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Behind His Illustrious Career, Who's Jim Keller?

Jim Keller Part 1: Early Days in Computing
Behind His Illustrious Career, Who's Jim Keller?

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By Junko Yoshida

The Ojo-Yoshida Report hosts a series of in-depth interviews with engineering and managing executives in the tech industry. Our goal is to probe their “Tech Vision.”  We focus on a technology or a business model that’s making waves. We ask their views on where it’s going and, critically, why its evolution matters.

The guest in our inaugural episode is Jim Keller, CEO of Tenstorrent, AI processor startup.

Jim Keller’s eclectic background makes him a perfect witness to past and present advancements in processors.

Over 40 years, Keller has worked at, among others, Digital Equipment, AMD, Apple, Tesla and Intel.

Keller’s illustrious career as a chip designer has positioned him in a league of his own. He has played a hand at almost every inflection point in the computer, from mainframes, minicomputers, workstations and PCs to mobile phones and highly automated vehicles.

His eclectic background makes Keller a perfect witness to past and present advancements in processors.

Keller discusses what has changed and has remained constant in computer architecture. 

And then comes the AI revolution.

Keller said, “When AI first started the work, it wasn’t like we needed 10 or 100 times more computation, we needed 100 million times more.” This, he understated, is “very interesting, because the next step was so big.”

What does Keller think we should do now?

In this episode – Jim Keller Part 1 – Keller recalls his early career, with up-close observations on early days of computing.

He tosses in a little advice to young people, suggesting, for example, that electrical engineering

(EE) “turns out to be an amazingly good discipline to learn for a long run.”

Keller double majored in philosophy. That didn’t necessarily end well but it highlights his voracious appetite for knowledge beyond electrical engineering.

Keller didn’t become a star semiconductor designer right away. He volunteered for a “shit job,” fixing computer boards. This experience earned him first-hand knowledge of test equipment, why those boards were failing and how power supply worked.

Jim Keller Part 2, scheduled for release soon, considers the future of computer design. Keller, quoting a friend, says computer design is all about “calling the ball five years in advance.”

Which begs the question of how Keller is calling the ball?

During our interview, Keller used no script, talking points, or prepared questions. He simply immersed himself in conversation, straight up, for an hour, letting his thoughts flow and wonder. The result, in our first Tech Vision episode, is Jim Keller, authentic and raw, with no filters.

Here’s the full episode of What’s Next in Computing Part 1.

Junko Yoshida is the editor in chief of The Ojo-Yoshida Report. She can be reached at

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