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work of a genius (Jim Williams)


Jim Williams, analog circuit guru, dies

Bill Schweber

6/13/2011 10:23 AM EDT

Very sad news: Jim Williams of Linear Technology Corp—one of the world’s best analog-circuit designers, experimenter, hands-on guy, project genius, damn nice guy, story teller, mentor, eternal student, engineer, collector of historical scientific instruments, master of true and measurable precision and accuracy, and much more—passed away unexpectedly. Many of you know of him though his detailed, voluminous application notes, or his many articles inEDN.

I knew Jim for decades, his sheer love of engineering and experimentation was always a pleasure to absorb; he was a no-nonsense person who liked tangible things and did not fall under the sway of “hot” trends as the solution to all your problems, whether it was software, Twitter, or Facebook. I recently saw him in his lab at LTC, and our encounter inspired this column, here. Due to his talents and accomplishments, Jim could easily have gotten away with being a know-it-all expert and pundit, but he was actually fairly humble and had genuine humility, as he wrestled the demons of circuit and component reality, usually winning (and sometimes losing).

Jim began his career in the MIT Nutrition Lab, building circuits and systems for their experiments and research. As far I know, he was not a formally degreed EE; he was largely self-taught. He traveled back to MIT each year to give a guest lecture to EEs and also do some recruiting and outreach on the joys of analog.

Jim was a man who truly understood the analog signal chain, what it could do, what it couldn’t do, its vagaries and foibles, and how to make it do what you wanted despite pushback of the laws of physics. His mind was “one” with op amps, converters, references, and power supplies. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and the engineering community.