Communication & Technology
The CTO of Broadcom speaks on his 30-plus years of experience in working with technology and communications.
Dr. Henry Samueli, distinguished electrical engineer and co-founder of the information technology and communication firm, Broadcom, gave a lecture to UC Irvine students and staff in the McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium last Thursday, March 7. An estimated 130 students and staff attended Samueli’s lecture on the impact that communication technology advancements have had on society.
Samueli is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a fellow at both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has over 70 patents for products in information technology and communication. Samueli studied electrical engineering at UCLA and earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctorate before becoming a professor of electrical engineering.
Samueli presented the history of communication and information technology development. He also gave the audience a unique look into the future of information technology and how it will change society.
“It [the smartphone] is essentially going to replace everything that you’re carrying with you,” Samueli said. “You will no longer need money, no longer need credit cards, you will no longer need IDs. It’s all going to be on your smartphone and your car is going to be the same way. Your car will have everything you have in your living room and we will even see self-driving cars.”
Technology will continue to change society as long as advances continue. This progress is driven by a constant improvement of technology over time. The advancement of technology has been exponential over the past 40 years and will continue this trend for some time according to Moore’s Law.
This law is an observation from the ’70s which states that every two years the amount of transistors that could be placed on circuits doubled every one to two years. Since the transistors gave the circuits increased computing power, computing power of devices also doubled over the same period of time.
However, this period will not continue indefinitely. Even though technology is advancing at a rapid pace, its advancement is limited by the drawbacks of the silicon chip as Samueli pointed out.
“As we know, exponentials [growth] don’t last forever, something has to eventually break and what we’re seeing now is the dimensions [of a chip] are approaching atomic limits,” Samueli said.
This fact has caused concern among scientists around the world, but Samueli was not worried about it, saying that “people think we’ve got another 15 to 20 years left of this technology” before showing predictions of the future advancements of technology.
Samueli has 30 years of experience in technology and was involved in government research projects under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). That project involved creating a copy of military communication devices for private use while at UCLA. This plan was risky at the time and brought Samueli’s team ridicule from others, but yielded results in the end.
“In literally a decade, from the start of that research program till a decade later, around 2000 this field turned into a mainstream multi-billion dollar business from Science Fiction,” Samueli said.
Samueli later took this experience and applied when he and his former student Henry Nicholas founded Broadcom in 1991, despite his desire to remain a professor at UCLA.
“The opportunity presented itself because the results of our research were so compelling that companies were beating us over the head telling us that we had to start a company, we need your technology,” he said. “So we decided to found Broadcom. It wasn’t a grand plan of ours to do that, it was just the circumstances of the time.”
The duo created one of the most valuable and important companies in the world. Today, Broadcom is worth billions of dollars and made $8.01 billion in 2012, and it continues to make chips for all kinds of electronics.
When a student asked Samueli what he will do about reaching the end of Moore’s Law, he replied that he was not worrying about that.
“I haven’t worried about that yet. I try to think somewhat into the future but my horizon stops about five to 10 years,” he said. “We are covered for the next 20 years so I don’t worry about it a lot today because I know we have a long runway (lot of time).”
CORRECTION: The article had incorrectly stated that Henry Samueli was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Broadcom. Samueli is the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Broadcom; the CEO is Scott McGregor.