I was saddened to hear last week of the death this month of Simon Sze, the co-inventor of the floating gate, which was the basis of EPROM, E²PROM, and nearly all flash memory prior to the advent of 3D NAND, which uses a charge trap instead.
Dr. Sze was not only responsible for the floating gate, but he was a pioneer in many other aspects of semiconductor physics, and wrote a seminal book Physics of Semiconductor Devices that has been the basis learning for a high percentage of today’s semiconductor developers.
I got to know him when the Flash Memory Summit chose to honor him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Sze was kind and soft spoken, and profoundly deep in a very modest way. He was keenly interested in the impact of his 1967 invention, and would reach out to me at least once a year to hear how many individual floating gates had shipped to date (an enormous number) and to hear how the Flash Memory Summit had fared.
When I shared the news of his passing with his fellow Lifetime Achievement Award honorees a number of them replied with tributes that cited the impact he had made upon them and their careers, their companies, and the industry.
Sze was one of the seminal figures in the early semiconductor industry, and his importance will continue for a number of decades to come. His contributions cannot be overestimated. The Memory Guy blog salutes this incredible man.