Franklin Antonio, co-founder of Qualcomm, who helped revolutionize personal technology dies

Franklin Antonio, the University of California, San Diego graduate who co-founded chip maker Qualcomm, which helps fuel the growth of everything from cell phones to social media to wearable medical devices, the company said late Friday. .

Qualcomm did not say when, where and why the 69-year-old Antonio died.

“I am deeply saddened to share the passing of Franklin Antonio, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist, Emeritus,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon told workers in an internal letter.

“As Employee Number 7, Franklin was one of the original founders of Qualcomm and our longest-serving employee,” the letter states. “He was personally involved in many of Qualcomm’s early technology breakthroughs, and we simply wouldn’t be the company we are today without his contributions.”

Antonio’s death also elicited a sincere response from Irwin Jacobs of La Jolla, the main force behind the founding of Qualcomm.

“This is really tragic,” Jacobs told Union-Tribune. “He was my student at UCSD, one of the best undergraduates I’ve ever had.

Then he worked with me at Linkabit and at Qualcomm. He was a key figure in the success of the two companies.”

Jacobs added that Antonio “was a different kind of person. He did not always respond to foolish remarks with kindness. But it was very sharp and useful. I often used it as an example of what kind of person you need in a company.”

Antonio was also a well-known philanthropist in San Diego. UCSD is preparing to open a $180 million engineering center from which an initial gift of $30 million has been awarded. He also donated to Father Joe’s Villages, and the lunch program was renamed in his honor – Franklin Antonio’s Public Lunch Program – several years ago.

Major donors usually speak broad strokes. But Antonio took a very personal approach in 2019 when he donated $30 million to UCSD for the new engineering building.

“As UCSF grows, I am concerned about the undergraduate experience,” Antonio told Union-Tribune, “I see this sea of ​​undergraduates and I can’t imagine all of them getting the access to faculty that I wish they would.

“The interaction between students and faculty is the very reason why the university exists. If you don’t need to, you can all just watch the courses online.”

“I will miss Franklin very much,” said Albert Pisano, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Francisco. “He was a true visionary and a brilliant engineer.

“His generosity and cooperation were remarkable. Franklin and I have built a deep understanding of the importance of creating an engineering building that puts the student’s experience first by stimulating the circulation of people and ideas in the building’s design.”

Pisano said he feels a responsibility to move forward with the mission Antonio wanted.

Aiming to make the building “a gigantic, productive machine for creating all of his patents, inventions, and other innovations if you look at Franklin’s career,” said Pisano, he was a prolific inventor with hundreds of patents.

“It is very tragic. We feel we have lost a very important partner.” “But with this loss, we are determined to do everything we can to carry forward the legacy that he wanted us to carry on for him. We are determined to succeed in that.”

Antonio graduated from the University of California, San Francisco in 1974 with a BA in Applied Physics and Information Science. He worked at Linkabit for 12 years before joining Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi, and four others — Adelia Coffman, Klein Gilhousen, Harvey White and Andrew Cohen — to found Qualcomm in 1985. Gilhousen died in 2016.

Antonio has fueled the growth of Qualcomm’s engineering division and served as a project engineer for the company’s OmniTRACS satellite communications system. Antonio has also contributed multiple access technology (CDMA) to Qualcomm’s code division and the Globalstar low Earth orbit satellite system.

Phil Karen has worked with Antonio for more than two decades and says he is the reason he came to San Diego. Before Antonio recruited him to work for Qualcomm in the 1990s, they struck up a cross-country friendship through their love of HAM radios.

Karen retired from Qualcomm in 2011 and said that Antonio was easily one of the smartest people he had ever worked with, but noted that it was tough.

Karen recalled a tough math question Antonio would have asked new engineers during job interviews that became known as “Kobayashi Maru” — named after an unearned training in Star Trek. He made it clear that the point was not to see if someone could solve it, but so that Antonio could see how they handled the problem.

Another close friend of Antonio was Matt Grob, who started working at Qualcomm on the same day as Karen. He has worked for Qualcomm for 27 years, and although Grob never reports directly to Antonio, he has always appreciated his guidance. Antonio is credited with pushing for innovation at Qualcomm because he was known for his high expectations.

“He was going to challenge you,” Grob said. “We were grateful to know him and… benefit from his knowledge that he would share. He was always open to sharing his opinion.

“A lot of the engineering culture for Qualcomm, a great company, has been influenced by Franklin,” Grob said. “I mean, he will see things as they are, and he will dig into the gist of it. Then you want to understand why this choice of program was better than this choice of program. This algorithm was better than that algorithm.”

Outside of work, Karen said Antonio was a very private person with no family in the San Diego area. He was the only child who grew up in Clovis, a California town known for its farming. A few years ago, the city also recognized Antonio as one of its most famous former residents.

In San Diego, the Antonio name will continue in the new engineering building at the University of California. Karen and his friends joked that the perfect plaque to put outside the building to honor Antonio would be Kobayashi Maru’s tricky math equation.

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