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Robert Dennard, IBM Fellow

Robert Dennard, IBM Fellow; Photo credit: WikiMedia Commons

IBM Research scientist Robert Dennard, who at age 80 still comes to work at the lab nearly every day, has been awarded the Kyoto Prize—one of the world’s most prestigious recognitions for personal achievement. He will receive the Advanced Technology Prize in Electronics at a November ceremony in Japan.

Dennard, an IBM Fellow, is best known for inventing the memory chip in 1967. The simplicity, low cost and low power consumption of his invention, dynamic random access memory (DRAM), opened the door to the personal computer. Today, memory chips are used in every PC, laptop computer, game console and mobile communications device.

“I knew it was going to be a big thing, but I didn’t know it would grow to have the wide impact it has today,” Dennard said in an earlier interview. He was awakened at 1:48 a.m. today by a call from Japan informing him he had won the prize. “I’m feeling quite elated,” he declared a few hours later.

In addition to DRAM, Dennard also pioneered the theory of device scaling—figuring out how to shrink microcircuits in every dimension. He and his team laid out the technical requirements for making memory chips smaller and faster, principles that were also applied to processor chips. Those rules provided a recipe that chip designers have followed ever since. Today, thanks to Dennard’s insights and much innovation by generations of scientists, billions of transistors can now be placed on a single chip.

Electronics industry pioneer Gordon Moore is famous for predicting in the 1960s that the density of microcircuits would double every two years—a pronouncement that has since been codified at Moore’s law. The work on scaling that Dennard launched has enabled Moore’s Law to hold for decades.

“For a guy to produce one of these two breakthroughs is extraordinary,” said Bernard Meyerson, IBM’s vice president for innovation. “Two from one guy is ridiculous.”

IBM Research Senior Vice President John E. Kelly III congratulated Dennard, and said he’s an exemplar of one of IBM’s core values–producing innovation that matters for IBM and society. “Bob is the consummate Wild Duck” he said. Kelly was referring to IBM’s tradition of encouraging scientists and engineers to try out unorthodox ideas and approaches to solving problems.

Sometimes the Wild Ducks really go it alone. That was true for the DRAM. The idea underlying his invention came to Dennard in 1966, when he was sitting on a living room couch in his Westchester County home. Earlier in the day at the IBM Research lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., he had listened to another research team discuss improvements they planned for magnetic core memory, a technology that was used in mainframe computers. He was impressed with the simplicity of their design. His approach for is his own project, designing memory technologies for metal-oxide semiconductors, was quite complex—using six transistors for each bit of information.

On the spot, he came up with a technique for using a single transistor for each bit of data. He drew sketches on a pad of paper to help him visualize how it would work. That was the breakthrough idea that paved the way to the invention of DRAM. He developed it further in his spare time while working on other “official” projects. The patent was issued in 1968.

But Dennard said he didn’t usually work by himself. “I’m not really a Wild Duck. Most of my work was done with teams of guys, which is really the most powerful way of solving problems,” he said. “You want to have groups of people with different kinds of knowledge, working together and sharing ideas.”

These days, Dennard is working on ways to improve today’s primary chip technology, Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductors, or CMOS. Because of the limitations of classical physics, chip designers are hard-pressed to achieve the kind of overall performance gains that were possible in the past. The problem, he said, is power consumption. Today’s chips consume too much electricity and throw off too much heat. So he’s working on new approaches to architecting chips- using extra-thin layers of silicon. “When you’re building the last generation of a technology, you want it to be the best,” he said.

Dennard received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Southern Methodist University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Institute of Technology—now Carnegie Mellon University. He credited CMU with training him to approach complex problems in a systematic way.

One of his early jobs was at a Texas electrical utility, and he remains interested in energy issues all these years later. He’s concerned about society’s dependency on fossil fuels–and the effect on the climate. “We’re not only burning ourselves up; we’ll run out of the fuel to do it.” Dennard is enthusiastic about the potential of wind and solar power. And he figures he’s doing his part for the environment by trying to decrease the energy consumption of chips.

He has received many other awards during his long career, including the U.S. National Medal of Technology, in 1988, for his invention of the DRAM, and the Charles Stark Draper Prize from the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. The Kyoto Prize is presented by the Inamori Foundation, and was first awarded in 1985.

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Posted by: Estrella Amesquieto
 
July 9, 2013
2:33 pm

Congrats on your award love yall tell Jane I said hi


Posted by: Sabrina Westfall
 
July 9, 2013
11:34 am

Congratulations Cousin Robert. I’m proud to be in the same family. I’m impressed that you are still going to work at 80. Hang in there.


Posted by: Betty Holland Hughes
 
July 4, 2013
1:26 pm

Congratulations to the best man at my wedding except Les.


