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我们知道计算机刚被发明出来的时候它的尺寸大得惊人,可以装满几间房子,而现在一台手机的运算能力就要超过数十年前的超级计算机,这一切依赖于科学的进步,也得益于理念的创新。Tom West就是计算机硬件小型化的先驱,他领导设计的Data  General MV/8000小型机开创了小型电脑时代,为未来的PC甚至是笔记本指明了方向,这名先驱者Tom West已于2011年5月19日逝世。

West在1972年加入Data General公司,参与计算机小型化的开发,真正令他名声大振的是1981年来自作者Tracy Kidder的《Soul of a New Machine》,书中展望了未来小型电脑技术,并被各大学校当成教材,最终推动了计算机小型化的发展。

uploads/201105/1306808295fd8umgEB.jpg
一本写于22年前的书,无疑是一本经得起时间锤打的经典。它讲述了一群忘我工作的电脑技术人员,制造一台新型计算机的动人过程。可以说,本书定义了计算机业整整一个时代的灵魂和精神。

目录

简介编辑本段回目录

Joseph Thomas "Tom" West III (22 November 1939 – 19 May 2011) was the protagonist of the Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction book The Soul of a New Machine. West worked for Data General Corporation as a hardware engineer and vice president, retiring as Chief Technologist in 1998. West died at the age of 71 in his Westport, Massachusetts home of an apparent heart attack. He is survived by two daughters, one of whom is Jessamyn West.

This picture of the team that built Data General's Eagle minicomputer 

  普立策得主纪德(Tracy Kidder)曾经报导过关于数据通用公司(Data General)的产品开发小组,在不可思议的短时间内,开发出具有突破性新电脑的事迹。我在几年之后亲自访问到该小组的领导人韦思特(Tom West)。他说当时他们整个计划中某项关键软体的发展进度落后好几个月,负责该部分的三位工程师那天傍晚来到办公室,第二天早上离开时,他们竟然在那晚完成了近三个月的工作,实在令人难以置信。这绝不是韦思特要求他们如此的,而是由于他们自己真心想要实现这份愿景,这也就是真正的投入或奉献与遵从的差别所在。

《新机器的灵魂》:IT业魂在何方?编辑本段回目录

“计算机业的一年,就像狗生命中的一年那么漫长。”

计算机业最振奋也是最残酷的特性就是喜新厌旧。无论是产品、技术,还是公司和人,最可怕的结局就是一不留神被时间的浪涛打翻。而这又是命中注定的唯一结局。似乎计算机业内对任何事物的历史指向只有一个:贬值,然后消失。用基德尔最精辟的话说:“计算机业的一年,就像狗生命中的一年那么漫长。”

但疯狂的节奏下,一些内在的东西是弥久的,甚至是永恒的。毕竟,任何一个行业,其真正的主角都是人,而人恐怕是世界上最难升级的事物。《新机器的灵魂》(The soul of a new machine),一本写于22年前的书,无疑是一本经得起时间锤打的经典。它讲述了一群忘我工作的电脑技术人员,制造一台新型计算机的动人过程。可以说,本书定义了计算机业整整一个时代的灵魂和精神。虽然,业内技术两年一变,人物五年一换,但这个产业的问题和驱动力与十年、二十年前相比并无两样,只是不同的公司扮演着不同的角色而已。无论是后来的PC之火,还是互联网浪潮,都没有脱离贯穿这个产业数十年的本质。

尼葛洛庞帝(Negroponte)在他那本著名的《数字化生存》中写道:“我很喜欢问别人记不记得特雷西·基德尔(Tracy Kidder)的那本《新机器的灵魂》。然后,我会问读过这本书的人,记不记得书中问题成堆的那家电脑公司叫什么名字。我还没有碰到过一个答对这个问题的人。通用数据公司(Data Genera1,也就是上述那本书中提到的公司)、王安(Wang)、普莱电脑(Prime)等公司,都曾经飞速发展,成为一时俊杰,但它们也都完全忽略了开放系统(open system)的重要性。”

