Inventor of DRAM receives industry's highest honor

Robert Dennard invented DRAM in 1966 and contributed to 75 patents throughout his career. (SIA)

Dr. Robert Dennard, inventor of computer memory technology, was named the recipient of the 2019 Robert Noyce Award last week for outstanding contributions to the semiconductor industry.

Dennard will accept the award Nov. 7 in San Jose from the Semiconductor Industry Association. It is SIA’s highest honor.

His memory technology invention underpins “every computer, smartphone, tablet and other electronics devices that are so ubiquitous in modern society,” said SIA CEO John Neuffer.

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An IBM Fellow Emeritus, Denner also pioneered scaling physics to allow the semiconductor industry to produce more advanced products at lower cost.

In 1966, Denner invented the Dynamic Random Access Memory cell. Today, that invention means that a single chip in a smartphone can hold 16 GB of RAM. In 1968, Dennard was granted a patent for a one-transister DRAM. Ten years later, DRAM was standard in all computers. For inventing the one-transister DRAM, he  was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1988.

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Through a long career, his work led to 75 patents and a number of awards. He earned his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from South Methodist University in Dallas and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as CMU, in 1958. After receiving that degree, he joined IBM Research.

The Noyce Award is named in honor of Robert Noyce, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corp.

Dennard accepted the award saying he was still most proud of his many collaborations with others in the industry. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our great industry,” he said in a statement.

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