Linear Technology Staff Scientist Jim Williams Remembered

MILPITAS, CA – June 15, 2011 – Linear Technology Corporation today remembered the company’s long-time Staff Scientist Jim Williams, who died on June 12. Williams, who worked for Linear Technology for nearly three decades, started as an applications engineer in the early years of the company. His contributions were many-fold. He was a legendary analog circuit designer, problem solver, writer and mentor to many engineers over the years.

Hailing from Detroit in the shadow of a booming postwar US automotive market, Jim developed an early curiosity and interest in all things electronic. He would talk about working at a TV repair shop during his early years, so he could poke around inside to find out how they worked. His passion for electronics took him to Boston, where his intellect and drive helped him find a technician’s job working on the Apollo program. Although self-taught in electronics, Jim taught and did research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1968 to 1979, concentrating exclusively on analog circuit design. During this time, he began his legendary writing career—finding clear, elegant ways to describe complex and seemingly indescribable design challenges and solutions.

Before joining Linear Technology in 1982, Jim worked in National Semiconductor’s Linear Integrated Circuits Group for three years. In nearly 30 years with Linear, Jim had the unique role of staff scientist, with interests spanning product definition, development and support. He was consumed with developing analog circuits, helping set up instruments in the company’s labs, mentoring junior engineers in-house and customers outside, even answering his own phone. Jim maintained a lab at his home and worked there, in a lab at least as well outfitted as the one at work.

 

 

In many ways, Jim’s major contribution was in making complex analog circuits understandable to the engineering community. He had the rare ability to develop a complicated circuit for one-time use, and then provide enough background for general use, writing it up so that engineers could easily understand. Over the years, Jim was a highly prolific and accomplished writer, authoring over 350 publications related to analog circuit design, including dozens of Linear Technology application notes and articles for EDN magazine. He edited and contributed his writings to two books on analog design in the 1990s and his forthcoming book, Analog Circuit Design: A Tutorial Guide to Applications and Solutions, edited with Linear Technology’s Bob Dobkin will be published this summer by Elsevier/Newnes Publishing.

Jim Williams was named Innovator of the Year by EDN magazine in 1992 and elected to Electronic Design Hall of Fame in 2002. His outside interests spanned sports cars, collecting antique scientific instruments, art, and restoring (and using) old Tektronix oscilloscopes.

“Next to his wife Siu, Jim lived electronics. Electronics was his art, his hobby and his humor.  Jim’s mantra of building your own prototypes and testing them taught tens of thousands of engineers the right way to get a working design off a sheet of paper and into production.”
Bob Dobkin, Linear Technology Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer
“The entire world of analog electronics has lost one of its greatest champions and teachers.”
Bob Swanson, Linear Technology Executive Chairman
“Jim is a part of the fabric of Linear Technology, and his presence, contributions and inspiration will be greatly missed. Jim, like the circuits he designed, is timeless and will be forever remembered. His unique gift as an engineer allowed him to invent, teach and communicate complex analog ideas, being an inspiring force to countless engineers.”
Lothar Maier, Linear Technology CEO

 

Jim Williams

I have known Jim Williams for 30 years. I have known him as the consummate engineer,scientist, writer, humorist, and family man. In all areas that Jim ventured, he excelled. His combination of personal integrity, drive and humble interaction with other people drew many friends, both for his writing and personal interactions.

Jim’s intuitive understanding of electronics enabled him to design complicated circuits in his head, which he tested with real parts to prove the circuits. The ability to design circuits also requires analysis of the results of the testing. His strong analytical ability ensured test results were correct and circuits were well understood.

Jim took his developments and turned them into words for publication. He helped engineers of all ages understand circuits intuitively like he did. There are few sources for advanced circuit understanding and design--especially the way it was taught by Jim. His circuits and his writings provided insight so that other people could approach his understanding of design. In all the time I’ve known Jim, I have never known him to refuse to help someone with a circuit.

While Jim’s vocation, avocation and hobby were electronics, he had a great sense of humor and art. His electronic sculptures are unique, beautiful and functional. He built these structures (with much cursing) and careful selection of aesthetically pleasing functional parts. Beyond his art, he had a great sense of humor, which was often foisted on his friends, myself included.

In his personal life, he was a dedicated father to his son Michael and husband to his wife Siu. Both of these people were very much a part of his life. A successful poet is the rarest of all vocations. Jim Williams was unique: a poet who wrote in electronics.

--Bob Dobkin

June 21, 2011

 

Jim is survived by his wife Siu and son Michael. His family requests that donations in Jim’s memory be made to
The Parkinson's Institute, 675 Almanor Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94085.

View an archive of Jim's collected writings