而另一本同样流行的《第五项修炼》(彼得·圣吉)中也有这样一段:“普立策得主基德尔曾经报导过关于通用数据公司(Data General)的产品开发小组,在不可思议的短时间内,开发出具有突破性新电脑的事迹。我在几年之后亲自访问到该小组的领导人韦斯特(Tom West)。他说当时他们整个计划中某项关键软体的发展进度落后好几个月,负责该部分的三位工程师那天傍晚来到办公室,第二天早上离开时,他们竟然在那晚完成了近三个月的工作,实在令人难以置信。这绝不是韦斯特要求他们如此的,而是由于他们自己真心想要实现这份愿景,这也就是真正的投入或奉献与遵从的差别所在。”

两个引述,一正一反,两个截然不同的角度,都指向了同样一本书、一个作者、一个公司。昭示着IT发展历史上一段非常独特的故事。由于这本书的存在,使其没有被时间所冲刷殆尽,而永远定格在了我们的阅读视野之中。 

“你必死无疑,但死得光彩照人”

故事发生在七十年代末,那时PC刚刚萌芽,计算机市场正是小型机的天下。因此故事的背景不是硅谷而是麻省,主角不是当今业内的哪家巨头,而恰恰是已被历史波涛打翻的通用数据(Data General)公司。

1966年,DEC公司把PDP-8投放市场时一举成功,为公司发了一笔横财。一部由该公司出版的技术史著作指出,PDP-8确立了小型机的概念,为几十亿美元的事业开辟了道路。然而,这本书并没有谈及当时年仅20多岁的PDP-8设计者德·卡斯特罗,只是在叙述别的事情时,蜻蜓点水般地提到他。显然,他们故意把卡斯特罗从历史上抹掉了。在奥尔森眼里,卡斯特罗是个爱惹麻烦的工程师,经常不遵守工作规程,总喜欢标新立异,他否决了卡斯特罗的计划。19684月,卡斯特罗等三位工程师气愤地退出DEC公司,在毗邻梅纳德市的哈德逊镇,他们租下一间美容院旧房子,决心与DEC对着干。卡斯特罗创建了自己的公司“通用数据公司”,英文缩写DGC,与DEC只差一个字,同样研制小型机。1969年,卡斯特罗率先推出了16位小型机系列产品,名字叫做“新星”(Nova),第一年就卖出200台,成功地打破了DEC的一统天下,成为1969年最红火的新公司。

这就是故事的基本背景。是以小型机市场为舞台——这块需要勇气和蛮横的领地,由于卡斯特罗的进入,而让它变得更加粗暴野蛮。通过进攻性的市场策略,1978年,年仅10岁的通用数据公司挤进了全美《财富》500强工业企业之列。但是,此时,包括DEC在内的几家竞争对手推出了32位超级小型机。尤其是DECVAX系列,象一场谁也阻止不了的大火燃遍市场。对通用数据公司来说,拿不出象样的新机器去耀武扬威,固然是一件十分痛苦的事。更重要的是公司正面临失去竞争优势和生存机会的危险。因为,这个行业的客户是不会同那些技术落后的公司攀亲或保持关系。

工程师汤姆·韦斯特比公司的领导层更明了危机所在。他在维堡的研究小组准备充当救火员,提出EGO方案,以迎头阻击VAX。但通用数据在北卡罗来纳也有一研究基地,也要一试身手。双方必须先决出胜负。于是,交战双方的工程师用一连串复杂的数据和图纸向领导展开轮番轰炸。不幸的是,EGO被枪毙了,技术之外的因素起了很大的作用。大伙萎靡不振,但又不甘心,提出向下兼容的32位技术新构想。这一次韦斯特耍了个小花招,同时带两个提案交付审查,其中一个根本行不通。他就“象一个举足轻重的人,先是掀起一场风暴,然后再把唯一的生路指给众人”。项目当然通过了,他们将这台着手设计的机器命名为“鹰”(Eagle),这是VAX的真正杀手克星。

