Throwback Thursday: Digilent’s Beginnings, Gene Apperson’s Story

Upon his retirement from Microsoft in 1998, Gene Apperson and his family relocated to Pullman, Washington. After a few years, Gene decided to go back to school as an undergraduate in mechanical engineering. A professor, Bob Richards, soon asked Gene to switch to the Master’s program, even though most of his background was in electrical engineering. He ended up taking a VLSI design class from none other than Clint Cole. While Gene ended up asking Clint whether he would be able to do well in the class, they got to talking and decided to start a company together.

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The Making of the Wi-FIRE, Digilent’s First MZ chipKIT

In December 2013, Digilent received a cold call from Imagination Technologies. They loved our WiFi-enabled WF32 — but what if it had the latest PIC32 MZ-architecture processor instead of the MX processor that other chipKIT products have? After all, the MZ not only show-cased Imagination’s IP core (the way the processor is put together), but it was the ideal processor to run FlowCloud, their internet of things (IoT) solution. So, they asked, “Would it be possible to have 1000 of the retooled product by March?” It was with this seemingly out-of-the-blue call that the development of the chipKIT Wi-FIRE began!

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