Art History

Posted in In My Opinion...

Today's subject should be easy, because I'm writing about someone I consider a good friend, but I'm also nervous about doing him justice. I just heard today that my friend Art retired after FORTY-SEVEN YEARS with HP/Agilent in Colorado last Friday. I've known him for about 18 years of that... a long time, but not even half of his career... and I'm proud to say we hit it off as friends from our first meeting. I give Art all the credit for that. Besides being VERY smart and one of the best read people I've ever met, Art is also probably the most accepting and encouraging. He always has a positive word to say. You need to be accepting and encouraging if I'm you're friend and I'm thankful Art has made that effort!

I believe the first time we ever worked together was in Denver around 1992, though we already knew each other by then. I had just helped move a bunch of test gear and teaching materials for HP's big annual field training event there up from Colorado Springs. I was presenting sessions for both the scope and pulse generator guys. Before I headed up, Art said he wanted to meet with me to discuss creating "the definitive application note on clock and timing engineering". We met at the Marriott downtown and Art pitched the idea. He encouraged me to "pull out all the stops." I was excited and got to work over the next few months, mostly in hotel rooms across the US, Asia and Europe on my old 386-based (with math chip!) laptop/boat anchor. He did say "definitive" and I think the page count was at about 100 and still rising before he computed the printing costs for distributing this tome and pulled the plug... sorry Art! I was just trying to make sure it was definitive. :)

Speaking of application notes, it turns out Art has written a massive number of these things over the years (my favorite was where he used photography as an abstraction for acquisition). If you've been an HP/Agilent scope user or a reader of HP/Agilent app notes over the years, there is a very large chance you've come in contact with Art's work. It would be interesting to know just how many customers Art has helped over those 47 years. I guarantee it's a very large number. One of the ways I think Art has taken that role above and beyond is to have reached outside of his own organization on behalf of the customer he was trying to help. I would say at least a couple of dozen times he's bounced clock/timing-oriented questions off me before getting back to his customer. He is also one of the most customer-focused people I know, so I've always been very happy to help on these things.

When I say Art is well-read, there is just no way you're thinking what I'm thinking unless you know him too. The number of times he has added some kind of rich and fascinating detail to one of our conversations, regardless of the topic at hand, is literally uncountable. This surely derives from the fact that Art is a passionate scholar and infinitely curious, and that there are very few subjects/fields/domains where his interest hasn't already gone. He becomes interested in things for reasons that are entirely pure... refreshing in an industry that is... um... the opposite.

One of the things I tend to become interested in when I'm around really accomplished, intelligent and curious people that have been in their field for several decades is the "paper part of their brain"... their filing cabinets and what's in them... how far-ranging and broad the mix of the papers and journals and documented professional experiences that got them where they are. As I write this, I wonder what has become of the contents of Art's file cabinets. When I've been in his office in Colorado Springs chatting (it's been too long), often in mid-sentence, he would leap up and go to his files for just the perfect reference to add depth to the discussion. Whether it's a modern subject like compliance, or something less modern and less mainstream like say, innovations in trigger circuits in the 1940's, it was in there and I was always envious of his collection. I hope that Art kept it all, but if he didn't, I hope whoever has it recognizes the value of the nearly 5-decade collection of papers that helped Art become the kind of engineer he is. By the way, there are quite a few things Art has written in my filing cabinet as well.

Art's accomplishments aren't limited to technology and science. He's a life-long mountain climber and instructor. For as long as I've known him, he hikes up Pike's Peak every day. I'm a bit younger and had a pro hockey contract at one time, but there is no way I could do it once regardless of how long you gave me. He's climbed all 53 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado as well as mountains on other continents. I'm guessing Arts heart rate is about 40 bpm lower than mine right now (resting) and he's breathing at half my rate right now, despite the fact that I'm at least 6,000' below him and surrounded by oxygen.

From the approximately 700 emails my computer says we've exchanged over the years, it seems we enjoy quite a few of the same things.. photography, history, travel, physics, amateur hockey, the anthropology of certain companies and industries, poems by famous scientists, and a fair bit more. But I also don't harbor any doubts that Art's list just goes on and on after mine ends. It is my sincerest hope that these conversations continue.

Art... I hope my modest blog represents even one percent of the Renaissance man and scholar that you are, and the contribution you've made to so many of us in our industry. I know I had your home phone but I can't put my hands on it. To save me from chasing him up Pike's Peak to catch up again, if anyone knows his "civilian" email address, please pass this on to him.

Take care Art, and best of luck on whatever the next adventure is!

Mike