Here is a little more info about me for anyone who cares to know…
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 foundations 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 to this day.
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’ve learned I can’t do anything alone, and I depend on collaborating with the greatness of others so that we can make great things happen.
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 was so long ago that its 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 arrived at 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 remained, and 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 and the 21st Century in general. 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 The Information Workshop in 1989 to tackle complexity using the things I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve discovered in American entrepreneurism.
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. But at the same time, it’s important to have the critical thinking skills to deal with the great complexity of our time and the oversimplification that results, and find the optimal middle ground.
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. It’s a big mountain to conquer and I continue to push the envelope.
I’ve completed all four parts of the Curriculum for Living from Landmark Worldwide.- the Landmark Forum, the Advanced Course, the Seminar Series, and the Self Expression Leadership Program. 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.