Embedded systems editor Bernard Cole passes away

April 21, 2017

Patrick Mannion-April 21, 2017

Bernard Cole — embedded industry expert, writer, author, and EE Times/Embedded.com editor — passed away peacefully last weekend after fighting lung cancer.

It came as a shock to all who knew him when, first thing on Monday, Janice Hughes shared the news that, “Bernard Cole died this past weekend after a long battle with lung cancer, and we lost a giant!”

Bernie was a long-time editor covering embedded systems at EE Times and, later, at Embedded.com. Anyone who has touched the pages or viewed the pixels of EE Times or Embedded.com over the years has read and benefited from Bernie’s insights on embedded systems and software. Janice, president and founder at Hughes Communications Inc., who worked with Bernie on innumerable articles, said it best: “A man whose passion for technology was boundless. When at least 50% of embedded devices were standalone — at least 20 years before our current infant IoT world — Bernie envisioned a net-centric world where things were connected and communicating, where information was shared and making a difference.”

Bernie’s book, “The Emergence of Net-Centric Computing,” came out in 1999 and foreshadowed the connected, fog-computing world that we now take for granted (there are still five in stock on Amazon).

“He wanted the improvements that this would make for health, for productivity, for efficiency, and for the environment,” said Janice. “Challenged by severe diabetes, Bernie envisioned the day when telemedicine accurately monitored blood sugar and heart rates, allowing people greater freedom to live healthy lives. Bernie, many thanks for the many conversations, for your passion for all things embedded, for how well you treated clients time and time again, [and] for the many great stories you wrote. You will be missed.”

Bernie, along with his business partner, Toni McConnel, ran Techrite Associates, providing writing services and publication strategies for high-tech companies. Toni said that, although he suffered greatly for months leading up to his death, he passed away peacefully in his sleep the night after being moved to hospice care: “It was a blessing that he was spared further suffering.”

Bernie lived a quiet life, fascinated by technology and driven to share what he knew and understood with as many people as possible. Friends, colleagues, co-workers, startups, marketing professionals, and industry CEOs have benefited from his perspectives over the years. Along with Hughes’ tribute, many shared their sense of loss, appropriately, through “net-centric” social media.

Jeff Child, editor-in-chief at COTS Journal, said, “Thank you, Janice, for your lovely words of tribute to our friend Bernie Cole. He was a towering figure in our embedded industry family. I had the privilege of working with Bernie on the contributed articles team at EE Times back when print was king. And sometimes I think that he wanted the web to proliferate just so he could place those five extra articles always magically at the ready that couldn't fit into a printed publication. His passion for technology and his vision always inspired me. The Internet of Things was right there in Bernie's crystal ball decades ago. Thank you, Bernie, for enriching our community. You'll be missed.”

Loring Wirbel, now senior analyst at The Linley Group, shared Hughes’ LinkedIn post on Facebook and added that, “Bernie was always more than generous in sharing knowledge on embedded processors, as well as sharing jokes! He knew networking protocols backward and forward.”

David Lammers, now contributing editor at Solid State Technology, worked closely with Bernie at EE Times and added to Wirbel’s post, “He was a wise person and a sharp journalist. He sat next to me at a conference once and would lean over and whisper, ‘That’s a big story’ when something important (to us) was said. Also, I was impressed that he didn’t hang up his hat early on, but kept writing and thinking long past the conventional retirement age.”

Jacqueline Damian, now a freelance writer and editor, shared the difficult task of making EE Times’ copy shine above the technical jargon and added to Loring’s post about Bernie’s love of sharing, as well as his foresight: “I remember him describing hyperlinks to me way back in the earliest days of the internet and how important embedded links were going to be in our information-centric world. He was one of the smartest guys I ever worked with, and given the IQ level at EE Times, that's really saying something. May he rest in peace.”

Robert Oshana, director of engineering at Freescale, had many opportunities to talk and meet with Bernie over the phone or at live events in which they both participated, such as ESC. He said, “I was fortunate to work with Bernie over the years. I always enjoyed spending time talking to him about embedded technology.”

Rich Nass, now executive vice president at OpenSystems Media, worked closely with Bernie in his role as director of ESC and Embedded Systems Design (now Embedded.com) and recalled Bernie’s passion and knowledge. “Bernie had as much passion for embedded as anybody I've come across. He understood the nuances and really cared about getting the story right. He will be missed.”

Tom Cox, Principal at ATTE Inc., was also executive director of the RapidIO Trade Association and added to Hughes’ post: “A great loss, a sharp mind, always digging deep for the story behind the technology.

Like many who excel, Bernie also was “unique” in other ways. EETimes International Editor, Junko Yoshida, recalls his Hawaiian shirt, (he may have been the original “Hawaiian shirter,” before our own Max Maxfield along with others like Lee Goldberg. His managers knew to be careful when asking him a question because they were going to be “firehosed” with the answer. He was renowned for digging deep into issues that many wanted — or needed — to deal with quickly, and it would frustrate him when it couldn’t be addressed at that time, as important as it may have been.

Brian Fuller, now editor-in-chief at ARM, was EiC of EE Times and summed up the joy and price of greatness on Hughes’ post: “When it came to Bernie, following close behind ‘brilliant’ and ‘insightful’ is the word ‘cantankerous.’ … He could derail big editorial meetings with long dissertations about the uselessness of Microsoft technology for our enterprise. It would have been truly annoying (rather than mildly annoying) if Bernie didn't have the ability in these intellectual journeys to dive down to the code level to explain precisely why Microsoft (at the time) was terrible. He would go on to explain how each of us could simply tweak some long-lost (or up-and-coming) programming language to build our own solutions, easy peasy. It was as plain as the nose on our faces. More than one EE Times EiC learned to love the words, ‘Bernie, let's take that one offline.’"

We all look forward to taking it offline with you someday, Bernie. Thank you for all you have given, and rest in peace.

—Patrick Mannion is a former EE Times editor, brand director for UBM, and now writes for different publications as a freelance journalist.

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