Mike Tuthill, pioneer of Ireland’s semiconductor industry, dies aged 71

21 Jun 2019

Mike Tuthill (right) receiving an award for Product of the Year in 1981. Image: Analog Devices

Mike Tuthill, a longtime employee at Analog Devices and a pioneer of the Irish semiconductor industry, has passed away aged 71.

A Limerick native, Mike Tuthill was one of the very early hires for Analog Devices in Limerick, starting in 1977 when the foundations of the 3in wafer fabrication site were just being laid. At that point an accomplished design engineer, Tuthill honed his skills in the design of integrated circuits through working alongside Hank Krabbe, who had moved from the US.

Krabbe had come to Ireland to set up Analog Devices’ first CMOS Wafer Fab at a time when the country had no experience of semiconductor process technology and no integrated circuit designers. Despite this, the design laid out by Tuthill and Krabbe in the Limerick plant’s first production, the AD7520 chip, was a success and from then on the Irish operation went from strength to strength.

After Krabbe’s departure in the early 1980s, Tuthill continued to design several industry breakthrough products, but it was his work on a fully integrated 12-bit analogue-to-digital converter that led to international success.

The company named him an Analog Devices Fellow in 1988, the company’s highest engineering level and technical honour, and thus the first Limerick site Fellow. As the lead designer of a small team that included, among others, Dick Meaney and Peter Real, Tuthill was influential in the formative years of many people’s careers.

Headshot of Mike Tuthill smiling in 2017.

Mike Tuthill in 2017. Image: Analog Devices

The ‘go-to person’ for many technical questions

He was instrumental in setting up the Limerick division’s radio frequency (RF) product line in the mid 1990s. He was also the lead designer of the company’s first phase-locked loop synthesiser, which exceeded the performance of the industry leader at the first attempt.

This initiative subsequently grew into a full portfolio offering, resulted in large revenue growth and a further expansion of the operation in Limerick. Prior to his time at Analog Devices, the University College Cork graduate worked on RF and microwave radio design at Marconi in London before returning to Ireland to work at early telecoms player Telectron.

“From the start of his career, right through the 39 years he spent with Analog Devices, Mike developed very successful breakthrough products that always pushed performance frontiers and are some of our industry’s most innovative solutions,” said Leo McHugh, vice-president of instrumentation production for Analog Devices.

“It was his innovative approach to circuit architectures and design expertise that made him the ‘go-to person’ for many technical questions, but it was his patience, willingness to share and humble nature that made him the person most people just wanted to spend time with.”

Updated, 10.49am, 28 June 2019: This article was amended to correctly identify Mike Tuthill in the main image caption.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic