Il microchip parla italiano

Scientist, inventor and genius. No doubt these three souls have come together to drive Federico Faggin, the inventor  of microprocessor, from his early youth to the present day, so that the title of “father of microprocessor” as perfectly appropriate, it is paradoxically reductive if you think that we are also talking about the inventor of the first computer platform to integrate voice and data, in the early ‘80s, the inventor of the “touchpad”, in 1994, the developer of image sensors based on neural networks. Born on 1st of December in 1941 in Vicenza, Faggin graduated with honors in Physics in Padua in 1965, to find answers to many fundamental questions that arise. In 1966 the Italian electronics company, where he worked, sent him to his first brief but illuminating living in Silicon Valley, California, where he discovered that «there was a place in the world where advanced technology, the desire to do and intelligence were encouraged and facilitated». On his return to Italy in 1967, he was employed by SGS-Fairchild semiconductor industry, and here he develops the metal oxide semiconductor process technology for the manufacture of electronic devices. This was a brilliant start which made possible a radical change in his life, thanks to the binding of SGS-Fairchild with the American parent: Federico Faggin moved for a work experience at the headquarters of SGS-Fairchild in Palo Alto – then back to California – but this time he soon decided to settle down. So the United States will become the scene of his entire professional life. In SGS-Fairchild Faggin developed a fundamental process (and long life: it is widely used today) for the integrated electronics on silicon, the “silicon gate technology”, and after having successfully used to build the first integrated circuit based on this technology, he left – without thinking twice – SGS-Fairchild to join Intel, a name that requires no comment today but at that time was still in its infancy. In Intel Federico Faggin is called in April 1970 to develop and implement a set of silicon chip (or “chips”) of the “family 4000”, for the manufacture of desktop calculators. So the story of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was born. After achieving, less than thirty years old, the first microprocessor, Faggin became a successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, having founded several hi-tech tip, such as Zilog and Synaptics. This last is the one that realized the “touch pad”, the touch screen present on all smartphones and tablet PCs available today. During his long business activity, Faggin got twenty-five patents, five honorary degrees and scores of awards, the latest being the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, given to him by President Obama in 2010. Federico Faggin, during his life, has been able to repeatedly go over the conquest – even extraordinary – of the moment, to meet new challenges that invariably meant switching to another company or start a new one, find new partners and young talents to support, engage in technological and scientific contexts hitherto almost unknown even to him. The scientist Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini said: «There is another Italian who deserved, perhaps more than me, the Nobel Prize: Federico Faggin». The physical from Vicenza, from 44 years        in the United States, has remained deeply attached to his motherland. He was recently guest in Italy of the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani, at Palazzo Giustiniani, in the Sala Zuccari, on the occasion of the presentation of the book on his biography, with a preface written by Rita Levi Montalcini and the afterword by Patrizia Livreri. The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Education, University and Research Francesco Profumo that welcomed Faggin like a great scientist, receiving it the night before at the headquarters of the Ministry. During his stay in Rome, Faggin was also received by the Minister Corrado Passera, a match that saw the Minister and the scientist Vicenza deal with the issues of development of research in Italian universities, and more generally with the evolution of the innovation technology and the contribution that many Italian scientists around the world can make to our nation. Today Faggin is engaged on the front of the man-machine interfaces: bio-electro-mechanical entities that can summarize autonomous conduct and find solutions based on processes “mental” focused on “creativity” and “experience”, just receiving “sensory stimuli” unpredictable from the outside. Good luck on his unwavering enthusiasm!

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