Mike Hackworth

The world lost a very fine man when Mike Hackworth, formerly CEO of Cirrus Logic, died recently.

He was an old-school Silicon Valley CEO who put the success of the company before his own enrichment, looked after his employees, laid down a vision for the company, set out a strategy to execute the vision and had great success.

Personally he was modest, thoughtful, approachable, a listener, a persuader and a motivator without apparent ego. He was focused simply on making things happen.

His people had a great affection for him.

Hackworth’s vision was that the standardisation of the PC around x86 gave a tremendous opportunity for ICs around the x86.

He steered Cirrus Logic through the PC Graphics market to the point where almost every PC had a Cirrus Logic graphics chip.

Less well known was the fact that most of the disk drives also had Cirrus Logic controller chips inside them.

His vision was that Cirrus Logic would provide all “the other controllers inside” the PC.

So Cirrus produced PCMCIA controllers, modems, datacom chips and, through its acquisition of Crystal, a leading line of audio controllers.

He rode the PC strategy, built a highly successful company on it, and managed the diversification out of PCs when the surrounding functionality on the PC motherboard got sucked onto the x86 processor.

In 1998, Hackworth said: “We used to say there’s $100 of functional opportunity per PC motherboard around the Intel microprocessor. Now it’s only $45 and in a few years time it will be less than $10 of which between $2 and $4 will be audio codecs – and we intend to continue to supply those. The PC thing is turning into a commodity, but it’s still too damn complicated. It’s needs to be portable, cheap, and easy to use.”

He had an easy, unpretentious style, cooking the burgers at the annual party for all members of staff, telling them all how rich they all would be if they met the targets.

He believed in empowering employees to make decisions telling them: “It’s easier to get
forgiveness than permission”.

It was always said of him that an important element of his market research was regular attendance at Fry’s.

Hackworth’s genes were entrepreneurial – he was a descendant of Timothy Hackworth, the great English railway pioneer.

David Manners

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