Rediff India Abroad
 Rediff India Abroad Home  |  All the sections
Big chip on his shoulder

It was way back in 1999. The 1,800-seat Convocation Hall at IIT, Mumbai -- was bursting at the seams with people eager to hear from the 'father of the Pentium'.

Vinod Dham took the stage and dreamt a dream: Make a computer for Rs 9,999 and take it to the masses, he told the gathering. A student pointed out that you couldn't even get a memory device for that kind of price. 'If there isn't one, you have to design one,' Dham shot back.

More than any other incident in a life packed with incidents, this one sums up Silicon Valley's best known face. What exists is history, what doesn't is opportunity, has been the guiding principle of a lifetime that has seen Dham go from itinerant student with $10 in his back pocket, to the man who led the research team that developed the chip -- the one invention that revolutionized personal computing and made it accessible to the masses.

in his words
'In 1995, I was 45 and facing a midlife crisis. I could have ridden a Harley Davidson, gone bungee jumping or done a startup. Since I am a pretty conservative guy, I chose the last.'
Photo: India Abroad Archives
Dham, who came to the United States to attend a graduate course at the University of Cincinnati in 1975, worked at Intel for 16 years, rising to the post of vice president. After fathering the chip, he left the company in 1995 to join NexGen, a start-up, and helped launch the K6 chip, the world's fastest personal computer microprocessor at the time.

He loves what he describes as 'impossibilities', as it gives him the opportunity to invent. Today, he manages the Venture Capitalist fund NEA-IndoUS Ventures, investing primarily in Indian companies serving the domestic market.

'Dham's impact on the world reaches beyond technological gadgetry,' Cincinnati Journal once wrote about him. In 2000, he was appointed to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by President Clinton. In 1993, he was named one of the top 25 executives in the US computer industry; in 1999, he was named one of the top 100 most influential Asian Americans of the decade.

His parents were refugees after the Partition of India; he himself landed in the US with $10 in his back pocket. Today, he funds dreams and builds the future -- and, by his existence, symbolizes for all immigrants that the American Dream is tangible, it is real, it is attainable. It is.