Xilinx Co-Founder Ross Freeman Honored as 2009 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee for Invention of FPGA
Invention lays foundation for new industry, 25 years of innovation by PLD market leader Xilinx
SAN JOSE, Calif.
Feb 11, 2009
Xilinx (NASDAQ: XLNX) today announced that Xilinx co-founder Ross Freeman has been named a 2009 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee for inventing the field programmable gate array (FPGA), a configurable electrical circuit having configurable logic elements and configurable interconnects. The not-for-profit National Inventors Hall of Fame is the premier organization in America dedicated to honoring and fostering creativity and invention. Each year a new class of inventors is inducted into the hall of fame in recognition of patented inventions that make human, social and economic progress possible.
Freeman's invention -- Patent No. 4,870,302 -- is a computer chip full of 'open gates' that engineers can reprogram as much as needed to add new functionality, adapt to changing standards or specifications and make last minute design changes. More than 25 years ago, Freeman correctly postulated that the cost of transistors would steadily decrease over time, due to Moore's Law (doubling of transistor density every two years), making the FPGA an affordable and flexible alternative to custom chips for a wide range of applications.
"It was a radical concept that required lots of transistors at a time when transistors were considered extremely precious," recalls Xilinx Fellow Bill Carter, who became the company's eighth employee upon joining Xilinx in 1984. "Ross challenged the predominant belief that 'fewer transistors are better.' Even though many considered it outlandish, he was convinced the technology would stand the test of time. Today's news of Ross' induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame is a testament to his wisdom and foresight."
At an annual ceremony taking place on May 2, 2009 in Silicon Valley, a new class of 15 inventors will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame -- including Intel Chairman Emeritus Gordon Moore -- bringing the total number of National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees to 405.
"We're delighted to honor Ross Freeman as a 2009 inductee," said Fred Allen, vice president of selection of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. "His vision and creative drive led to the invention of the programmable chip, a technology that has not only influenced the future of the electronics industry over more than 25 years, but has fueled inventive end products designed by Xilinx customers that continue to improve our quality of life."
"With a single patent, Ross ignited a spirit of innovation that built an industry," added Xilinx President and CEO Moshe Gavrielov. "That spirit is alive and well today at Xilinx with employees who, like Ross, have the courage to imagine and create the 'impossible.' We're grateful to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for recognizing the tremendous contribution Ross has brought to the industry and our company -- a tribute that's especially meaningful as we mark our 25th anniversary and enter a new era of electronics in which programmability has become an imperative."
Invention of FPGA Lays Foundation for 25 Years of Innovation at Xilinx
When Freeman co-founded Xilinx, Inc. with Bernie Vonderschmitt and Jim Barnett in 1984, his field programmable gate array invention not only laid the foundation for a new company, but an entirely new industry. Today, the company holds more than 2,000 patents and commands more than 50 percent market segment share in the multi-billion-dollar programmable logic device (PLD) industry. Xilinx chips are used in a variety of end markets -- including automotive, consumer, industrial, medical, aerospace/defense and wired/wireless communications -- for applications ranging from automotive infotainment, driver assistance and flat panel displays to medical imaging, video surveillance, and wireless base stations.
Sadly, Freeman passed away in 1989, only a few years after seeing his early vision becoming a reality. Prior to founding Xilinx, Freeman worked for Zilog, Inc., and Teletype Corporation. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Michigan State University in 1969 and a master's from the University of Illinois in 1971. Before starting his professional career, Freeman was a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching math and electronics in Ghana.
In 1992, Xilinx instituted a new company tradition to honor Freeman's memory, encourage technical innovation and reward technical contributions resulting in significant tangible benefits to the company. Each March, any Xilinx employee is eligible to be nominated for the Ross Freeman Award for Technical Innovation for an innovation in integrated circuit, IP or software products sold to customers, or for an innovation in processes, programs, or equipment used internally. Finalists are chosen by a nomination committee representing Xilinx technical leadership. Award winners are chosen by a direct vote of all Xilinx technical employees and honored in May at an awards dinner. Among the innovations recognized in recent years are the Virtex-5® FXT FPGA automated verification environment, multi-port memory controller, single-chip highest security cryptographic device, PlanAhead™ design and analysis tools, and sparse chevron package technology.
About the National Inventors Hall of Fame
The National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation is the premier not-for-profit organization in America dedicated to recognizing, honoring and encouraging invention and creativity. The Hall of Fame honors the men and women responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible.
Founded in 1973 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall's headquarters are in Akron, Ohio, from where it administers its national programs, including the Camp Invention® and Club Invention® programs, Invent Now® initiatives, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition®.
For more information, see http://www.invent.org/. About Xilinx
Xilinx is the worldwide leader in complete programmable logic solutions. For more information, visit http://www.xilinx.com/.
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