Goodbye Gary Smith -- It's been a blast
As Dylan McGrath reported earlier today, long-time semiconductor and electronic design automation (EDA) industry veteran and analyst Gary Smith passed away over the holiday weekend (see Veteran EDA Analyst Gary Smith Dies).
I heard the news as soon as I got into my office yesterday morning. It wasn't long before emails were flying back and forth across the Internet expressing shock and sadness. Gary was a really nice guy who was loved by all who knew him.
We all have wonderful memories of Gary. Here are a few of mine. For more years than I care to remember, Gary was the kingpin of the Design Automation Conference (DAC). In addition to providing his annual industry analysis, he was often to be seen on stage as a member of The Full Disclosure Blues Band. I remember one DAC many years ago when a picture was being emailed back and forth purporting to be the cover of Rolling Stone showing a PhotoShopped image of Gary looking like a rock star on stage (if anyone still has a copy of that image, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Year after year at the EDAC party, which took place the evening before DAC and which was famous for serving the best drinks and nibbles, Gary would give the kickoff presentation describing the state of the semiconductor and EDA industries, and he would talk about how ESL (Electronic System Level) tools would be with us by the following year. It became a running joke, because year after year they failed to materialize -- but Gary kept the faith, and now we do have high-level tools available that match his ESL vision.
Way back in the mists of time, I co-authored a book called EDA: Where Electronics Begins with my friend Kuhoo Goyal Edson. The idea was a non-threatening book that could be used to explain EDA to Venture Capitalists. We explained everything by comparing electronic components and systems and tools to a city, like that fact that you tend to place the library (one chip) next to the university (a related chip) and not at the far side of the city (the circuit board). Gary and his wife-to-be, Lori Kate, helped out bouncing ideas around. One of the things we did was to explain how to pronounce abbreviations -- like the fact that you always spell out “U-S-B” and you always pronounce RAM to rhyme with “ham,” and that some words like DAC can either be spelled out “D-A-C” or pronounced to rhyme with “hack,” while some are a mixture like “E-DAC” -- the point being that you need to say things the right way if you want to be taken seriously. The main reason we decided to do this was because Gary shared a story that found its way into the book. While he was an analyst at Gartner Dataquest, an administrative assistant from a magazine (that shall remain nameless) called him up, told him she was fact-checking, and asked him “Just how do you spell E-D-A?”
Many years ago, I purchased a black leather duster coat. It was my pride and joy. Gary had an almost identical coat that he also loved. On one of my trips to Silicon Valley, I stopped round at Jeff and Kuhoo Edson’s house, draped my duster over the sofa, and meandered into the kitchen to join Jeff, Kuhoo, and Gary Smith for drinks, nibbles, and conversation. After a while, we ambled our way into the family room. Eventually, Gary got up to leave and absent-mindedly picked up my duster, forgetting that he’d hung his own coat in the hallway closet. I’m 6’1” tall and my duster comes down to my ankles. Gary was somewhat shorter, so when he put my duster on, the bottom ended up on the floor. Gary looked a bit like one of the seven dwarfs. The thing is that Gary had no idea I’d come in a duster, so he absolutely assumed the one he had pulled on was his, and he ended up standing there looking at the bunched up coat on the floor with a “What the heck is going on here?” type look on his face. This was long before digital cameras and smartphones, but I so wish I had a picture of his standing there with that befuddled look on his face.
Lori Kate and their son, Casey, were the most important things in Gary’s life. I cannot begin to guess how many emails I received from Gary showing photos of Casey. I hope Casey knows just how much he meant to Gary.
I will always remember Gary as one of the nicest of men. I never saw him angry or shouting or jumping up and down or anything. I can’t count the times I’ve been writing a column and I’ve emailed Gary saying “Got a minute to chat?” so I could fact-check or ask him what he thought about something or simply bounce ideas back-and-forth. I'm sure that it won’t be long before I have a question about something and I think "I'll email Gary" before I remember that he's no longer with us.
I really, really liked Gary. He was one of a kind. I am greatly saddened to hear the news of his passing, and I will forever think of “Gary Smith” and “EDA” as being synonymous.