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29th 2002f June 2002
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  Giving Microelectronics Smell & Taste - Prof Malcolm Haskard

Date:April 12, 2002
Time:7:00 pm.
Place:WEA, 223 Angas Street, ADELAIDE
Presenter:Prof Malcolm Haskard

Anyone who has done Electronic Engineering at the University of SA (formerly the SA Institute of Technology) during the last 30 years will have probably been taught by Prof Malcolm Haskard.

While Prof Haskard is highly respected for his outstanding theoretical knowledge in electronic engineering and his extensive practical experience in leading edge microelectronics' design and fabrication, he is equally respected by his students for his very friendly, patient and dedicated approach to teaching. We are indeed lucky to have him agree to speak to us at our April 12 meeting.

Prof Haskard will cover his more than 40 years of computer research from his involvement with the Cirrus computer at the Adelaide Uni (among the world's first), followed by his involvement with the 3 chip "mini processor" project at Plessey, Swindon UK (among the first microprocessors to exist), his involvement with Prof Craig Mudge's CSIRO (later Austek) VLSI group in Adelaide known for the cochlear implant used world-wide to give the profoundly deaf hearing, to his most recent involvement with electronic sensors to allow microelectronics to "smell and taste".


Prof Malcolm Haskard was our speaker at the April SAMG meeting enjoyed by our biggest audience for years due to the many visitors from the PIC Group , new members, and a better attendance by members than usual. He covered his more than 40 years as a leading contributor to computing here in Adelaide, the UK, and the world generally all the way from his early work on Cirrus through to using microcircuitry to "taste" and "smell". He also introduced us to some of the work being done in microengineering (also known as nanotechnology) where microscopic machines (motors, gear-trains, accelerometers, pressure sensors, etc) are being constructed mainly out of silicon using the same photographic and chemical etching methods developed for microcircuitry.

Prof Haskard told us his earliest involvement with computer design was in the late 1950's working on the Cirrus computer. This computer was a joint effort of the Adelaide University, the CSIRO, and the Weapons Research Establishment (now DSTO) and was funded by the Post Master General's Department (now Telstra). The Adelaide University-based Cirrus team was instigated by Dr Trevor Pearce (who had worked on TREAC in the UK) and lead by Prof (then Dr) Murray Allen.

While the WRE group left soon after the Cirrus project began in order to develop their own rocket impact prediction computer, Cirrus went on to become one of the world's first computers. Its main contribution to computer design was the introduction of fast, cheap ROM which made multiprogramming and hence multi-user operation realistic. Ian Butcher designed the very fast access ROM as part of his PhD work, Prof Haskard did all the non magnetic (memory) circuits, including logic circuits, registers, timing, power supply etc. The very fast access ROM (0.3 microseconds access, 1 microsecond cycle time) compared to the 6 microsecond cycle times in registers and RAM cores common at that time. Prof Haskard passed around a sample of the ROM unit.

When Prof Haskard joined Plessey at Swindon in the UK in 1969's to gain further computer experience he formed part of the team that developed the "mini processor". Even though Plessey's design was a success, Marconi was awarded the British Telecom contract. Plessey's chip set was never released to the market.

By 1972 Prof Haskard was teaching the then newly introduced Microcomputer Design course at the SAIT as part of the Applied Electronics subject. This was about the same time as the 4004 hit the market.

In the early to mid 1980's Dr Craig Mudge set up the CSIRO Microelectronics Program and Prof Haskard worked for and with Dr Mudge on analogue VLSI circuits using nMOS. Soon afterwards CMOS analogue circuits were successfully designed at the Adelaide Uni by Prof Haskard's PhD student, Ian May. The nMOS and CMOS work was published as a book.

After the CSIRO Program had been well established by Dr Mudge, Prof Haskard started teaching microelectronics design methods at the SAIT. Later the Mead and Conway method was introduced that incorporates the designs of a number of individual students together on a single silicon wafer to provide both a relatively cheap way of getting microcircuits manufactured and a quick turn around. Samples of some student multi-project chips were passed around.

During 1980 in the newly established SAIT Electronics School clean room laboratories at the Levels Campus some MOS (p channel) circuit manufacture was commenced on-site. Lots of O/H slides on this.

By 1982 the first sensors on a chip (for acid/base pH measurement) were sent from the SAIT to the USA for manufacture.

Also in 1982 in response to a SA Science Teachers' Association request the "Datum" Motorola 6800-based microcomputer system was developed and used as a teaching aid. It was featured in an Electronics Australia magazine construction series (who wrote it up as if they had done it) and was used by industry as a data logger. Prof Haskard said he even had enquiries to use the Datum for military application in missiles! One of the Datum units and its manual was passed around.

Quartz crystals change frequency with mass and can be used to measure nanograms. A device can be manufactured with sensors in on/off mode each with a different set point. The distribution of sensors that have fired (on) can be used for the determination of the type of fluid passing over the sensor. This gives these devices a sense of "taste". Many O/H slides showed these.

Prof Haskard got some publicity in the Advertiser last year showing him with a Micro Gas Chromatograph developed at the SA Uni with a silicon sensor mounted in a 125cm tube (the tube allows gas dispersion to occur before encountering the sensor). The time taken to sense different elements is used to determine the composition of the gas. Similarly, a unit is being developed in the USA for soldiers' mass spectrometers that can be worn on their belts to measure toxic environments. This is effectively giving these chips a sense of "smell". Prof Haskard predicts that by 2005 micro engineering will be delivering generic system that will be used as building blocks for numerous types of day-to-day devices.

Prof Haskard completed his talk with some amazing video tapes showing many examples of the micro-engineered nano-machines and models that have been produced so far.

. . . Andrew Braund/Rick Matthews