不少有才华的工程师认为,“鹰”只不过是“树瘤子,破口袋,杂毛鸡”,并不想加盟。因此,一开始维堡的地下室简直跟一座临时凑起来的牲畜栏差不多。秘书露丝玛丽留在组内,她想“就象那些恐怖电影一样,我非得看看结局不可”。为招买新兵,韦斯特采纳了摩西·克雷(巨型机之父)的惯用伎俩:瞄准那些刚刚迈出校门的毕业生。因为“大学生其实很缺乏自制力的,女孩子、美酒或者是编程都可以把他们轻易击”。而诱引他们的最佳方式就是项目本身。除了通用数据,没有公司会将如此带劲的项目交给新手去干。因此招聘过程有点象招募敢死队员的味道,你告诉他们:“你必死无疑,但死得光彩照人”。而工作环境“象是某个心理学家为了实验一些小动物的耐受力而设立的墓地”。这个招数自然十分奏效。在娃娃兵加盟后,韦斯特手下的雇佣兵数目通常保持在30人左右。

说真的,韦斯特有点怕VAX,虽然有关VAX的技术材料一件不漏地读过,但阅读不等于了解。于是,1978年,一个假日的早晨,韦斯特冒充内部工作人员,大摇大摆进入一座大厦,悄悄溜进机房,将一台崭新的VAX机大拆大卸,把“内脏”摸了个透,再照原样装好后大摇大摆离去。对VAX的恐惧感消失了,因为他从VAX中还窥见了使DEC大获全胜的那种谨小慎微的官僚作风。

韦斯特需要一个最关键的结构设计师,史蒂夫·华莱士无疑是最合适的人选。这是一本有生命的计算机百科全书,完全把自己的身心溶进了金属和硅片构成的世界。十年间他参与过五种计算机的设计工程,可惜只有一次看到自己所设计的机器实际开动,而恰恰又是这唯一的一次,又赶上用户不买帐。这无疑是一位红着眼,急待一拼的最好的雇佣兵。

紧张、刺激混杂着狂热的工作开始了。限于篇幅,本文对这部分内容不作详述,交给读者自己去领略。

最后的答案——“自我和金钱”                                                

工业化时代的趋势,就是工作日益细分为一个个乏味的作业。但在计算机业,工作却获得了独特的乐趣。许多人一谈到项目就眼睛发亮,兴奋不已。而且,这个行业遵循弹子球游戏的规则:如果赢了,你可以再玩;但如果输了,想再玩可是没门儿。因此,韦斯特制造了一系列无休止的丛林战争,让他的部下去扑灭战火,从中获取一种疯狂。并有在疯狂的环境中,把这台机器造出来。

项目开始时,周围基本没什么管理机构,随着项目不断推进,管理机构庞大起来,许多新的行政人员介入其中。一场新的战争越来越激烈。最终,项目应验了美国西部片的典型结局:城镇雇来一名枪手解决问题,但问题解决后,枪手依然是枪手,那些体面的市民容他不得,迟早要把他赶出城去。

197911月,韦斯特从地下室搬到楼上,距离不远,却是另一个国度,他去从事一个与市场有关的新工作。人们走过他的办公室如同参加一个小小的葬礼。韦斯特伤感地说:“现在再回头看鹰机,确实成了一大乐趣,全靠它暖心呢?”他终于发现,无论是对他还是对那些忠实的部下,连那残酷的弹子球游戏规则也是一场骗局。

“鹰”大功告成,但公司面临困境,工程师们更不可能象英雄似的受到欢迎。大家沉浸在“产后郁闷”的情绪中,心里空了一大块。1980年秋,小组解散,成为它成功的最后报答。“兔死狗烹啊!”许多人只能耸耸肩膀。许多人离开了公司,许多人为评功论赏争执不已。1980429,通用数据向全世界宣告了鹰牌计算机的诞生,它的名字不再叫做“鹰”,销售部门正式命名为“日蚀MV/8000。此时,向新闻界和买主们描述机器的人已经与机器的设计制造者毫不相干,它已不属于创造这机器的人。

“用什么去激发人们的干劲呢?”