Posted by: Roberta Hale
 
July 1, 2013
11:50 pm

Congratulations Robert. You are a fountain of inspiration.


Posted by: Thulasiram Gopalakrishna
 
June 28, 2013
9:06 am

Really an Inspiration…


Posted by: Ali
 
June 28, 2013
8:46 am

Robert, Congratulations…What an enormous invention ,achievement and tremendous contribution to the chip making world


Posted by: Geetha Parlapalli
 
June 28, 2013
6:44 am

Congratulations – so proud and so delighted!


Posted by: Anna W. Topol
 
June 27, 2013
7:28 am

Award is just a token of appreciation. World has seen the sea change due to your invention and thought process. Thanks for making the world better.


Posted by: Hariprasad
 
June 26, 2013
3:28 pm

Oh, Robert, what a joy and honor it is to be your cousin. I join David in his thinking that your brother and sisters, who always rejoiced in your successes, are smiling. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the smartest cousin of them all?” Lu who? Jim joins me in congratulating you. Carolina peaches…Southern gold….are on their way to celebrate. Shipping date, July 15.


Posted by: Alma Lucille Dennard Buck
 
June 25, 2013
1:36 pm

Dear Mr. Dennard,

Every day of my IBM career I have been involved with DRAM memory and for years have lead memory development within System x. I have a deep appreciation for the tremendous value of your contribution. I offer my sincere praise for what you accomplished.

I will retire at the end of this year. If at some point you choose to do the same and if you can’t find anyone to speak memory to, just give me a call. I still am capable of learning.


Posted by: Jim Foster
 
June 25, 2013
1:17 pm

Congratulations Robert, much deserved recognition. And many thanks for your inventions.


Posted by: Camilo Pineda
 
June 25, 2013
12:18 pm

Very inspiring and especially this paragraph.

“He’s concerned about society’s dependency on fossil fuels–and the effect on the climate. “We’re not only burning ourselves up; we’ll run out of the fuel to do it.” Dennard is enthusiastic about the potential of wind and solar power. And he figures he’s doing his part for the environment by trying to decrease the energy consumption of chips”


Posted by: Jitendranath Palem
 
June 25, 2013
11:21 am

Congratulations!!!


Posted by: Andrea
 
June 25, 2013
10:31 am

NOT BAD FOR A GUY WHO STARTED THE FIRST GRADE IN A ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE. THE DENNARD CLAN IS VERY PROUD OF YOU AND YOUR MANY ACHIEVEMENTS. J.C.,EVANGELINE ,AND JESSIE JO ARE SMILING DOWN ON YOU.


Posted by: DAVID DENNARD
 
June 25, 2013
9:15 am

Congratulations
You changed the world man.


Posted by: Waleed
 
June 25, 2013
7:35 am

Congratulations Robert!!!
what a great contribution to the entire world and good to know about inventions.


Posted by: Manoj R Tiwari
 
June 25, 2013
7:29 am

Congratulations Mr.Dennard!! An inspirational feat !!


Posted by: Rajasekhar Ghanta
 
June 25, 2013
6:25 am

Congratulations! Robert, you are an inspiration.


Posted by: Phumlani Nhlapo
 
June 25, 2013
6:14 am

Cogratulations Sir…


Posted by: Raj Patwal
 
June 25, 2013
4:19 am

Congratulations! Your contributions deserve it. keep thinking and dancing!


Posted by: Ivan Wen
 
June 25, 2013
4:07 am

Hearty Congratulations!!!


Posted by: Prarthana
 
June 25, 2013
2:24 am

Very Hearty Congratulation Robert.
Proud Moment for us.


Posted by: Rukhsar Ahmad
 
June 25, 2013
1:32 am

Congratulations~~


Posted by: Rena
 
June 24, 2013
11:57 pm

A well deserved recognition which has taken time to come. Great to see his spirits being up even to this day — coming into office. Makes one so proud to be an IBM’er. May your tribe increase


Posted by: Shivaraj Iyer
 
June 24, 2013
10:20 pm

Wild Duck lives forever! Congratulation Sir Robert, is really a honer to try and perhaps to be an IBMer as you.


Posted by: Felipe Campos
 
June 24, 2013
4:01 pm

good job


Posted by: oscar eduardo
 
June 24, 2013
3:55 pm

Congratulations Mr Dennard! It is on the imaginations of such great minds like yours that IBM has built its reputation as a truly innovative company – well done sir, well done!


Posted by: Betty Francis
 
June 24, 2013
3:49 pm

Congratulations Robert! Fabulous news!


Posted by: Lauren States
 
June 24, 2013
1:24 pm

Congratulations on the monumental achievement! A proud moment for all of us IBMers.


