Nvidia’s Jensen Huang to get semiconductor industry’s highest honor

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang to get semiconductor industry’s highest honor

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Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang will receive the chip industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award.

Huang will receive the honor from his peers in the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) annual awards dinner on November 18. The award is named after Robert Noyce, the cofounder of Intel, who is credited with lots of pioneering achievements at the dawn of the chip industry. He was nicknamed the “mayor of Silicon Valley” and passed away in 1990.

The award recognizes a leader who has made outstanding contributions to the semiconductor industry in technology or public policy.

John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO, said in a statement that Huang’s extraordinary vision and tireless execution have greatly strengthened the chip industry, revolutionized computing, and advanced artificial intelligence. He said Huang’s accomplishments have fueled countless innovations — from gaming to scientific computing to self-driving cars — and he continues to advance technologies that will transform the industry and the world.

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Above: CEO Jensen Huang shows off GeForce RTX 3000 series graphics cards.

Huang founded Nvidia in 1993 and has served since its inception as CEO. Starting out in 3D graphics, Huang showed me a demo of the company’s graphics chip and its “Windows accelerator” application. That was when I was at the San Jose Mercury News in 1995, and it was the first interview that Huang did with the press.

Nvdia went on to help build the 3D gaming market into the world’s largest entertainment industry. More recently, Nvidia used the parallel processing it used for its graphics processing units (GPUs) to do non-graphics compute tasks. And that turned into a huge application in AI, where Nvidia’s chips are becoming the brains of computers, robots, and self-driving cars.

Since the company’s first chip, scene complexity in computer graphics has increased over 25 years around 500 million times, Huang said. Moore’s Law, which predicts chip performance will double every couple of years, would have increased only 100,000 times in the same time, unaided by better chip design.

That relentless innovation has paid off. Nvidia is now worth $490 billion on the stock market and it employs 20,000 people.

On to the metaverse

Above: Jensen Huang is CEO of Nvidia. He gave a virtual keynote at the recent GTC event.

He has also been a fan of the intersection of science fiction and technology, and so he has been talking more about the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

Huang is a recipient of the IEEE Founder’s Medal, the Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award, and honorary doctorate degrees from Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, National Taiwan University, and Oregon State University. In 2019, Harvard Business Review ranked him No. 1 on its list of the world’s 100 best-performing CEOs over the lifetime of their tenure. In 2017, he was named Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.

Prior to founding Nvidia, Huang worked at LSI Logic and Advanced Micro Devices. Huang holds a BSEE degree from Oregon State University and an MSEE degree from Stanford University. The Noyce award is named after Bob Noyce, the founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, and he was known for aphorisms like, “Don’t be encumbered by the past. Go out and do something wonderful.”

Last year, the award went to Lisa Su, CEO of rival Advanced Micro Devices, and she noted to me once that Huang is actually a distant relative of hers.

Above: Jensen Huang in his early years as an engineer.

“I am honored to receive the 2021 Noyce Award and do so on behalf of my colleagues at Nvidia, whose body of work this award recognizes,” said Huang. “It has been the greatest joy and privilege to have grown up with the semiconductor and computer industries, two that so profoundly impact the world. As we enter the era of AI, robotics, digital biology, and the metaverse, we will see super-exponential technology advances. There’s never been a more exciting or important time to be in the semiconductor and computer industries.”

Recently, he received the distinguished lifetime achievement award by the Asian American Engineer of the Year from the Chinese Institute of Engineers (CIE) group. Huang pointed out he was “destined to be an engineer,” as his father was an engineer in Taiwan. His brothers were engineers, and his wife, Lori, whom he met as a sophomore at Oregon State University, is an engineer.

And in his acceptance speech, he made a rare comment beyond Nvidia’s business matters, as he noted the scourge of the recent anti-Asian violence: “Racism is one flywheel we must stop.”

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