“自我和金钱。”问者自己回答,“用自我和金钱来购买他们及其家庭所想要的东西”

这就是本书最后的答案。

当然,通用数据公司和卡斯特罗的故事并没有结束。1980年到1984年期间,公司由于新机型及高级综合电子办公室(CEO)软件的引入而增加。公司1984年毛收入比1983年增加了40%。但是,同样发轫于1981年的PC之火已经熊熊燃起。与其他小型机公司一样,在价格低廉的PC冲击下,1985年后通用数据公司也开始走下坡路。1985年到1989年底,公司裁员,关闭了几家工厂,但是收入依然下滑,赤字高挂。

1989年,卡斯特罗担任董事长,也无力回天,于1990年非常凄凉地离开了自己一手创办的公司。1991年,新产品的开发成功及降低成本使公司开始了自1986年以来的第一次盈利。公司继续生存着,但是在IT历史上再也没有什么显赫的位置了。而曾经更加辉煌的DEC,在1998年被Compaq购并,作价96亿美元。刚刚消化完毕,Compaq又在2002年落入惠普的肚子。在IT业,只有“无情”,而从来没有“同情”二字。

但是,同样的故事依然在不断重演,这就是IT业的魅力和动力所在。他们坐在计算机前,“双眼深陷但却闪着灼人的光芒”,并“沉浸在自大狂们所特有的那种无上权威的梦幻之中”,就“像赌徒盯着正在转动的骰子似的将注意力集中在计算机上”。当年,基德尔用来描述计算机迷的话语。而今,用在互联网淘金者和IT业新加盟者身上,只能更加贴切。这些人一批批前赴后继,新陈代谢,使产业活力不减。尤其是刚刚过去的互联网热潮,更是以无数的年轻人“透支式生存”为代价。他们在互联网上拼搏,拿自己的青春为燃料,超速燃烧。

Michael Wolff有一本书叫《燃烧的速度》(Burn Rate),讲叙他自己在互联网淘金浪潮中的非凡经历,他将互联网比喻成一个黑洞,以燃烧的速度消耗金钱,直到有一天资金跟不上,也就“光荣”地归入失败者行列。与《新机器的灵魂》的故事几乎是同样的模子。

一个外行人对产业的内行透视                                              

作为美国最出色的非虚构类作家之一,他著作等身,数十本之多,内容涉及产业、家庭、老年人、教育和社区等。细微之处见功底,日常之中显哲理,普通之中出内涵,这是基德尔的拿手好戏。这本透视IT业的书籍仅仅是他透视人生的一个驿站而已。后来,就再也没有为IT写过第二本。但是,仅仅是这样一次“邂逅”,就为这个产业留下了一本难以替代的佳作。

基德尔19451112日出生于纽约市,父亲是律师,母亲是教师。1949年,随家搬到长岛。他说自己的小学生活“十分可怕”,一再抗拒父母要他进入寄宿学校的要求。13岁时,他遇到了教师汤姆里根,成为培养他写作能力的重要人物。进入哈佛,原本的理想是成为一名外交官。但是,二年级时,突然觉得当作家才真正浪漫。于是,开始没日没夜阅读和写作,为此经常旷课。开始显示非凡天赋,立志成为作家,并开始创作短篇小说。1967年,毕业于哈佛大学。1969年起,他参加爱荷华大学(University of Iowa)的“作家工作坊”(Writers Workshop),三年内,他和全世界一流作家一起交流研究,大大开阔了视野和志向。1973年起,基德尔展开记者生涯。1974年获得爱荷华大学艺术硕士(M.F.A.),并出版第一本书,人们被誉为具有奥威尔(George Orwell)的风格。

