmom's almost-finished basement was a ring ofkeys. There were one or two old-fashionedchurch keys and a bunch of filing cabinet andpadlock keys on a coat hanger wire loop. Thisis a collection of keys for locks long gone. Itbrought to mind growing up. When my brotherwas a baby, dad made us either a rattle or apacifier ring. He used wire and assortedscrew-on tops for probes and plugs. Colorfulbrown and green plastic parts that rattled justlike the store-bought rattles you might buy in akid store. The cobbler's children have weirdtoys and good memories."
Bob's widow Nancy reflects, "Bob was a manwith a great many aptitudes and interests, but Ithink analog always came first. I credit himwith encouraging me to be me. He bought methe house in Truro [MA] that belonged to mygreat-grandfather's sister, where I live now. TheSan Francisco house is empty now and will beon the market in a few weeks. We never spentsummers in Truro, but rented it out instead. Wecame in the spring, fall, and winter and I spent alot of time here when he was off on his lecturetours."
Nancy concludes, "Oh and one last thing, whenI went back to San Francisco on the 8th of Mayto finish packing for the movers, I, along withBen and Jon and Amelia (the world's smartestgranddaughter), installed Bob's ashes in the
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columbarium in the north tower of GraceCathedral. Some day mine will be next to his.But right now I have 200 or so Xerox boxes tounpack!"
Len Sherman, staff scientist at MaximIntegrated Products recalls, "I asked Bob a lotof questions when I was at National. When Iwent to him it was like drinking from a firehose. He would explain, rapidly scribbling onpieces of paper. While he was talking I wouldnod, but not really understand much of what hewas saying. After he finished,I would gather upall the bits he wrote down and go back to mydesk, lay them out, and try to piece it alltogether. Amazingly that worked most of thetime - I'd 'get it' about a hour later."
Sherman continues, "The Pease moment mostmemorable for me occurred a year after I got toNSC. I had been there long enough to be OK'dto give part of a presentation to Kodak. I thinkit was on the ADC0820because I'd just finishedthe data sheet. We had a dry run in front ofmany engineers, plus sales guys and otherinterested parties. The was my first presentationof any consequence. I'm halfway through whenI get a combative comment from someone inthe audience saying that I was wrong. I waspretty sure I was right, it was something aboutratiometric measurements and ADCs (analog todigital converters), but I wasn't presenting thebest defense. Pease was there. He waited a bitwhile I stumbled, and then said out loud 'He'sright', referring to me. That was the end of theargument. No more zingers for the rest of thetalk."
Alan Martin, applications manager at TexasInstruments and member of group technicalstaff observes, "The first stage of archivingPease was not so bad, just deal with clearingand sorting his Building-C cubicle. It took aweek because I read each and every page and
sorted them appropriately. The pages that werepersonal emails to customers and associates arereal gems. His devilish sense of humor isgreatly toned down in the Pease Porridgecolumns that were meant for generalconsumption. In one-on-one communicationshe did not hold back. The cleanup of his oldbuilding-D office resulted about in three boxesof material worth saving. Then came the phonecall from Nancy about the storage lockers ofother 'stuff'. There were 500 banker boxes ofmixed paper, breadboards, test fixtures, and ICsof unknown heritage or pedigree.There were afew other volunteers but after about 100 boxes,enthusiasm waned, and the sorting projectstalled. Then last summer we managed to getthe remaining items from the basement of Boband Nancy's house in San Francisco. This lothas some interesting artifacts. Many of thebreadboards and fixtures will be photographedand posted for public review. These creationsare generally fragile and without labeling ordocumentation. By the way, we all owe a bigthank-you to Texas Instruments for providingus the time and secure space for the archivalprocess.
Don Tuite, retired power and analog editor ofElectronic Design magazine remembers, "Boband I had more conversations about Ethiopiancuisine than about technology. I suspect hesaved his strong opinions for people he knewwell, or conversely, for the distancing thatcomes with writing for a publication. It washard to get Bob's highly-opinionated side toappear in more social situations. I remember thetime my wife arranged to give Bob a demo ridein a Tesla Roadster, which was then still inpre-production. We rendezvoused at Buck'srestaurant, and he and Vicky took off upWoodside Road into the twisties. They got back20 minutes later, and Bob, who could go on atlength about vehicular safety and design (hewrote a whole book about it), was politely
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complementary about the car. Perhaps he wasbeing chivalrous. Or perhaps test-driver Vickyhad scared the daylights out of him."
Andy Aronson, producer/director at TI Studiosin Silicon Valley remarks,"I still have his posterhanging in my cube at Texas Instruments. Imiss the guy every day; and I miss the goodtimes and interesting content we created duringthe 'Bob Pease Show'. I maintain that thoseepisodes were, and still are, some of the besteducational content any semiconductorcompany has ever put out. They were a uniquecombination of education, quirkiness,irreverence, and fun. To this day, we still getcomments from Pease fans via the YouTubeaccounts where the Pease shows are posted.The comments come from all over the worldand exemplify the connection Bob had with hisfellow engineers."Aronson continues, "I remember all those timesBob would come into the studio carrying bagsand boxes of slides, air-ball prototypes andother props. Many times he was completelyexhausted from the previous day's flight fromIndia or Nepal or Europe. I'd bring him somecoffee when he arrived to the studio allknackered, he'd thank me and get busy on theslides. It worked. Given a topic, Bob was agenius at assembling a show in about 20minutes. We had a camera hanging from thestudio grid that captured his slides and his 'live'drawing on the slides when he wanted to add anidea or two. The camera was affectionatelyknown as 'Bob's chicken-scratch camera'. Notusing PowerPoint added about two days ofpost-production time. It was worth everyminute. During the set up of What's All thisSignal Current Stuff, Anyhow, Bob waswatching the crew go up and down the ladder toadjust the lighting.Bob liked the ladder andinsisted we leave it as-is on set so that he couldcome down the ladder during the opening of theshow, a grand entrance as it were."
Joe Sousa, curator of the Philbrick Archivecorrects, "I don't think he designed with tubesvery much. He did tell me that he was theproduct engineer for the SK2-V tube op-ampand I own some units with serial number under100 that Bob worked on. As far as I know,Bob's first op-amp design was solid state.Perhaps it was the P85 solid state op-ampmodule. He certainly had no problem reusingcircuits that worked, often improving them.Pease did not seem to suffer from NIH (notinvented here)."
Figures 5, 6, and 7 credit Fran Hoffart. Figure 8credit Alan Martin, Figures11 and 15 edit creditAndy Aronson. Figures 10 and 16 creditunknown.
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