Stanford Professor Mark Horowitz talks integrated circuits at the Distinguished Lecture Series

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Stanford Professor Mark Horowitz takes questions from the audience during last week's Distinguished Lecture.
Stanford Professor Mark Horowitz takes questions from the audience during last week's Distinguished Lecture.

Integrated circuits can be found in almost all electronic equipment used today, including computers and cell phones. Thanks to their low-cost production, these circuits have become an inextricable part of modern societies.

Despite widespread use, “there are limitations in the systems that we have,” Stanford University Professor Mark A. Horowitz told Boston University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering community on October 20. “It’s time to start rethinking integrated circuit design,” he said.

Horowitz is the chair of the Electrical Engineering Department at Stanford and also a founder of Rambus, Inc. As part of the Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings pioneering engineers to the university, he spoke on the topic, “Encapsulating Designer Knowledge: Improving Digital and Mixed Signal Design.”

In front of a packed crowd of students, faculty, staff, and members of Boston’s engineering community, Horowitz said that efficiency of integrated circuits could be improved if analog design was more like digital design, with functional and electrical rules checking and real reusable cells.

“Analog design never had a good method for encapsulation,” Horowitz explained. “Digital designs have better leveraged abstraction than analog, so we should be trying to make analog design more like digital.”

He then spoke about digital design. One of the problems with current digital design, Horowitz said, is the high upfront design costs of creating specialized chips to enable us to continue to scale performance. Horowitz and his team are hoping to reduce these costs by embedding designer knowledge in the designs created, thus reducing the complexity of digital design.

The next and final Distinguished Lecture of the fall semester will take place Wednesday, November 10, and feature Professor Khalil Najafi of the University of Michigan. He will speak on the topic, “Biomedical Wireless Integrated Microsystems (BioWIMS)” at 4 p.m. in room 211 of 8 Saint Mary’s St.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)