1981年的《新机器的灵魂》将他推向了事业的颠峰,不但大受好评,冲向畅销书的榜首,并于1982年为他一举赢得普利策奖和非小说类的美国图书奖(American Book Award)两项大奖。《纽约时报》书评版的评语是:“一次真实生活的历险传奇”。《花花公子》的评语是:“才华横溢,简洁明快,新颖独特”。《华盛顿邮报》评价是:“特雷西·基德尔能把最平淡无奇的事情变成一个生动迷人的故事。”

《新机器的灵魂》不是一本技术书籍,而是一个外行人对计算机业的内行透视。你可以将它当作一本小说,故事、语言精彩动人。但故事之外,同样富于内涵,因此还可以当作企业管理的案例,一个项目管理的实例。因为,作者引导读者钻进机器内部、产业内部、企业内部,作了一次难忘的旅行。本书在美国不断再版,业内外均受欢迎。《公司》(Inc.)杂志将其列为历史上最佳商业书籍之一,U.C.BerkeleyHaas商学院将其列为MBA组织行为课程的必读书籍。

基德尔的写作特色在于,总能结合记者果敢的精神与小说家敏锐的感受,把不太受重视的真实故事转化为吸引注意的焦点。1985年,基德尔出版《房屋》(House)一书,依旧风评甚佳,大受欢迎。《学童纪事》(Among Schoolchildren)为基德尔第三本畅销书,报导一位年轻老师与学区内孩童上课一学年的互动。该书赢得Ambassador Book AwardRobert F. Kennedy Awardand the Christopher Award等奖项,风行英国、澳大利亚、纽西兰等英语系国家。自然,不可能再达到《新机器的灵魂》那样的辉煌。

    本书国内有好几个版本:《新机器的灵魂》(上海科技,1990)、《一代新机器的灵魂》(机械工业,1990)以及台湾的《打造天鹰(新机器之灵)》。机械工业出版社的版本译文贴近原文风格,第一个版本使作者智慧黯淡不少。但是,一本好书与好人、好技术、好产品一样,并不一定总与成功相伴,本书在国内的遭遇就是很好的例证。虽然这是美国经久不衰的畅销书,但机械工业版的印数只有1730本,我在书店无缘邂逅,倒是在旧书摊看到了一大捆。看完之后,拍案叫绝,又赶紧回去,想把那一捆旧书全部买下,准备送给业界的朋友们。结果已经人去路空,抱憾不已。英文版已经再版多次,畅销不衰,可是中文版就不知道什么时候才会再版。

英文特写编辑本段回目录

Data General veteran expanding NUMA, open systems technology

"Engineering is--and has to be--a creative profession."

  • Age: 56
  • Current Position: Senior vice president of advanced development,
  • Data General Corp.
  • Years at Data General: 24
  • Place of Birth: Westchester County, New York
  • Last Book Read: Primary Colors
  • Car He Drives: 1994 Saab 9000
  • Favorite Nonwork Activity: Playing the guitar, sailing around the Boston and New England area.
  • On Microsoft: "I'm not as anti-Microsoft as some others. I think they play an important role when you need identical systems in order to attract applications."
  • Open Systems Pet Peeve: "I wish [the open systems community] could expand its vocabulary a little bit. It's created so much jargon that the language has lost any content. I can read a whole article and realize nothing happened. People assume that a lot of these noms de jour like 'openness' and 'interoperability' have some sort of magical meaning. It's important that systems are open, but it's also important that we get on with the next concept."

By Richard Cole

The book The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder was published in 1981 and became an improbable--but instant--best-seller. Describing the development of a new 32-bit minicomputer at Data General, Kidder was able to create a lively and suspense-filled narrative out of a highly technical subject by clearly explaining not only complex technology but also the equally complex people who developed it. At the center of this story was Tom West, head of the engineering team that developed that new machine.

