The other day I was thinking to do something really silly, like writing a top-ten list of “Famous ASIC designers in fiction”… And guess what? I couldn’t come up with a single one. That’s strange isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be a real blockbuster? Well, maybe not… Anyway – I couldn’t really drop the topic and continued my search, in vane. Quite some discussions are out there on “why are there no engineers in fiction/movies”, some say, “MacGyver!” or “Falling down” and there are indeed some others too.
So here is my list with top ten movies that just have to come out soon. Enjoy! And thanks to Magnus the Magnificent for the “brain” storming. Thanks to IMDB and its contributors for further inspiration.
Let me know if any of these films would of any, whatsoever, reason make you spend 90 minutes in a cinema chair.
- #10: Asic Instinct 1 and 2
A promising prototype chip dies during an ESD event and the ECO is assigned to ASIC staff engineer Nick Current. During the ECO feasibility check, Nick meets Cathode Tramell, a technical writer responsible for the test reports when the chip died. Cathode proves to be very clever and manipulative woman, and though Nick is more or less convinced that she killed the chip, he is unable to find any evidence in the CVS repositories. He starts to play with a lust-filled gantt chart to get Cathode off the project, but as they end up in the same task force, the number of failing designs rises and contradicting evidences force Nick to start questioning his own suspicions about Cathode’s role in the projects.
- #9: Jurasic park 1, 2, and 3
Huge advancements in scientific technology have made a semiconductor manufacturing company to create a process node full of new pcells. The CEO, Professor John Almond have invited four senior IEEE design engineers, as well as two in-house trainees to join him at the so called ”Jurasic Park”. But will everything go according to the layout plan? Especially when one of the park’s own workers attempts to steal the decrypted skill scripts, and have to shut down all the on-line support in the process. It’s now a race to get through the open market window with everyone located all over the manufacturing site.
- #8: Darlington and the chipmunks
A film for “the small people” [Svanberg].
In a fabless design house in the M4-corridor, three musically inclined analog design engineers: Darlington, Wilson and Wheatstone, find in the financial crisis their design house split into several units and relocated to Staines. Once there, they meet a frustrated project secretary David Neville, who also composes music. After a few alcopops and home-made beer they impress him with their singing talent. Seeing the opportunity for success, both project secretary and design engineers make a pact to sing his songs. While that ambition proves a frustrating struggle with the fatalistic trio, the dream does come true after all.
- #7: IC age 1, 2, 3
Back when the electronics industry was being overrun by bipolar designs, and vacuum tubes were still used to save themselves from the upcoming IC Age, a stupid mixed-signal engineer named Sid, a woolly RF engineer named Manny, a digital design engineer named Diego, and an acorn-loving project manager named Scratch are forced to become unlikely heroes. The four reluctantly come together when they have to return a chip plot to its system architect while dealing with the deadly competition of start-ups of the impending IC Age.
- #6: Full metal socket
During the early 70’s the design engineer ‘Joker’ -a future system architect- and his project group are put through off-site SPICE simulator training in Hartman’s verbally and physically abusive, sex-obsessed style. It’s all far worse for junior engineer Pyle, who keeps doing everything wrong when hacking the netlists, bulks are connected to drains, etc. Even when gentle Joker is appointed as his personal tutor the problems persist till peer pressure becomes group bullying. On their last day the psychological time-bomb explodes: the heat slug on their socket is too small and they need to consider another package/mounting strategy. Only intellectual Joker isn’t assigned to the design team but rather as a technical writing.
- #5: The terminator
In the future, Skynet, an EDA software provider fights a losing war against open-source EDA software. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John, the design engineer who setup the first generation of a free full tool suite. The terminator who can pass for a design engineer, reports so many bugs on the support forum that it is nearly indestructible. It has only one mission: stopping the code freeze. Another ASIC designer is sent back to protect her from the forum troll. He must find Sarah before the Terminator can carry out it’s mission.
- #4: Schindler’s netlist
The true story of Schindler, a former ASIC designer, later businessman who owns a semiconductor manufacturing company in Europe. He witnesses the visions of the Asia crisis and other financial crisis and the toll it takes on the fabless design houses. Eventually, he creates a netlist with multiple IPs that can be downloaded and used by the design houses to boost their sales numbers.
- #3: The fifth element
Two hundred and fifty months in the future, life as we know it is threatened by the Evil stagnation of CMOS processes. Leon Chua found the fourth missing memristive element in 1973 adding to the family of Memristor, Resistor, Inductor and Capacitor. Now, only the fifth element can stop the Evil from extinguishing life, as it tries to by limiting the minimum channnel length of the integrated transistors. The new element will open new ways to success in the integrated circuits market. Ex-ASIC-design engineer, current-CAD-support, Korben Dallas, tries to find it and protect it. Unfortunately, Evil is being assisted by Mr. Zorg, who have the muscles to dump the prices of their chip families.
- #2: The core
The chip’s core has stopped spinning in the simulator, it does not work according to specification any more. Disasters are appearing at the design centers all over the world: project managers acting crazy, powerful ESD events, 32 chips in bench test die within seconds of each other when their oscillator trim algorithms quit working. Dr. Josh Keyes and his design team of five senior ASIC experts go down to the center of the problem to set off an ECO to make the chip’s core start working again or the company will perish.
- #1: The Transporter
Ex-senior design engineer Frank Martin lives what seems to be a quiet life along the French Mediterranean after selling his stock options. Now he hires himself out as a contractor, who moves IPs from one technology node to another. No questions asked. Carrying out mysterious and sometimes dangerous IP ports in his tricked-out ubuntu-based laptop, Frank adheres to a strict set of rules, which he never breaks. (1) Never change the deal. (2) No top-level names. (3) Never look inside the GDS nor the CDL. Frank’s newest port seems no different from the countless ones he’s done in the past. He’s been hired by an American company known only as “One of the big six” to make a port; but when Frank stops along the stream-out procedure, he notices the IP is a soft IP. Violating rule three, Frank looks inside the netlist, finding its contents to be …
Sorry … well, I guess there is a reason after all… Wouldn’t Rajinikanth do one you think?