Timothy C. May

Timothy C. May, better known as Tim May (December 21, 1951 – December 13, 2018) was an American technical, political writer, electronic engineer and senior scientist at Intel in the company's early history,[1] as well as the founder of the crypto-anarchist movement. He retired from Intel in 1986 at age 35 and died of natural causes at his home on December 13, 2018 at age 66.[2]

Discovery of alpha particle effects on computer chips

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 that 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.

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]

Social and political views

May was an advocate for libertarianism[7][8] and for internet privacy.[9]

He was a founding member of, and had been one of the most voluminous contributors to, the 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");[10] 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.[11]

May lived as a recluse. His New York Times obituary noted: "He often wrote about arming himself and waiting for government agents to show up. After the Cypherpunks faded in the early 2000s, he began expressing racist sentiments to other online groups".[2]


  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 978-0525953203.
  2. Popper, Nathaniel (2018-12-21). "Timothy C. May, Early Advocate of Internet Privacy, Dies at 66". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-26.
  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). IEEE.org. New York City: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  7. "Tim May, The Father of Crypto Anarchy, Has Passed Away". Being Libertarian. December 20, 2018.
  8. "Libertaria in Cyberspace". Satoshi Nakamoto Institute. September 1, 1992.
  9. "Timothy C. May, Early Advocate of Internet Privacy, Dies at 66". The New York Times. December 21, 2018.
  10. May, Timothy C. (September 10, 1994). "The Cyphernomicon: Cypherpunks FAQ and More, Version 0.666". Cypherpunks.to. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  11. Ludlow, Peter, ed. (2001). Crypto anarchy, cyberstates, and pirate utopias. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-62151-7.
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