After almost twelve years at Intel, the company has decided to let me go. Like I often say, with a job at an American company, the ejector seat is fitted as standard; so, no hard feelings. It feels quite strange, though, to sit down and put a CV together at this stage in my career: there is so much I want to talk about ! Which led me to something obvious: why not blog about it? So, here we go, first post in a series where I will look back at past projects and the learnings I took from them.
It was the early 80’s, I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, and had fallen obsessively in love with programmable calculators like my TI59 and micro computers like my ZX81. I also had been practicing fencing since the age of 10 and, I’m not sure how, in discussions at my club, the idea came up that a computer might make the management of a competition more efficient. Ever the enthusiast, I ended up volunteering and being asked to make a proposal for the federation to consider…
I had to present the project in front of the federation council, a number of people I had the utmost respect for, and I was absolutely terrified. I was sitting at the table, waiting for my turn to speak, listening to the other topics when I noticed something that has helped me for many years afterwards: under the table, the president’s hand were moving nervously. In that instant I understood that even for a great speaker like him, someone so confident and respected, speaking in public was intimidating. What a powerful revelation!
I went for a solution that would be really easy to carry around, I told them they should buy a SHARP PC-1211 and its printer. Even at the time, it qualified more as a calculator than a computer, but I was convinced I could write a program on it that would do the job. And I did. I spent part of my summer writing the code on paper and the rest making it work once the actual machine was made available to me. Looking back, I’m not even sure how this could work, the machine can only show one line at a time, it has so little memory that it’s even difficult for me, now, to accept we ran competitions using it. But we did, the machine handled group phases followed by direct eliminations, it printed results and next bouts on tiny bits of paper that were proudly displayed between phases… A couple of years later, PC clones had become cheap enough, they got one, a full size printer and some professional software. In the blink of an eye things had evolved from tedious paperwork to complete automation !
After this project, there was no question: « this is what I do ». I was useful to society, I experienced this feeling of achievement, people trusted me ! To this day, this remains my drive: being trusted with a problem to solve, and cracking it.
CPU: custom 4bits,0.25MHz,1C1T
RAM: 1.5KB(?!) Storage: n/a
Connectivity: cassette tapes