I meet a lot of people, and each person wants to know a little more about me for various reasons. So here I offer up the shorter version and the longer version…
The Shorter Version
When I was eleven years old I started learning electronics hands-on, when I was fifteen I wrote my first computer program, at sixteen I had a full-blast spiritual awakening (not religious), and when I was seventeen I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook at San Diego High School. These four experiences from 1964 to 1971 represent the four legs of all that’s followed in my life thus far — hardware design, software design, leadership, and the understanding of life on Earth — all while relentlessly pushing the envelope and being insatiably curious.
Looking back on the timeline of my life thus far I can now see almost 5 decades of arcs of quite varied experiences, mostly amazing and some not so great (but still essential learning experiences). Interestingly, they all seem to have set me up to pursue my next great adventure here in my upcoming sixth decade.
All of us humans are so different, and I’m no exception, and that diversity is something I rely on. I can’t do anything alone, and I depend on the greatness of others collaborating with me so that we can make great things happen.
And so here and now I’m showing up to transform the way apps are made in the 21st century’s bustling app economy, in the mobile device space, and in particular from the perspective of Apple (is there any other?) My approach is as ambitious as it is innovative, and I seem to have found the sweet spot where a little effort from a small group of people will yield immeasurable benefits.
Here’s the “elevator pitch” for my new business…
I’m showing up to transform the way apps are made, by drawing out the four kinds of app makers, helping them easily find the talent and resources needed, guiding them through the process, triggering greater creativity and satisfaction, and enabling them to finish.
This will be done in two parts. The first part is creating an app development resource center here in San Diego (the only one that’s needed) to draw in almost all of the app developers in the region. Myself and my team will then take advantage of working directly with all four segments of app developers and complete the development of the second part — a software application for OS X that will work as a sidekick to Xcode and be made available to all app developers planet-wide on the Mac App Store. This app will be developed using the Lean Startup methodology.
This app, MiR, will embody the innovations (most of which I’ve already developed over the past year) that will bring the rest of the app development experience outside of Apple’s control (the remaining 80% of it) squarely into the 21st Century to match Apple’s advanced tools and devices. Some parts of this experience are still stuck in the 90′s and are the direct cause of quite a bit of failure. This modern experience will then be made available to everyone, distributed on Apple’s devices, and continuously evolve with the changing technologies and marketplace. Cross-platform development will be handled from the perspective of an iOS app, which is almost always done first anyway.
So, the problem to be solved is this… There are about a dozen areas of activity involved in successfully getting an app out there. Apple provides a 21st century solution to two of them, and the rest is up to you. And that’s the problem. Some of these elements and ways of doing things are still stuck in the 90′s, and it’s the cause of far too many projects failing or being put on the back burner indefinitely.
The solution is for someone and his team to come along and pull together the remaining ten elements and provide a 21st century treatment to each. Apple can’t get involved in those areas, but a third party can. And the result is clearly greater than the sum of the parts. It’s pretty amazing.
Okay, so that was the shorter version.
The Longer Version
Like a typical geek, I wrote my first program at the age of 15 in 1968 on an Olivetti Underwood Programma 101, and I instantly knew what I loved. (It’s memory was a long wire coiled inside, mechanically circulating the bits on the wire with a “speaker” on one end and a “microphone” at the other.) I wanted to be a psychiatrist too, but I also knew I didn’t have the skills at that time to make it through medical school. So when I came to that fork in the road, I went with computers. It turned out to be the right call. But my keen interest in psychology and human nature has always had a big influence on me. My current interests involve it to a large degree.
As for software, I’ve programmed in over 25 languages and currently work in Objective-C on the Apple platform. I’ve written software for a myriad of machines from B7700 mainframes in Algol-60 while I was majoring in Computer Science at UCSD, to PDP 11/70 minicomputers in C, to Z80 microprocessors in assembly language. From PCs and Macs to iPhones and iPads. At one point in the mid 90′s I particularly had fun being expert with HyperCard/SuperCard and I created packages of XCMDs (compiled extensions to the scripting language) which provided internet access. I also developed concurrent XCMDs.
