I started working towards a PhD in design automation after doing a class based on Carver Mead & Lynn Conway’s landmark book on VLSI. The colorful mask patterns and the magical combination of physical and logical design were irresistibly attractive. I submitted my first paper to DAC, which in those days still involved sending a thick package with 10 printed copies to Colorado. I remember using a black pen on all 10 of them to manually fix a formula that the printer refused to put on paper. A few months later a letter arrived with the great news that the paper was accepted.
Preparing the “camera-ready” manuscript involved glue, scissors and many back-and forth runs to the printer. The mandatory 35mm slides required some time management skills since the photographic processing took over a week. It was all ready just in time before boarding the 15-hour plane ride from Amsterdam to Las Vegas. Teleported into a very hot and weird environment I found my way from the Hilton to the DAC registration desk to pick up my DAC badge. The conference seemed intimidatingly huge and I knew hardly anybody. The badge of the person behind the speaker’s registration desk read ‘Richard Newton, DAC TPC chair’. What!?! Rock star UC Berkeley Professor Richard frigging Newton whose papers I had studied is checking me in? He seemed younger than I imagined. Handing me my badge he said: “oh so you are Patrick. I liked your paper”. It suddenly felt like I had landed at the right place.
The rest is history. 20 Years later I was DAC Program Chair myself. I will never forget that first DAC moment.