Word has reached me over the last week or so of three people who I’ve never – or at least probably never – met who passed on. However, all three have had at least some impact on me, who I am, and what I do.
Chronologically, the first one was Steve Jobs, who has probably had the least impact on my life. While I am typing this on a mac, and carry an iPhone and iPod with me, Jobs is only part of the reasons. Frankly, Microsoft’s OS’s continuing problems with stability, long term performance degradation and lack of security probably have more to do with my owning a mac than Apple or Steve Jobs. The other two I got because they were the product in the category that best met my needs. On the other hand, I do have respect for Jobs as a computer pioneer, salesman and corporate executive.
Next to die was Robert Galvin, who had more impact on my life. Galvin was the President and CEO of Motorola when I started working there fresh out of college. The corporate culture that he promoted accounted in part for me remaining at Motorola longer than most of my other friends – and to actually come back after I left the first time. It was increasingly clear after Galvin and his son Chris were no longer in charge – I think Chris was basically forced out – that the culture of the company rapidly changed. By the time I left for the second time in 2008, Motorola was no longer the company I started with, and was much less a company I wanted to work for.
Most recently was Dennis Ritchie, who clearly had a lot of impact on my life. He was key in two developments that I use, or in the past have used, daily. About the only extensive periods since entering college that I wasn’t using some sort of Unix or Unix derivation operating system was the 14 months I worked at Sony in 1998 and 1999, and my first couple of years at Qualcomm. Similarly, I’ve used C or another programming language that was based on C as my primary programming language since college. And that doesn’t take into account all of the other things I use daily or regularly that have either C, Unix or both at their core.
While I didn’t know any of these men personally, and with the possible exception of Galvin, I don’t think I met them either. But I will remain grateful for what they did and the impact they’ve had on my life and my society.