Federico Faggin
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Federico Faggin

Federico Faggin was born in Vicenza in 1941 and graduated from the "A. Rossi" Technical Institute of Vicenza in 1960. Hired at Olivetti in the fall of 1960, Faggin 60% designed and 90% built a small experimental electronic computer in 1961 using germanium transistors. In 1962-1965 he studied physics at the University of Padua, obtaining a Laurea in Physics summa cum laude. He was assistant professor in 1966, and in 1967 he was hired at SGS-Fairchild, Agrate Brianza (Milan) – now STMicro – where he developed their first MOS process technology and designed their first two commercial MOS integrated circuits.

During the period 1968-1970 Faggin worked at Fairchild Semiconductor's Research and Development Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, where he led the development of the MOS Silicon Gate Technology and designed the Fairchild 3708, the world's first commercial silicon gate integrated circuit (IC), first sold at the end of 1968. This revolutionary technology made dynamic RAM, microprocessors, non-volatile memories and CCD image sensors possible for the first time, and it was adopted worldwide for nearly all ICs.

At Intel Corp. from 1970 to 1974, Faggin led the design and development of the world’s first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, and the following three microprocessors, 8008, 4040 and 8080, the world's first high-performance, second-generation microprocessor conceived and directed by him. Faggin was a department head in the research and development group from 1973 to 1974 with about 80 technical personnel. The Intel 4004 was designed by Faggin and his team and commercialized in 1971. It was made possible by the first-ever use of the MOS silicon gate technology for random logic ICs, incorporating two additional inventions of his.

In late 1974 Faggin founded Zilog, Inc. with Ralph Ungermann, the world's first company entirely dedicated to the emerging microprocessor and microcontroller market. CEO from 1974 to 1980, Faggin conceived the Z8 microcontroller and the Z80 microprocessor, whose development he also led. The Z80 was a third-generation 8-bit microprocessor. First introduced in May 1976, it was used in many of the early personal computers, and it became one of the most successful microprocessors ever produced. It is still in production today (2024).

In 1982, Faggin founded Cygnet Technologies which developed the first integrated voice-data communication product for the IBM personal computer in 1984. In 1986, Faggin founded Synaptics Inc. with Carver Mead, a company dedicated to neuromorphic electronics, especially neural networks, using analog, floating-gate synapses. Synaptics conceived and manufactured the early touchpads and touchscreens that revolutionized the way we communicate with laptops and mobile devices. Faggin was CEO until 1999 and Chairman from 1999 to 2009.

From 2003 to 2008 Faggin was also CEO of Foveon, a startup that developed revolutionary image sensor technology. Foveon was acquired by Japan's Sigma Corporation in 2008.

Faggin is now president of the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 2011 and dedicated to the scientific study of consciousness. Faggin has recently developed with Giacomo Mauro D’Ariano the world’s first quantum theory of free will and consciousness, published as a chapter of a book titled: Artificial Intelligence Versus Natural Intelligence (Springer, 2011).

Faggin also authored two books: Silicon: From the invention of the microprocessor to the new science of consciousness (Mondadori, 2019, Waterside, 2021, and Tongji Press, 2023), and Irreducible: Consciousness, life, computers, and human nature (Mondadori, 2022, Essentia, 2024).

Faggin has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Marconi Prize (1988), the IEEE W. Wallace McDowell Award (1994), the Kyoto Prize (1997), the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from US President Barack Obama (2010), and the title of Knight of the Grand Cross from Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella (2019).

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