John Alan Swensen

© John A. Swensen 2012. All rights reserved.

Professional Summary

I have over twenty-nine years experience in analyzing, architecting, designing, managing, consulting, and teaching about computer systems and software, including twenty-three years of analysis and architecture, nineteen years of hardware design, twenty-four years of software design and programming, twelve years of microprogramming, three years of lecturing and course development, and six years of management. I am educated in computer science with a Ph.D. in computer architecture.

My project involvement has included project management, processor design management, validation management, processor development, validation software tool development, analyzing existing designs and recommending improvements, analyzing circuits, architectures, and firmware for patent and copyright infringement litigation, architecting and specifying machine organizations for implementation by other groups, stepping into the middle of projects to complete and deliver designs, post-project support and enhancements, and taking projects from proposal, through implementation, to customer delivery and acceptance.

Communication Experience

I have written and reviewed research papers, business plans, project proposals, technical reports, system analyses, system design documents, principles of operation, verification plan specifications, technical reports, and patents. I have written employee evaluations for annual performance appraisals. I am experienced in course development and lecturing for industrial and university courses (both undergraduate and graduate). I have mentored students to win a supercomputer applications contest.

Architecture Experience

I have contributed substantially to the architectures of SPARC Version 9, the ETA-10 follow-on vector and scalar processors, the first ray-tracing hardware architecture, several real-time error-correcting systems, proprietary multiprocessor architectures, extensions to existing architectures, and switching networks. I architected and implemented all aspects of an extremely low-cost, parallel, proprietary architecture for hardware input-output processing. I, also, architected and implemented a high-performance accelerator for RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography.

I have specified the micro-architectures for super-scalar SPARC implementations, an ETA-10 follow-on processor, embedded processors, and several graphics processors.

Software Experience

I have designed and implemented design automation tools, logic verification tools, architectural verification coverage tools, CPU simulators, memory system simulators, switching network simulators, instruction simulators, routing tools, wiring tools, micro-assemblers, data-analysis tools, graphics systems (both two-dimensional and three-dimensional), encryption/decryption systems, verification programs, and microprograms for 2901-based and proprietary micro-architectures. I have implemented several run-time operating systems for embedded systems. I have implemented RSA and Elliptic Curve encryption/decryption algorithms, both in software and in firmware running on special-purpose processors.

I have hand-tuned algorithms for optimal execution on specific platforms, including arithmetic algorithms for super-scalar SPARC, error-correction decoding algorithms for proprietary hardware, logic optimization software for computers with limited memory, embedded software for high-reliability systems, and encryption/decryption algorithms for microprocessor implementations.

I have developed software using UNIX, Linux, Cygwin, Windows XP, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Sunview, X-11, C, C++, FORTRAN, Pascal, Icon, and other high-level languages, assembly language (SPARC, VAX, PDP-11, 8080, Z80, x86, 8051, 68000, AN/AYK-14), microcode (2901, as well as many proprietary micro-architectures, including horizontal and vertical micro-architectures).

Hardware Experience

I have designed and implemented several proprietary error-correcting machines, graphics processors, camera controllers, input-output controllers, error-injection/detection systems, embedded controllers, and accelerators for Elliptic Curve Cryptography . I designed the scalar processor for the ETA-10 follow-on. I have designed several Array Built-In Self Test (ABIST) circuits. I have designed hardware using CMOS FPGAs, CMOS standard-cell, CMOS gate-arrays, PALs, 2901-based, ECL, TTL, ALS, AS, LS, S, Valid, Synopsys. I have extensive experience debugging my own and others' designs, in environments ranging from verification programs running on simulators to logic analyzers and oscilloscopes on actual hardware.

Work Experience

5/2001-: Group Lead, Processor Development, CPU Technology, Pleasanton, California.

I am currently implementing firmware for Elliptic Curve Cryptography, running on a hardware accelerator that I designed and implemented. During this development process, I, also, designed and implemented an assembler for this accelerator, and supervised the verification of the hardware design. I have managed a group of processor designers and validation engineers responsible for implementing and validating modernized, compatible microprocessors for mission-critical applications. In addition to implementing several compatible processors, I have designed and implemented new parallel processor architectures, as well as architectural extensions to existing microprocessor architectures to support larger address spaces, memory management, and modern compiler development. I have added language extensions and other enhancements to a number of proprietary design automation tools for logic design and processor verification, and I have designed and implemented new tools to further automate and streamline the design process. I have written thousands of lines of embedded software for mission-critical applications. My duties have included visits to customer sites for demonstrations of our working prototypes.