Posted by: Rupam Bhattacharjee
 
June 24, 2013
1:23 pm

Congratulations Bob. I am so proud to have worked with you on the IBM Academy Study, “Self Correcting Circuits for Robust Design” a few years ago. You are a truly great resource to the electrical engineering community.


Posted by: Clay Cranford
 
June 24, 2013
1:09 pm

Congratulations! I didn’t realize the memory chip we use everyday was invented by IBMer, so proud and this is a well deserved award!


Posted by: Tianhang Hu
 
June 24, 2013
11:10 am

How exciting, congratulations!


Posted by: akoeste
 
June 24, 2013
11:03 am

Congratulations


Posted by: Javier Soto
 
June 24, 2013
11:01 am

Well done Mr. Dennard!!, is an big honor works at the same company


Posted by: Esteban Araya Magna
 
June 24, 2013
10:22 am

Congratulations Robert Dennard!! Proud to be associated as IBMer with you!!


Posted by: Anil Kumar
 
June 24, 2013
9:06 am

A wonderful recognition for inventions that have changed the world – congratulations! DRAMs also gave me many years of exciting supply chain work and allowed me to travel the world – so thank you!!!


Posted by: Jennie Lemire
 
June 24, 2013
9:06 am

Congratulations, Robert. Amazing talent. I am in awe of your intellect, energy and passion for innovation and engineering. IBM has been impactful in R&D in the technical market for more than 50 years because of their recognition of and investment in brain power such as yours. It still holds true today when I am selling IBM to the public. Here is where IBM really shines, with people like Robert Dennard.


Posted by: Lisa Bays
 
June 24, 2013
8:19 am

Big Big Congrats sir ..Its really inspires us to be like you …


Posted by: Mahesh
 
June 24, 2013
8:16 am

Congratulation Sir, for such an important invention and the award !!


Posted by: Sanjay Amle
 
June 24, 2013
7:41 am

Congratulations Sir! It is inspiring to work in the same company of such mentor!


Posted by: Danilo Leal
 
June 24, 2013
6:13 am

Congratulations sir .. what an achievement.. coming to office at an age of 80 ?? wow.. !! You have proved that age is just a number which is mind over matter, if you don’t mind – it doesn’t matter !!


Posted by: Devang
 
June 24, 2013
4:46 am

Awesome …and very inspiring .. Congratulations Sir… many more milestones to come ..


Posted by: Pankaj Kumar
 
June 24, 2013
4:22 am

Congratulations Robert!!!


Posted by: Suresh Jagtap
 
June 24, 2013
4:06 am

Congratulations!!! A true Hero!!


Posted by: Mary
 
June 24, 2013
2:45 am

Congratulation …proud feeling that one of the IBM’r has got this…Wish you a good health and expect some more milestones.


Posted by: Prashant Dhakane
 
June 24, 2013
2:06 am

Our heartfelt wishes to you Bob. I never thought that I’ve live to hear about the inventor of DRAM.. an invention we as “electronic technicians” have been sketching & imagining.. I never thought I’d be working in the same company with Mr. Dennard too. our deepest, deepest gratitude for your invention sir and to IBM who made all the inventions of smart people like Bob into sensible use


Posted by: Arnold Burdeos
 
June 24, 2013
1:53 am

Congratulations Sir. Very inspiring !


Posted by: Arun Kumar
 
June 24, 2013
1:45 am

Congratulations!!! A true Hero!!


Posted by: Sanjay
 
June 24, 2013
1:16 am

Congratulation Sir….


Posted by: Vishwa
 
June 23, 2013
11:51 pm

Congratulations Robert!!


Posted by: Mukesh Verma
 
June 23, 2013
11:30 pm

牛B的人物


Posted by: gaoxiao
 
June 23, 2013
11:08 pm

Many many congrats !!

I feel great to be associated with such and innovative orgranisation with intelligent people.


Posted by: Vishal
 
June 23, 2013
10:23 pm

Truly Amazing!!!
Congratulations


Posted by: Richard
 
June 23, 2013
9:00 pm

Congratulations !!!!


Posted by: Ganesh
 
June 23, 2013
7:43 pm

Congratulations Robert.


Posted by: Varad Rajulu
 
June 23, 2013
7:18 pm

Heartiest congratulations for the well deserved recognition from the prestigious Japanese institution.

Your cousin, Alma Lu Dennard Buck was my friend and classmate in Nacogdoches, Texas.


Posted by: Tom Shepherd
 
June 23, 2013
11:36 am

Wonderful and Congratulations. No words to express my joy.


