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Remembering Bob Proebsting

Marking the passing of an industry pioneer.

I didn't know Bob Proebsting very well. When I met him in 1996, I didn't recognize his name. Even in the semiconductor industry, his name is not a household word, but I'm pretty sure that everyone reading this blog is using technology he invented.

I met Bob while I was working at Integrated Device Technology. He was consulting there at the time, and later became a vice president of the company. When we were introduced at a staff meeting, someone realized I didn't know who he was, and said simply, "He invented multiplexed DRAM addressing." If I recall correctly, my immediate response was "Oh. Oh!"

See, this invention has saved our industry tens of billions of dollars over the years by making it easier to make and use DRAMs. Essentially all PCs ever made use this kind of memory chip, in which the two sets of address bits for rows and columns in the memory array are communicated over one set of pins on the package, thereby reducing the cost of the chips and the size of memory modules. Proebsting received over 100 US patents... so far; several more are still pending.

Proebsting died on June 4. I found out over the weekend from an obituary in the San Jose Mercury News. There really isn't all that much information about Proebsting on the Internet. In fact, there are several Web pages about his swimming championships and relatively few about his career overall.

But now there's one more.