4/2000-4/2001: Manager, HAL Computer Systems, Inc., Campbell, California.

I managed a group of hardware verification engineers, designing assembly-language and verilog-language tests for the CPU of a high-performance SPARC microprocessor. I architected several verification tools, including a tool for measuring the architectural coverage of a suite of verification programs. This 30000-line C++ program was implemented by me and members of my group over a four month period. My duties include project management, scheduling, verification test strategy and test design, recruiting, and employee evaluation. While performing these duties, I also implemented over 3500 verification programs which exposed over a dozen new bugs in a relatively mature design.

9/98-3/2000: Consultant, HAL Computer Systems, Inc., Campbell, California.

I debugged and enhanced a trace-driven architecture simulator written in C++. I designed and implemented a series of test programs for verification and validation of the architecture simulator for correspondence with the proposed hardware implementation. I designed and implemented several tools for analyzing and displaying performance data on web pages.

9/97-9/98: Staff Software Design Engineer, Cirrus Logic, Inc., Fremont, California.

I proposed, designed and implemented a cycle-accurate software simulator of a heterogeneous, general-purpose multiprocessor, using the C programming language and Unix tools. I designed and implemented substantial parts of this multiprocessor, including caches, bus-controllers, and global communication interfaces. The designs were specified in the Verilog language and made use of Synopsys compilers to target both CMOS FPGA and full-custom CMOS implementations. I also designed and wrote assembly code for execution on several different types processors. In addition, I have provided consultation to other members of the project team in areas of computer architecture, software design, and programming methodologies.

12/95-: Expert Witness, The Chatham Group, Los Altos, California.

I provided technical advice and testimony for a firmware copyright infringement case involving commercial audio cards. I performed a clean-room experiment in which I reverse-engineered several DSP commands, having access only to the audio card and a software developer's kit provided by the manufacturer. I also analyzed the firmware for several audio cards, as well as the affidavits associated with the case. This work culminated in my testifying as an expert witness during the trial. This case was won upon appeal and, in the judgment by the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Singapore, my expert report was extensively and favorably referenced.

I have provided technical advice as an expert and potential witness for several other cases involving manufacturing resource planning programs, parallel processor architectures, and digital audio cards.

4/94-11/94: Microprocessor Analyst, MicroDesign Resources, Sebastopol, California.

I researched and wrote a report on embedded microprocessors, covering all high-end, 32-bit and 64-bit embedded microprocessors commercially available, involving extensive analyses and comparisons of the architectures and implementations. Information in this report was combined with software and marketing analyses and was published under the title ``Selecting a High-Performance Embedded Microprocessor'' in the winter of 1995.

8/93-2/94: Technical Litigation Consultant, The Chatham Group, Los Altos, California.

I provided technical advice for a microprocessor patent infringement case involving virtual memory. This work included analyses of thousands of examples of the prior art, legal analyses of patents and depositions, transistor-level and gate-level circuit analyses, and micro-architecture analyses.

9/90-9/93: Senior Design Engineer, HAL Computer Systems, Campbell, California.

I was one of the founding members of haHAL Computer Systems, where I participated in writing the original business plan and contributed substantially to the system specifications and architecture. I specified the original super-scalar micro-architecture design, as well as the high-level designs of several of the major CPU building blocks. I also participated in the joint specification of the Version 9 enhancements of the SPARC architecture with architects at Sun Microsystems. I designed and developed several simulators at HAL, including a multi-computer network simulator and several CPU micro-architecture simulators, and I contributed towards verification of the CPU and cache memory subsystems.

8/89-9/90: Staff System Design Engineer, Amdahl/Key Computers, Fremont California.

I developed computer-aided design tools in support of the development of a super-scalar CPU, and I performed board- level signal routing analyses, developing a routing simulator for that purpose.

6/88-6/89: Consulting Engineer in Systems Design, ETA Systems, St. Paul, Minnesota.

At ETA Systems I reported directly to the chief architect of the company. I had primary responsibility for the design of a scalar processor follow-on to the ETA-10 vector supercomputer, which offered a performance of 1.2 billion floating point operations per second using only two chip- types and six processor chips, altogether. I participated in the specification of a vector supercomputer follow-on to the ETA-10 supercomputer, contributing to the instruction- set architecture and memory system architectures. I was mentor to advanced students developing award-winning supercomputer application software.

12/87: Ph.D. Dissertation: "High-Bandwidth/Low-Latency Temporary Storage for Supercomputers".

