In January 1979 the first Caltech Conference On Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) took place at Caltech in Pasadena. At this meeting
David L. Johannsen, a graduate student of Carver Mead, presented a paper entitled "Bristle Blocks: A Silicon Compiler," describing his research on silicon compilation. This was the first use of the term to describe a software system that takes a user's specifications and automatically generates an integrated circuit (IC), translating the electronic design of a chip into the layout of the logic gates, including the actual masking from one transistor to another. The process is sometimes referred to as hardware compilation. Silicon compilation eventually created a new business model for the semiconductor industry, called fabless manufacturing.
Johannsen, Mead, and Edmund K. Cheng subsequently founded Silicon Compilers Inc. (SCI) in 1981.