I sold my dad his first computer.
It was 1977, the year that Radio Shack launched its groundbreaking personal computer, the TRS-80. This was by far the best summer job I had during high school, selling electronics at what was then the most popular electronics chain in America. My dad, a professor of Biochemistry at a medical school, used the Scripsit word processing software to write technical papers and automated lab equipment using his new computer (he added at least one more in the years after I stopped working at Radio Shack.)
Dad was an early adopter of computer technology, and a few summers later he tried to get me interested in working for him in the lab to maintain his growing fleet of IBM PC’s.
Work on a personal computer? I scoffed at such an idea. Surely these things were just toys, and the “real” computers supported many multiples of users, not just one.
Imagine the crushing irony when I took a job twenty years later at the world’s most influential PC company: Intel! To make matters worse, I was working at the Intel division which designed and sold PC boards.
But I had long before lost the bias that the PC was a toy. The PC is indeed a serious computing system. But it did not end my fascination with big multi-user server systems. Across a 30 year career, I have only had about four years of working exclusively on PC’s. Servers and embedded systems have been the majority of my career focus as an engineer and then a manager.
Back in graduate school, I was an operating system and compiler guy. These have remained powerful themes in my entire working career, whether it was contributing Unix code in the 1980s in an early version of open source or contributing to the modern Linux* ecosystem, now in compilers.
One time, I was introduced by a friend in the industry as an “internal entrepreneur”. It was probably because of my pattern of launching new projects and groups at Intel. I launched the Yocto* Project in 2010 for embedded Linux, the Minnowboard open hardware project, an OpenSolaris* project and a number of others. Currently I’m leading a new team contributing to language interpreters for servers, such as Python, PHP, HHVM and Node.js*.
There has been a strong international flavor for the teams I have led, resulting in 34 trips to China, 8 visits to Romania and a number of others.
At the same time, I feel a strong pull towards greater social impact in our work and in helping people succeed in theirs. I was delighted to learn that the first industrial use of Yocto Project 1.0 was an embedded system to provide warning of flooding for the people in Malaysia.
These are some of the key influences which drive my perspective on the industry. I hope I can offer some insight in this blog for Intel. Let me know through comments if there is something you want to hear my views about.