I first started using email circa 1981. In those days of yore, I was excited to receive an email every "now and then" (not the least that they usually contained something of substance). These days, of course, I can look forward to literally hundreds of messages a day. The majority are SPAM of one form or another, while the rest form a "mixed bag" from EDA and silicon chip companies and also from visitors to Programmable Logic DesignLine.
In this latter category, I've been introduced to novel grammatical (and spelling) constructions that rarely see the light of day. Sometimes there's a query that entices me into pondering a problem, occasionally there's a chatty message commenting on something I've written, and sometimes I'm presented with an email that makes my head hurt and leaves me saying: "What was that guy thinking?" For example, consider the following:
Dude, check out this cool stuff
How good is it?
What? Give me strength! Believe it or not, the above (which comprised the entire body of the message) was penned by an engineer at Intel. I don't even understand the point of the email. Does this guy want me to check out the tools from Impulse and then tell him how good they are? Or is the last 33% of the message (the "How good is it?" part) actually intended to convey the idea that these tools are really rather good (in fact I know the guys at Impulse, and their C-to-RTL synthesis technology is very clever indeed).
At the other end of the spectrum, I occasionally receive messages that I really enjoy and savor. For example, consider the following email that recently rolled through my router concerning the "How To" article I penned a few weeks ago on Assertion-Level Logic:
Hello Max, your Assertion-Level logic tutorial reminded me of a situation I was in at XXXXXX [Editor's note: Names have been changed/deleted to protect the innocent.] around 1983. I was temporarily assigned to the XXXXXX group to get a XXXXXX built. [Editor's note: I bet you're really wondering what this was, aren't you?]
The manager that ran the group had a reputation of being very volatile. I was a little nervous being around him for fear of catching some of the shrapnel if he exploded. Since I was new to the group everything I did or said was considered with skepticism.
One day, I was busy working on my project when I found myself pulled into a discussion (argument) about the value of what you call Assertion-Logic. One of his guys was attempting to sell him on it but wasn't making progress. Somehow I found myself attempting to explain the advantages of sometimes showing say a NAND gate as an inverted OR for the purpose of making the intent of the input signal more obvious. There happened to be a large logic diagram on a nearby chalk board. I had no idea what it was for but we started using it to make the point. (He was starting to get a little loud.) He could appreciate the minor improvement in clarifying the purpose of the input but as we walked through the circuit and changed a few more gates he suddenly blurted out: "But that's not what we want the circuit to do!"
At this point he was sure he had finally nailed the lid on his argument that there was no value in manipulating the representation of the gates and that I could just slither off and not bother him anymore.
With a lot less confidence than I was showing I blurted out: "Well then, your circuit is wrong!" I was really wishing I had a flak jacket about now. He just stared at me for what seemed like a full minute and then turned to the chalk board and made a minor change to the schematic and summoned one of his engineers over and told him about the change that he had just made. The engineer spent about five minutes fiddling with the hardware and came back to say: "Damn! It works! I've been fighting with this thing for two weeks. How did you figure that out?"
Best regards, XXXXXX
Now, that's what I call an email. I could have been that young engineer. This is the sort of message that takes me back to the days when I had just started out. It's the age-old question – Do you tell your boss when he's being a doofus, or do you just keep your head down?
Do you have any tales to tell? If so, then just like Frasier Crane: "I'm listening."
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at email@example.com). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.