For PCBs, a ‘Hall’ of a Time Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Thursday, 31 May 2012 14:46

The death of Pads Software founder Gene Marsh, who passed away last month at the age of 84, got me thinking about some of the founders and framers of the printed circuit board industry.

Younger readers may not have heard of Marsh, but when he launched Pads in 1985, it was one of the world’s first dedicated PCB design software developers. He was such a significant figure back in the day that when my boss, Pete Waddell, started an award for technical innovation, he named it after Marsh.

“Gene was an inspiration to our industry,” said Dino Ditta, himself a serial software company starter, in a comment on the PCD&F website. “He was a true visionary to whom many of us owe our careers. I am proud to have known him and to have been associated with his legacy.”

Marsh was, of course, one of many industry visionaries and heroes. By the time Marsh was getting Pads off the ground, Makoto Kaneko had launched Zuken in Tokyo. Two others, Racal-Redac (later acquired by Zuken), and Scientific Calculations (which begat Harris, which begat Intercept Technology), were up and running, followed in short order by National Instruments, Polar Instruments, Mentor Graphics and ECAD (which begat Cadence). It was a glorious time for startups, innovation and risk-taking.

As both our annual salary survey, published last month, and a follow-up article from Mike Creeden and Jeff Kuester (“PCB Designers, Rev. 2,” at make clear, springtime of the printed circuits industry is in many ways drawing to a close, and new shoots of growth have yet to erupt. All the while, mergers, acquisitions, closures and deaths whittle away at the fabric that once enmeshed us.

Where the industry is going next is unclear: Will reshoring force new interest among the younger generation and spur the ideas and capital necessary to dream up new ways to create functioning electronics? Are the ideas of the future buried, as Ken Gilleo (another pioneer) has suggested, in the inventions of the past? Regardless, we are committed to ensuring the history of this fine industry.

To that end, we are pleased to announce three Halls of Fame: the Dieter Bergman Hall for PCB Design; the Paul Eisler Hall for PCB Fabrication, and the Jim Raby Hall for PCB Assembly.

When it came to naming the Halls, of the three, only one was a slam-dunk. Eisler, an Austrian inventor, is considered the father of the modern printed circuit, having patented the initial ideas more than 70 years ago. He never realized the fruits of his inventions, but every kid with an iPod dangling from their ear owes him their gratitude.

Raby, an American, holds several patents ranging from wave soldering to embedding active die. More important, he founded the NASA and Navy (the famous China Lake) soldering schools and is arguably as responsible as anyone for today’s soldering practices and standards.

The most controversial choice might be Dieter Bergman. Bergman was a designer at Philco in the 1960s and 70s, then became technical director of IPC. Although not a software maven like Gene Marsh, John Cooper or Dave Chyan, his influence might have been even more widely felt, because as any designer would say, proper layout is more about knowledge than software, and Bergman has been a tireless educator and promoter of the field for more than 40 years.

As for the initial inductees, to the Raby Hall we name Moe Abramson and Stanislaus Danko, who in 1949 developed and later patented the “Auto-Sembly” process, the first dip soldering process using radial-leaded components. We are also inducting George Devol, who conceived the first digitally operated and programmable robot in 1954, which while it wasn’t specifically for picking and placing electronic components, laid the groundwork for modern robotics. And how could we leave out R. J. Klein Wassink, the Dutch engineer who literally wrote the book on soldering and surface mount?

To the Eisler Hall, we induct Dr. Charles Jennings, the Sandia National Labs chemist, who in the early 1970s conducted the research that led to the current carrying capacity charts that have been a staple of electronics design ever since. We also induct Albert Hanson, the German inventor who first described the lamination of a foil conductor to an insulating board, and British engineer Arthur Berry, who in 1913 patented a print-and-etch method.

And for the Bergman Hall, we happily announce Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka, the cofounders of Sony, whose demands for miniaturization, aesthetics and functionality have directly or indirectly influenced so many generations of future designers (including a certain Steve Jobs), and Messrs. Cooper, Chyan and Marsh.
The Halls will be added to on a regular basis, for there are far more titans of industry than there is space for us to write about them here. Please visit or to see their bios.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2012 14:55


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