Hans Camenzind RIP

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Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:04 am

I missed this news when it happened a week ago, and was travelling with little time spent on TR, so maybe I missed this in a shortbread: Hans Camenzind, who invented the 555 timer and the first Class D amplifier, has died.

In tech we tend to focus on the companies, and their CEOs, but overlook the many brilliant engineers who create the actual innovations that make all of it possible. This is especially true for the pioneers who built the fundamental building blocks at the cusp of the digital transition, when tech was much less sexy and clever innovations just got built into millions of devices without fanfare, their originators going on to the next thing in relative obscurity. But we should at least acknowledge them once, if only after they've died: it's pretty certain devices you depend on every day contain circuits originally designed by Camenzind. The Class D amplifier powers the speaker in your cell phone, and in most other powered speaker applications including many HT setups. The elegant 555 timer is seemingly everywhere, in everything (Wikipedia states that ten years ago a billion of them were being produced every year, mostly designed into larger ICs) from debounced latches and switches to LED flashers and all sorts of measurement equipment. And in PWM: if your PC fans (or any other motor) are PWM-controlled, they're probably using some variant of the 555 circuit.

So the next time you answer a call on your cell, or adjust the fan speed in your computer, pause for just a moment and give a thought to Hans Camenzind, and all the other mostly-forgotten engineers like him.
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:15 am

555 timers and class D amplifiers...impressive.

/pause
/salute
/toast
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:17 pm

I used the 555 timing chip in my senior project back in the 1970's. It was at the heart of a frequency modulated communications system that sent voice over pulses of infrared light. I never knew who created the 555. Rest well, Hans.
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:29 pm

The 555 is one of those chips that have made so many projects possible that it's hard to even begin saying what a contribution he made.
RIP Hans.
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:39 pm

Wow. I remember going to the bank to get money orders (didn't have a checking account or credit card back then) to mail order (yes, a handwritten order via snail mail) 555 chips from Jameco back in the 1970s, when I was still in high school.

Edit...

You can even still get 'em from major parts distributors, in the original 8-pin DIP form factor: http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/e ... -ND/277057

Pretty amazing that a 40 year old chip is still widely used enough to be a stock item.

RIP Hans, betcha never suspected when you invented the 555 that the design would outlive you!
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:00 am

Oh yes, I almost used 555s in my senior project...in 2011, and still used them for a few labs along the way. Lot's of manufacturers still make them, too.
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:55 am

Probably no 555 timer or equivalent in a PWM in a PC, more like a bunch of simple logic with some registers for control with a reference clock input...

However as an engineer, it is depressing to think that for all of the cool useful stuff we create, we will never get rich from them. Someone else usually does as we are so busy designing we have no time to market our ideas or to start a business, or whatever. Not to mention when we are stuck in front of a PC for hours on end, our personal skills suffer and therefor our sales talent is abysmal. Typically at least...
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Re: Hans Camenzind RIP

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:56 am

Conversely, I was traveling this past week and missed this post, but this is interesting news. I had no idea the 555 and the Class-D amplifier were invented by the same guy although it makes sense: once you have a cheap and reliable clock source, you have a basis for finding new ways to process time-dependent signals, so the research paths are complementary. Plus, anyone developing new analog circuits way back when would almost certainly have been tinkering with amplifier applications at the same time.

liquidsquid wrote:However as an engineer, it is depressing to think that for all of the cool useful stuff we create, we will never get rich from them. Someone else usually does as we are so busy designing we have no time to market our ideas or to start a business, or whatever. Not to mention when we are stuck in front of a PC for hours on end, our personal skills suffer and therefor our sales talent is abysmal. Typically at least...

Meh, I think you're confusing cause and effect. Good engineers by nature tend to be problem-solving introverts, which is why they have time and inclination to come up with useful things, but not necessarily the skills to develop those things into marketable properties. Very few have the combined talent to become full-cycle product developers and resellers, and those that do quite often end up in various snake-oil businesses.
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