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Distinguished Graduate: H. T. Chua

 

hchuaH. T. Chua, BSEE '59, grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Ohio University in 1959 and went on to receive his master’s degree in the same field from the University of California-Berkeley in 1961.

Chua had spent several years designing microelectronic circuits at Fairchild Semiconductor before he was contacted by his former Ohio University classmate, Richard Bohn, BSME '58, MS '60, to join a promising new company, Intel, which at the time had fewer than 60 employees. Together, they developed a 64-bit memory chip (the 3101), Intel's first commercial product. It helped turn the company into a high-tech titan.

In 1975, Chua joined Monolithic Memories. There, he partnered with John Birkner to pioneer a new technology, the trademarked Programmable Array Logic (PAL). The PAL IC was the first successful, commercial programmable logic device that could enable a customer to electrically configure the chip to perform desired functions at the customer's own facilities. This eliminated the need for creating expensive and time-consuming customized chips.

Chua retired from Monolithic Memories in 1987 but was coaxed out of retirement by Birkner to start a new company, Peer Research. The company has developed highly complex, high-performance programmable logic devices, trade named pASIC. pASIC increases the logic power by the order of magnitude of the original PAL, but it consumes only a fraction of electric current to perform the required logic functions. Therefore, it is suitable for virtually unlimited new applications, and thus has brought field-programmable gate arrays to a much wider audience.

More recently, Peer Research changed its name to Quick Logic and went public in 1999. Although finally retired, Chua continues to serve on the company's board as director emeritus. In 2002, Chua, with John Birkner, was inducted into Electronic Design Magazine's Engineering Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Thomas Edison and Gugliemo Marconi.

 

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