SAN FRANCISCO--Time was, once, when our industry had voice and
There was sound and fury and energy and opera. Sanders and Grove and
Noyce and second-sourcing and copyright and patent battles fought in
packed courtrooms colored with yellow legal pads and purple
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There was quiet confidence and certainty, as Packard and Hewlett
walked around their empire and offered dissertations on productivity
and how to run a business and compete and treat people. There were
Giffords, and Corrigans and Vonderschmitts and Sporcks--outsized
personalities with super-size-me ambitions. In EDA, there was Joe
Costello, who seemed to be the only executive who could articulate
the sector's value, but he did it like he'd written for Johnny
Carson (remember the dog food line?).
They fought and competed, invented and failed and succeeded;
abandoned companies and started new ones and found new voices. And
they got together occasionally as a group, as the industry sprouted
into awkward adolescence, and spoke with one loud voice when they
needed to and then went back to scuffling amongst themselves.
What happened? It all seemed to vanish, like steam whisping away
from a great locomotive's stack.
Today, it's as quiet as a proctologist's waiting room. There's the
occasional T.J. Rodgers jewel, some wild, funny and usually
laser-beam outrage, but he seems tired, as if the battles have
winded him. The only voice left in the industry is from an EDA guy
who used to be in the semiconductor business, Wally Rhines of Mentor Graphics. When he
retires, it'll be all quiet again, with the ominous ticking of some
grandfather clock down the hall to punctuate the silence.
The whole SOX fiasco hogtied our industry and gagged the leaders, but there are still some great voices out here. Take Dr. T from National Instruments: Passion personified. And then startup CEOs like Brett Fox of Touchstone (nice interview, by the way, Brian)who are making good headway and making no bones about it. But, alas, your point is still valid, echoes in the silicon corridor, "Is there anybody out there?"
Successful businessmen do not always make for good theater or good EE Times interviews.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page may not come off as mad scientists or swashbuckling pirates, but they've done their fair share of meaningful work.
Flashiness is over-rated.
Furthermore, this is a time where even inhabitants of third-world villages know what comes out of Silicon Valley. Its success stories are treated like rock stars.
I wouldn't worry about the allure of engineering being diminished in recent years.
I think you hit the nail on the head. The mavericks of yesteryear inspired people, and they occasionally spoke first and thought it through later, sometimes with negative results. I would argue that these kinds of people are still running Silicon Valley companies, but everyone has gotten way more careful. Statements are more carefully vetted in the era of Sarbanes-Oxley and heightened concern over day to day stock price fluctuation. Being careful has its merits, but we do lose something.
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