Posted by: Atul Misra
 
June 23, 2013
12:48 am

Dr Rob the imprints you have created in the industry is the greatest source of inspiration to millions of inventors like me! Congratulations. Special thanks for teaching us that age is never barrier to hard work and innovations!


Posted by: Gandhi Sivakumar
 
June 22, 2013
6:32 pm

Bob – you continue to be a great guy even at 80. I have always been impressed with all you have done and the mark you have made on the world. The world without solid state memory today would be nowhere. Thanks for your valuable inventions – Charles Rennie McIntosh will always be a great inspiration for you.


Posted by: Freddie Moran
 
June 22, 2013
9:54 am

Congratulations!!!


Posted by: Victor
 
June 22, 2013
8:53 am

Congratulation!
This is absolutely amazing invention. Thank you for your invention.


Posted by: Shafaat Ahmed
 
June 22, 2013
5:41 am

Congratulations! Rob. Great achievement, great inspiration to all of us..


Posted by: Soma
 
June 22, 2013
4:52 am

We are thrilled and so glad you continue to receive deserved recognition! We are so fortunate to know you as a brilliant mentor, teacher, uncle, and brother! Lots of love!


Posted by: Sarah Salwen and Sarah Bridges
 
June 22, 2013
3:55 am

Congratulations is a small word for big innovation.
If you are near to me , I can give a salute to your greater efforts and achivements .
I wish you to get many more prizes and Awards like this for your Marathon innings .

Please consider this message as my Hug.


Posted by: Viswanadh
 
June 22, 2013
2:40 am

Motivating and very impressive.Congratulations Dr. Dennard.


Posted by: Sambath
 
June 22, 2013
1:08 am

Dear Roberto,
Truely inspired. This makes IBM the greatest company ever because of the great inventors like you. Thanks for being there to inspire us.

Regards,
Arnab


Posted by: Arnab
 
June 22, 2013
1:07 am

I think it is so wonderful, and he is so great peopel. In China, people at Age 65 will retire for relex, but in other countries, many people is still working and try to research and invent.
It will be a big distance.


Posted by: nina
 
June 22, 2013
12:41 am

WOW! Congratulations! Proud to be IBMer!


Posted by: Nishant Kulkarni
 
June 21, 2013
10:17 pm

Dear Bob,

Kyoto Prize gets more prestigious with it being presented to coveted pathbreakers like you. I am truly inspired by your contribution and the humility even at this high pedestal of achievement.

May almighty grace you with much more of these recognition and keep you in high spirits for a long time.

Thanks.

Anil


Posted by: Anil
 
June 21, 2013
6:21 pm

Dear Bob!

Wow, you remain a wonderful inspiration for the young and the mature like me. It has been an honor to have known you for those many years at IBM.

Best wishes to many more ideas and honors.

Thor


Posted by: Thor A. Larsen
 
June 21, 2013
6:06 pm

Congratulations Roberto !…what a great contribution to the world.


Posted by: Jose Luis Altuve @Austin
 
June 21, 2013
5:08 pm

Congratulations Robert!!! Your really deserve it!!!


Posted by: Márcio Luiz
 
June 21, 2013
4:01 pm

Congratulations Bob! – it’s really been an honor knowing and working with you.


Posted by: Arvind Kumar
 
June 21, 2013
3:33 pm

Wow. Very few people can claim to have invented a cornerstone of modern technology…let alone TWO! I bow to your technical greatness! :)


Posted by: Mike Wellens
 
June 21, 2013
2:59 pm

Robert,
What you have accomplished is absolutely amazing. Thank you for your contributions and congratulations on receiving the Kyoto award.


Posted by: David Bradley
 
June 21, 2013
2:28 pm

Congrats Robert! Well Done


Posted by: Suzanne Das
 
June 21, 2013
2:14 pm

Congratulations! Your discoveries were of historical importance but not just for the “things” they could miniaturize, but for the social good that has be achieved by using those devices. Think about the lives that have been saved because of your work.


Posted by: Chris Gluchoski
 
June 21, 2013
1:52 pm

Big Congratulations! I know you love to dance so this honor must have inspired you to hit the dance floor – have fun and never stop dancing!


Posted by: Dorian D'Ausliio
 
3 Trackbacks
 
May 15, 2014
2:00 pm

[…] scientists succeed at IBM Research, they tend to stay. Robert Dennard, the inventor of the DRAM, for instance, had been at IBM for 56 years when he retired earlier this […]


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May 1, 2014
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[…] and IBM Fellow. The title of IBM Fellow is not won easily. They are a group that includes a Kyoto Prize winner and five Nobel Prize winners, they have fostered some of the IBM company’s most stunning […]


Posted by: Avoiding the Legacy of the Future | Software Architecture Zen
 
April 2, 2014
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