Biographic Note

Hans R. Camenzind has been involved in the semiconductor industry for over 45 years, with a distinguished career in the field of integrated circuit technology. The complete list of Hans’s contributions is impressive – a brief summary includes:


·         20 U.S. patents


·         Three published IC texts


·         Numerous technical articles


·         University lecturer


·         2002 Inductee into the Electronic Design Magazine Hall of Fame


·         Founder and president of two successful IC design companies


Without a doubt, however, it is Hans’s design work on the 555 integrated circuit in the early 1970s that has ensured him a prominent position in the history of IC technology. If you are or have been a practicing electrical engineer anytime in the last 30 years, then most likely you have used the 555 timer/oscillator chip in your designs. Since the introduction of the 555 by Signetics in 1972, this integrated circuit has outsold all other IC types by a wide margin, with over 1 billion units sold worldwide in 2003 alone.  The design has continued unchanged for over three decades and the range of applications has spanned such diverse areas as children’s toys and space craft electronics.   This Oral History will discuss Hans’s pioneering 555 design and the legacy of this historic integrated circuit.


Go To Camenzind Oral History,Page 2


Oral History – Hans Camenzind


This Oral History is excerpted from an interview conducted in June, 2004.

In addition, reference is made to an article by Hans Camenzind, “Redesigning the old 555”, IEEE Spectrum, Sept 1997.


Hans, let’s start the Oral History with your recollections of the initial success of the 555 integrated circuit.

That 555 family was a total surprise.  I wanted to make it flexible, that was the whole purpose, but I didn’t realize it was so flexible.  There are applications now that still sound crazy to me.  And the quantity!  In the second year it moved to the largest quantity sold of any IC and it has stayed that way for 30 years.  The original application was as a timer and oscillator, but it has moved well beyond that.


According to the IEEE Spectrum article you wrote on the 555, there was reluctance at Signetics to invest in this product.  Is that right?

The engineering department at Signetics  - yes, they were a bit stodgy for a semiconductor company.  They were at the forefront.  They had tried everything.  It was a surprising reaction, and it was simply a reflection of the turf.  You know, they were designing and making operational amplifiers.


Curator’s Note: Sadly, Hans Camenzind passed away on August 15, 2012.  Use this link for additional information:

Go To Camenzind Memorial Commentary


Camenzind Historic Audio Recordings

COPYRIGHT © 2004 by Jack Ward.  All Rights Reserved.