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Vinod Dham
Friday, November 21, 2008

Vinod Dham is popularly known as the “Father of the Pentium chip” developed by microprocessing giant Intel. Few executives can claim to have played seminal roles in the development of two microprocessors. Dham can, because he went on to play a lead role in the development of the K6 chip developed at Advanced Micro Devices, virtually the only competitor to Intel in the microprocessor industry.
And none of it may have happened but for Dham’s older brother.

As a teenager, Dham was fascinated by physics. Although he planned to pursue an undergraduate degree in that subject at Delhi University, where he was accepted to the B.Sc. Physics Honors course, his brother talked him out of the idea.

He told Vinod that he would end up “selling bananas” if he continued toward his projected goal of getting a Ph. D in physics. Instead, his brother said, Vinod should study engineering — specifically electrical engineering — a subject that was then growing more and more important.

Dham spent a long 16 years at Intel during which time he not only led the development of the Pentium chip but also held charge of the processor lines. He counts Intel CEO Andy Grove as the person who most influenced him.

Upon leaving Intel soon after the Pentium hit the market, Dham joined NexGen, a chip company started by Thomas Thampy and Atiq Raza, a Pakistani American.

He joined the relatively small firm that was developing Windows-compatible chips as chief operating officer and executive vice president. But NexGen was soon acquired by AMD and Dham found himself in the unique situation of competing head-on against Intel, his former employer.

As group vice president at AMD, he played a powerful role in the development of the highly visible K6 processor. However, months after helping AMD place the K6 on the market, Dham resigned abruptly.

“When I left Intel to join NexGen, it was mainly to experience working with a startup,” Dham said then. “Well, six months later, NexGen was acquired by AMD, and I was working with a large company again. Now I wanted to take a couple of months off to explore my options and figure out what I want to do next.”

In March 1997, Dham joined a real startup, Silicon Spice, which then had 16 employees. At Silicon Spice, Dham says he is leading development of a “radically new signal processing technology.” he adds. He said he chose to join Silicon Spice due to enormous potential it offers in the emerging communication-centric information industry.” The company is in a pre-IPO stage.

In his leisure time, Dham enjoys traveling with his wife and reading about spirituality. He also mentors South Asians, helping getting them started with their careers in the United States.

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