Bob Pease—the “Czar of Bandgaps” and His Analog Design Legacy

Bob Pease—the “Czar of Bandgaps” and His Analog Design Legacy



Many infamous electrical engineers pioneered the world of analog design; take Bob Widlar, for example. Another well-known and influential engineer carving out the analog space is another Bob, Bob Pease, to be exact. 

 

Bob Pease, the analog artist.

Bob Pease—the analog artist. Image used courtesy of The Amp Hour

 

In this article, we’ll take a look at and celebrate the life and legacy of Bob Pease, the analog legend.

 

From GAP-R to National Semiconductor Corp

Starting off his long career steeped in analog design, Robert “Bob” A. Pease, born in Rockville, Connecticut, recieved his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961. 

Following graduation, he went on to work as an analog design engineer for George A. Philbrick Research (GAP-R). Here is where he had his first exposure to the analog world, assisting with advancing the first affordable, mass-produced operational amplifier (op-amp), the K2-W

At GAP-R, Pease contributed to the analog world immensely, building many high-performance op-amps with discrete solid-state components. 

In 1971, Pease moved to California to work as a design and applications engineer at the National Semiconductor Corporation, now known as Texas Instruments. 

At National, his excellence was evident in all of his work and he quickly became the face of the company. Here, he was directly involved in creating some of the most famous analog integrated circuits of all time, including the LM331 and LM337.

 

An example sketch from Bob Pease.

An example sketch from Bob Pease. Screenshot used courtesy of Ti

 

During company demo days, Pease used to show off circuits that air-wired components to chips and dead-bugged the chips to a board. A stickler for detail, Pease was known to use low-ohm resistors in place of wires to model trace resistance and megaohm resistors and reversed diodes to model substrate effects. He often displayed his work in plastic wafer carriers that gave people the safety to check out the circuit without risk of being electrocuted.

His outgoing and unconventional personality was often admiringly compared to the irreverent attitude of Bob Widlar, another highly-skilled and influential electrical engineer.

 

Bob the Teacher and Leader

Bob embodied a rare combination of intelligence and compassion, which was hard to come by at that time in Silicon Valley. When working at National, Pease became well-known for his analog seminars, dubbed the “Pease Porridge” column, his books, and his online webinar the “Analog by Design Show.”

 

Bob Pease was the host of the Analog by Design Show.

Bob Pease was the host of the Analog by Design Show. Screenshot used courtesy of Ti

 

Above all, Pease relished being able to advance others’ knowledge. It didn’t matter who you were or where you worked; Bob could always be relied on to help, especially if you were passionate about analog design. When fellow engineers at National needed extra education on the design of bandgap references, Bob stepped up: landing him the nickname “the Czar of Bandgaps.” 

 

Bob Pease representing his “Czar of Bandgaps” title. Screenshot used courtesy of Ti

 

Pease is often distinguished for his desire to help others and his incredible analog designs. After a 33-year-long career, Pease boasted 21 patents and the creation of more than 20 integrated circuits, marking him as an analog design legend.

His work includes temperature-voltage frequency converters used for medical research trips to Mt. Everest in the 1980s and seismic preamplifier chips used to measure ground tremors for the U.S. moon landings.

His vast knowledge gave him more expertise than most engineers today who are driven into specialties early on. For example, he used vacuum tubes, discrete circuits, analog functions, and Rubylith masking materials to design integrated circuits (ICs), which helped him see the underlying functions of his designs at a more granular level. 

 

Legacy of a Cluttered Desk

Many praised Bob Pease for his skills at working through challenging problems in a way that others had trouble envisioning. Colleagues frequently spoke of a method to his madness. 

One such example is his cluttered desk, pictured below, that to any outsider would seem a mess and yet, to him, had a system. He would pull out a schematic diagram for an old chip from one pile without hesitation, but it went right back into another when you were done.

 

The desk of Bob Pease.

The desk of Bob Pease. Screenshot used courtesy of Ti

 

In addition to being a skilled engineer, Pease enjoyed hiking, trekking in Nepal, and ferroequinology. Additionally, he accumulated many awards during his career, including the Electronic Engineering Hall of Fame in 2002, recognition as a top 10 analog engineer of all time in 2009 by EE Time, and the Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) from the Embedded Systems Conference in 2010. 

As it goes, all great things must come to an end, sometimes abruptly. Sadly, Pease passed away in 2011, at the age of 70, in a car crash of his beloved 1969 VW Beetle while leaving the memorial service of fellow engineer Jim Williams.

Despite that, his legacy will continue to live on in the EE world.



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