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Timothy C. May, better known as Tim May (1951 – December 15, 2018) was an American technical and political writer, and was an electronic engineer and senior scientist at Intel in the company's early history.[1] He retired in 2003 and died of natural causes at his home on December 15, 2018.[2]


Discovery of alpha particle effects on computer chipsEdit

As an engineer, May was most noted for having identified the cause of the "alpha particle problem", which was affecting the reliability of integrated circuits as device features reached a critical size where a single alpha particle could change the state of a stored value and cause a single event upset. May realized that the ceramic packaging which Intel was using, made from clay, was very slightly radioactive.[3][4] Intel solved the issue by increasing the charge in each cell to reduce its susceptibility to radiation[5] and adopting plastic packaging for their products.[citation needed]

May co-authored the 1981 IEEE W.R.G. Baker Award-winning paper "Alpha-Particle-Induced Soft Errors in Dynamic Memories", published in the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices in January 1979 with Murray H. Woods.[6]

Writings on cryptography and privacyEdit

May was a founding member of, and had been one of the most voluminous contributors to, Cypherpunks electronic mailing list. He wrote extensively on cryptography and privacy from the 1990s through 2003.

May wrote a substantial cypherpunk-themed FAQ, "The Cyphernomicon" (incorporating his earlier piece "The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto"),[7] and his essay "True Nyms and Crypto Anarchy" was included in a reprint of Vernor Vinge's novel True Names. In 2001 his work was published in the book Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias.[8]


  1. ^ Greenberg, Andy (2012). This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World's Information. Dutton Adult. p. 384. ISBN 0525953205.
  2. ^ "Timothy May, the Crypto Anarchist Who Prophesised Bitcoin, Dies at 67". ICOExaminer. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  3. ^ May, Timothy C.; Woods, Murray H. (April 1978), A New Physical Mechanism for Soft Errors in Dynamic Memories, Reliability Physics Symposium, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, retrieved April 26, 2014
  4. ^ Meieran, E.; Engel, P.R.; May, T.C. (April 1979), Measurement of Alpha Particle Radioactivity in IC Device Packages, Reliability Physics Symposium, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, retrieved April 26, 2014
  5. ^ Jackson, "Inside Intel", pg. 183
  6. ^ "IEEE W. R. G. Baker Prize Award Recipients" (PDF). New York City: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 25, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  7. ^ May, Timothy C. (September 10, 1994). "The Cyphernomicon: Cypherpunks FAQ and More, Version 0.666". Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  8. ^ Ludlow, Peter, ed. (2001). Crypto anarchy, cyberstates, and pirate utopias. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-62151-7.

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