As for hardware, I’ve designed spacecraft-class fault-tolerant microprocessor-based computers for deep ocean research while I was the Principal Engineer in Walter Munk’s group at the Institute of Geophysics (IGPP) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. (You can see the tip of IGPP which seems perched on the cliff when you click on the picture to the right.) That was the coolest job I ever had! After that I worked for a small consulting firm called Sorrento Valley Associates and we designed hardware and software for scores of clients, including software that would look up genes in the national gene bank (now NCBI) for La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation (now S|B), and a diagnostic probe for the fusion test reactor at General Atomics (that was scary). I’ve also designed simple interface cards for the Apple II and IBM PC among various other hardware projects in the geophysical field. I got interested in electronics when I was 11 years old when my dad gave me a crystal radio for my birthday.
Designing hardware and software for science has given me a broad multi-disciplinary experience with substantial familiarity with geophysics, physics, and molecular biology. I still give annual lectures at UCSD on HIV, for instance.
Well, I’ve pretty much done and seen it all, since before there were monitors, hard disks, or chips. Looking back, I can say that things took a big turn when I got the August 1981 issue of Byte Magazine, which I still have and just took this picture of me holding my 30 year-old copy very gently. It contained 14 articles about Smalltalk-80, and introduced me to Xerox PARC, and object-oriented programming. In 1982 I was hired as Director of R&D at a startup called CATSystems (Computer Assisted Telemarketing Systems – yeah, I know, telemarketing, booo!) We bought an Apple Lisa computer and me and my team of seven engineers figured out how it worked, and soon had overlapping windows, icons, mouse interaction, and a rough voice-annotated database all working on an IBM PC just four months before the Macintosh was introduced in 1984. But the investor was burning money too fast on this ambitious design and he pulled the plug. Everything was thrown away and he started Emerald Systems making external hard disks and became a millionaire, again. (sigh)
My life so far has been a stream of widely-varied experiences which all involve understanding and tackling complexity. And then turning around and using the Art of the Explanation to teach it/explain it to others. And slowly but surely my mixed bag of experiences has curiously converged together and set me up to conquer my next big thing.
The Information Workshop
And now I’ve become keenly interested in “Information Interface” and the great difficulty we humans have in dealing with the overwhelming complexity of the Information Age. It’s a human coping mechanism to think things are fine, but there are those of us who see the problems all too clearly, and painfully so. I started my company, The Information Workshop, in 2009 to tackle complexity using the things I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve discovered first in an area I’ve always loved – software development for the Apple platforms.
The word “workshop” refers to the approach, whereby I and all the people in orbit around me work to develop ways to push the envelope in applying simplicity against the complexity in an equal and opposite direction. The purpose is so that we can then do more with the fixed amount of effort we have available to us. My extensive research has revealed many techniques and approaches which remain untried and I’m going to try them in the product I’m developing described below.
Another thing that’s of particular interest to me is the irony in how poorly many “tech people” deal with the complicated world in which they work. Too many seem to have trouble sorting themselves out of a paper bag, and apparently assume that just because they work in tech, they’re logical and have adequate critical thinking skills. There are many of us who read some of the articles and comments and it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to us! I try to exercise my writing skills as much as possible. I leave comments all over the web and try to “stay in shape.” But now that this site is up I’ll be working on bigger pieces. My first was “Assessing the Intangibles of Apple’s Success” which I first published on a friend’s site TechVessel.tv.
So, Information Interface refers to understanding how humans interface with information, just like user interface understands how people interface with computers and devices.
The Art of the Explanation refers to the means of better discussing and describing complicated things. It’s an art, a science, and what I consider a technology. I’ve been developing that technology for the last 20+ years and it’s a big deal to me. When you see me explain HIV or human sexuality to students, it just seems so obvious and simple to them when I’m done. Well, this is what every teacher does routinely, only my version is somewhat on steroids in tackling the extra-complicated and involved subjects. It’s a big mountain to conquer. I’m not always successful, but I love it, and I’m getting better and better at it.
I recently completed all three parts of the foundation of Landmark Education.- the Landmark Forum, the Advanced Course, and the Seminar Series. Simply put it was one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life, both for me personally and in my business life. It is now the point of reference for my business life moving forward.
Also, I recently changed my last name from Hernandez to Halvorson. So for a while you’ll see references to me under both names.