Even now, 15 years later, Tom can still find himself recognized as "that manager in the Kidder book," and he has to admit that "the book has changed my life, in some ways, forever." He feels that Kidder did a thorough and accurate job of reporting, although he does admit that it was "a bit disarming" to find Kidder interviewing his children at the breakfast table.

It was also strange for Tom to see himself as a character in someone's book. On the one hand, he was portrayed as an inspiring leader. As Kidder put it, "West . . . had a way of making ordinary things seem special; in this case a 32-bit Eclipse was being transformed into the occasion for an adventure." On the other hand, his character remained an enigma--sometimes intriguing, sometimes even vaguely threatening--to even his closest coworkers. One engineer is quoted as saying, "When I first went to work, [West] was my boss, and it was amazing. Half the time I couldn't figure out what he was saying. He expected you to be on his secret wavelength, and if you weren't, he'd be disappointed in you."

Describing his initial reaction to the book, Tom recalls, "Tracy didn't show anyone what he was writing for about two years. And then one night I get 200 pages in galley proofs. Well, reading that was like getting 200 pages of psychoanalysis all at once."

Although the book made West one of the first techno-celebrities, he admits thatperhaps he would have been happier to have "remained anonymous," and indeed, Kidder's book describes only one segment in a long and varied career.

Digital Clocks

Tom's early life had little to do with computers. As an undergraduate with middling grades at Amherst College, he was officially declared an "underachiever" and expelled for a year, the better to improve his character. Tom spent the year happily playing folk guitar in coffeehouses around Boston, returning to finish a bachelor's degree in physics.

Tom had spent summers working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and he found a full-time position there straight out of college. Among other projects, he designed and built digital clocks that were used in NASA's space program. The clocks were used with telescopes to photograph and accurately calibrate satellite orbits, and each clock had to be synchronized and physically placed at different sites around the world. Tom spent several years traveling to remote areas and setting up the clocks. The job was fairly straightforward, though it did have its interesting moments. In Colombia, he was thrown in prison for a brief time because his clocks looked to the authorities like secret weapons.

Toward the end of the 1960s, funding for his projects began to dry up, so Tom decided to get another job. Intrigued by computers, he checked out what books he could find on the subject at the local library and started to read them on his back porch. Six weeks later, he landed a job at RCA where he essentially taught himself to be a computer engineer.

RCA gave him increasingly important projects, but he found the atmosphere confining, so he moved to Data General where he soon became a development team manager. For several years, he "pounded out 16-bit Eclipses." Then, in 1977, he was picked to manage the team that developed the first 32-bit Eclipse. Code-named Eagle, the computer was designed to go head to head with the 32-bit VAX series from Digital Equipment Corp. As such, the 32-bit Eagle had to be not only as good but better than any 32-bit minicomputer on the market. West and his team worked seemingly impossible hours against seemingly impossible deadlines and finally completed the computer known as the Eclipse MV/8000. It outperformed the VAX machines and became the first in a series of successful minicomputers.

Laptops in Japan

In the fall of 1979, their work completed, the Eclipse development team was disbanded and Tom became manager of Japanese business development for Data General. "Japan was great," he says, describing visits in the country in the early 1980s. There were relatively few American business people in Japan at that time, and even Tokyo wasn't as Westernized as it is today. "Every time you turned a corner," he says, "there was something fascinating that you didn't understand."

The period was an exciting one for Japanese technology. Hewlett-Packard had just released a bombshell report suggesting that Japanese computer manufacturers were surpassing the U.S. in terms of quality. U.S. manufacturers were going through a period of deep angst, examining Japanese management and manufacturing techniques to try to find the secret of their success.

