Apocalypse Now? - Embedded.com

Apocalypse Now?

In early 1953 the Korean War was still waging hot. President Truman had just announced the detonation of the first US hydrogen bomb. A North Sea flood killed over 2000 people while the USSR broke diplomatic relations with Israel. A US bomber accidentally dropped an atom bomb on South Carolina… which happily failed to detonate. Stalin died, succeeded by the shoe-pounding Kruschev.

At the time my mom was pregnant with me. In a visit to her dentist the doctor exclaimed “I can’t believe you’d have kids in such troubled times!”

In the early 60s, with the cold war running hot, I remember hiding under our desks at school, practicing this bizarre response to a nuclear attack we anticipated could come any moment. A president was killed and the sub Thresher was lost with all hands. Thousands lose their homes, and 300 their lives, in heavy flooding in Germany.

A decade later Vietnam polarized the nation; our president was enmeshed in scandal; the economy was in the dumper; and engineering unemployment peaked as Apollo wound down.

Ten years later inflation was running 20%, mortgages were out of reach for most people, the US bailed out Chrysler, and Iran had taken our embassy staff hostage. The economy was in the dumper.

A decade on and EE unemployment peaked while one superpower collapsed into anarchy. 450 guests at an engagement party in Uttar Pradesh died of food poisoning. The economy was in the dumper.

Today Mother Nature seems to be in a fury, globally wreaking havoc in people’s lives. Detroit fears the $10,000 SUVs China is nearly ready to export. We’re at war, again, and both personal and government debt is practically unsustainable. Many engineers fear for their jobs. North Korea, still in the news a half century after 1953, still a bizarre corrupt dictatorship, announces they have a stash of nuclear weapons. Worldwide terrorist attacks against civilians now seem the norm. The economy is doing great but may or may not be on the verge of collapse, depending on which papers one reads. Ford and GM are asking for, if not a bailout, some sort of Federal aid.

In A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens wrote about the 18th century French Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

In many of my fifty embedded.com articles for 2005 I complained about injustice, whined perhaps a bit about the state of the industry, and aired my worries about the very real challenges facing engineers as the world economy changes. Yet it’s neither the worst of times nor the best of times. It’s just the times. Some suffered; some prospered. While too many engineers lost their jobs most stayed employed and happy in their careers. Disasters, natural and manmade, pummeled some while more donated time and money to help those in need. Examples of egregious greed repeatedly made headlines, yet the vast majority of us remain honest folk quietly raising decent kids.

We do face serious problems. But we’re smart people who will indeed cope with these and other as yet unimagined troubles. As engineers we’re well-paid compared to the vast majority of others with whom we share this planet, and I’m sure most of us will fare well in 2006.

So I’m signing off for 2005. Have a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, a wonderful New Years… and the best of times in 2006.

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is


So many people have used the word Apocalpse to mean calamity to the nth degree that it has come to mean that for most. However the word Apocalypse is merely the greek word that is the name of the last book of the Bible and means simply “revelation”. I feel sure we all wish we had some revelations about what to do in the forthcoming times as far as our lives are concerned, and we do if we put any effort into Bible study. There we learn that the end to these calamitous times is called Har-Megeddon (Armageddon to most) and is Jehovah God's final war of reckoning with the unrepentant sinners on Earth. So if we put at least as much effort into trying to live as God would have us do (see Micah 6:8) then we could all worry a lot less as we actually look forward to Har-Megeddon. May the excelling peace of God be yours in the coming days.

– Don McCallum


“We did'nt start the fire

It was always burning since the world was turning…”

– kalpak dabir


Like you son/daughter, I was born in the year 1953. As it is now, it WAS a very good year!

– Henry Khoo


Will $10,000 SUVs from China therefore be car-megeddon for GM and Ford?

I too was born in 1953. Ain't that something?

– Steve Leibson


Probably unlike 1953, for the generation now, the future is always today and now alone. That is the attitude of the new generation. What will happen tommorrow will anyway happen!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

My only wish on new year is that mankind moves more closer to Nature in the coming years and do away with any of Mother Nature's fury.

– Saravanan T S


I answered that this current decade represents the worst of times, being the most popular choice in this survey.

The biggest problem we face is a lack of trust. It's so frustrating that we can no longer trust anyone. It used to be that you could leave your house/car unlocked, pick up hitch hikers, buy things on credit without a card and talk directly to decision makers. We'd go out of our ways to help strangers because everybody trusted everybody else.

It seems 9/11, corporate and political corruption, Identify theft, Internet fraud, the War on Terror (need I go on?) has changed all of that. Paranoia reigns supreme, and is there any wonder why? Our society has been hardwired to no longer trust anyone anymore.

It's so frustrating that in order to get things done, you're always fighting some modus operandi, and then you really have to know the right people.

Grrr!

– “Tiger” Joe Sallmen

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