My doctoral dissertation involved unique vector registers that simultaneously provided extremely fast access and high bandwidth. I also developed general-purpose register structures which provided fast access times with an essentially-unlimited number of registers, and I designed a pipelined, random-access memory allowing multiple, overlapped read and write accesses to the same memory chip. I also developed a new mechanism for program structure analysis, a theory of optimal pipeline design, and several CPU simulators.

In addition to my doctoral dissertation, I co-authored the first paper on hardware ray-tracing architectures, which is still referenced in standard computer graphics texts. I also developed heuristic algorithms for program instruction scheduling for supercomputer applications, and I developed software for computer graphics. I helped to develop undergraduate and graduate courses taught at the University of California at Berkeley, and I lectured for undergraduate and graduate courses there.

9/83-5/88: Member of Technical Staff, Cyclotomics, Berkeley, California.

While working towards my doctorate, I worked at Cyclotomics, an advanced-development company staffed primarily by Ph.D. mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists. I developed software for cryptography and I developed software, microcode, and hardware for error correction devices, ranging in complexity from microprocessor-based systems to semi-custom designs to fully-custom, state-of- the-art systems. These systems were incorporated in optical disks, longitudinal and helical magnetic tapes, satellite transmission systems, and radio communications systems. I also developed software tools and micro-assemblers for our proprietary architectures. I developed a simulator and an architecture for a massively-parallel-computer switching network, and I was co-inventor of a patented, digital phase- locked-loop circuit.

9/82-3/83: Engineer, Jupiter Systems, Alameda, California.

Early in my graduate studies I worked at Jupiter Systems, a company developing computer graphics hardware. My duties included the development of computer graphics software, as well as the analysis of an advanced graphics processor design.

6/82: Master's Project: "An Experimental Graphics Terminal"

As part of my Master's project, I designed and built a high- performance, bit-mapped graphics terminal. This terminal supported complex graphical operations which were executed by a microcoded graphics processor of my own design.

8/80-12/80: Development Engineer, Hewlett-Packard, Santa Rosa, California.

At Hewlett-Packard I helped to specify the software design of an advanced instrument test system.

6/78-12/78: Engineering Coop, John Fluke Manufacturing Company, Everett, Washington.

During an engineering coop program, I designed a low-power, low-electrical-noise LCD instrument display subsystem, a descendent of which replaced the existing display subsystem. I also designed and implemented a test strategy for the floating point software implementation of a test instrument, uncovering and correcting a subtle floating-point bug in the process.


Ph.D. Computer Science, University of California at Berkeley, December, 1987 (Computer Architecture Major, Software and Vision Minors).

M.S. Computer Science, University of California at Berkeley, December 1982.

A.B. Computer Science, University of California at Berkeley, March 1979.


J.A. Swensen and Y.N. Patt, "Hierarchical Registers for Scientific Computers", Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Supercomputing, July 4-8, 1988, St. Malo, France.

J.A. Swensen, "High-Bandwidth/Low-Latency Temporary Storage for Supercomputers, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, Report No. UCB/CSD 87/383, December 1987.

J.A. Swensen and Y.N. Patt, "Fast Temporary Storage for Serial and Parallel Execution", Proc. 14th Annual Symp. on Computer Architecture, pp. 35-43 (June 1987).

M. Dippé and J. Swensen, "An Adaptive Subdivision Algorithm and Parallel Architecture for Realistic Image Synthesis", Computer Graphics, 18(13) pp. 149-158 (July 1984).

J. Swensen and G. Walters, "High-Performance, Parallel Embedded Architectures Using Acalis CPU872 PowerPC Multicore", 2008 High Performance Embedded Computing Conference, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lexington, Massachusetts, September 23-25, 2008.

J. Swensen and G. Walters, "Secure, High-Performance, Parallel Embedded Architectures Using Acalis CPU872 PowerPC Multicore", 2009 Components for Military and Space Electronics Conference, San Diego, California, February 10-12, 2009.

J. Swensen and G. Walters, "Multi-Layered Hardware Protections for Advanced Secure Processing", 2009 DoD Anti-Tamper Conference, 9th Annual Conference, Johs Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory, Kossiakoff Center, Laurel, MD, April 27 - May 1, 2009.


E.T. Cohen and J.A. Swensen, United States Patent 4,820,993, "Digital Phase Lock Loop" (April 11, 1989).

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Résumé / jaswensen@comcast.net / revised 2010 July 24