Tom studied Japanese through Berlitz courses in Massachusetts and flew to Japan "eight or 10 times" a year. He worked at Nippon Minicomputer, a manufacturing company in which Data General owned a controlling interest. With Nippon's engineers and managers, he oversaw the development of the DG/One, the world's first laptop computer. Tom asserts that the DG/One was also the first computer developed through a complete, one-to-one collaboration between American and Japanese engineers. The Americans contributed PC technology. The Japanese added a CMOS microprocessor, flat-panel displays, the first 3.5-inch floppy diskette drive and the first 3.5-inch hard diskdrive.

Unix and NUMA

Tom returned to Eclipse development in 1983, working on several generations of Eclipse machines. Since 1988, he has been influential in developing several products for Unix-based platforms. In 1988, he spearheaded the development of Aviion, Data General's Unix-based product line of servers. In 1992, he oversaw the creation of the Clariion business unit responsible for the development, marketing and sales of open storage systems for the commercial Unix market. "Open systems are simply the thing of the future; there's no question about it," he says. "And the systems keep getting more and more open."

Currently, he is working on projects involving NUMA (Non-Uniform Memory Access), a clustering technology that allows many processors to work together. As Tom points out, since Intel chips and the motherboards supporting these chips have become so powerful, their combined performance now approaches mainframe levels. The trick is how to combine them in the best manner. Microsoft, Compaq, Data General and a host of other companies are trying, each in their own way, to link processors together. The advantage with NUMA, Tom says, is that applications from one processor can run almost unmodified on another one in the cluster. "You get all the Intel benefits like performance and low cost," Tom says, "while preserving the investment made in applications and training."

Tom adds that Data General is working with a number of other companies. "This is an issue where a whole lot of fragmented efforts are going to defeat the cause." When questioned about the number of processors that might be ultimately tied together, he only says, "Who knows? It's a crawl, walk, run sort of thing. We'll just have to see. This is a software issue. It's like symmetric multiprocessing [SMP] in Unix; it takes a long time to get the software to work."

When asked about other projects, West laughs and says he can't talk about specifics. However, he does say that "if you buy the notion that the world is going to be made up of Intel motherboards connected together in various ways over high-speed networks, then the way you think about input/output, mass storage and other concepts will change, too. So it's not just about the computer engine, which is what NUMA is all about; it's about scaling other parts of the system as well."

Next-Generation Engineers

Tom has been around long enough to see a new generation of engineers assume important roles in today's computer industry. He mentions that "twenty-something" engineers seem far more career-oriented than engineers from the 1970s; they have a clearer sense of what they want to do, how to get there and how much money it is going to cost. "In the 1960s, there were few computer science curriculums and computer tools around," he says. "You'd get people with pure science degrees, math degrees, history degrees. We had a lot of disciplines. Now the people we're hiring have more trade-related degrees like electrical engineering or computer science."

Do today's highly focused engineers have the same level of creativity as engineers from the wild and wooly early days of the industry? "That's a potential problem," concedes Tom. "In the past, people joined the computer industry because they didn't want to sign up for the whole nine yards of Commercial America. Now, the kids today have signed up for that before they enter college."

At the same time, Tom objects to the notion that today's engineers--and engineers in general--are one-dimensional and too concerned with highly controlled environments. "The whole business of control is not limited to engineers," he points out. "People in finance, say, or manufacturing have the same problem. It's important to think one-dimensionally in working through a difficult problem. But the stereotype goes too far in describing the whole person."

West has seen more than a few changes over the years. "When I first started and you were at a cocktail party and you told people you were in computers, they shrunk away to the other side of the room. Now people want to tell you about their kid's Macintosh and their hard drive." At this point in his own career, he says, "There aren't many mountains left to climb." However, he looks forward to new challenges and to introducing new engineers to the field. "I'd like to spend more time getting some of these kids onto projects that they're going to be proud of when they get to my point in life." 

参考文献编辑本段回目录

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_West
http://www.uniforum.org/publications/uninews/960313/profile.html
http://fxd.bokee.com/3276344.html


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