In 1970s, Swiss electronics engineer Hans Camenzind was working in Silicon Valley as a design engineer for Signetics (later acquired by Philips). It was there that Hans designed the 555 timer IC, his most famous invention and a device that would become key to the success of Signetics and the commercialisation of semiconductors.
The 555 timer IC which is used in a variety of chip designs to provide time-delays revolutionized chip design with a simple concept that time did not have to be dependent upon power supply voltage. The chip was based on a superb understanding of the functional requirements, which were subsequently implemented in optimized bipolar (analog) technology.
Engineers who grew up before microprocessors were readily available and affordable fondly recall working with the 555 timer in sequential logic for many early designs that continue to be used today. Back then the semiconductor business was still in its infancy and investment in R&D and manufacturing capability was modest.
The 555 IC entered full scale production in 1972 and was an overnight sensation, becoming one the most successful devices in the industry’s history, helping to building upon the growth of Silicon Valley as the epicenter of technology, a reputation that holds today despite the fact that many fabs which produce semiconductor silicon are now located elsewhere.
Highlights from industry describe the 555 as…the Swiss army knife of analog ICs, the best and most useful chip ever designed and some go as far as describing it as not merely another circuit idea, but a philosophy.
Last week, electrical engineer and inventor Hans Camenzind died at the age of 78.
Today over one billion 555 timer ICs are still produced every year and billions of the handcrafted chips, with 23 transistors, 16 resistors and 2 diodes, have been incorporated into countless electronic applications. Versions of the device are still being made by major semiconductor companies today, including NXP. The NE555 was listed in the IEEE Spectrum 2009 list of 25 Microchips that Shook the World. While rock music may have their legends, engineers have inventors who create technologies that touch the very fabric of everyday lives. At NXP we salute Camenzind for his contribution to the field of electronic engineering.
A comprehensive introduction to CMOS and bipolar analog IC design: Designing Analog Chips RIP Hans Camenzind – Make:
Hans Camenzind, 555 timer inventor, dies – EETimes
Hans Camenzind – Mannerisms / Electronics Weekly
Hans R. Camenzind – Wikipedia