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A time for change

January 31, 2009

rich.nass-January 31, 2009

We've all heard the talk about "change" lately, particularly when it comes to how our country is run. We went through many campaign months of how we needed change, how that would be the only way to revive our country. When those talks started nearly two years ago, the country wasn't in anywhere near the dire straits it's in now.

We now have a new president, with ideas that are very different from the departed president. Those new ideas are a welcome sight for most Americans. I have been very encouraged by the things he's saying, but more importantly, I'm really encouraged by the feelings that seem to have engulfed the country, where we're now standing as one.

A similar feeling was in the air after the attacks on September 11, but it's a little different now. At that time, we rallied together because we had to, to fight back. Now, we seem to be rallying together because we want to--we want to make things better. But President Obama was quite clear in his message that change will not happen in months, or even a year. It could take many years.

Where does our embedded systems community fit into this sea of change? It can and should play a major role. The embedded systems community has been at the heart of many of our "revolutions." For example, the automobile revolution could not have happened without the embedded systems developer, albeit it that developer was quite different from today's embedded systems developer (let's not argue the definition of an embedded systems developer right now). Then came the PC revolution in the 1980s. Later, was the mobile phone revolution.

Identifying the next revolution is somewhat difficult. But for better or worse, times like these have a way of spawning innovation. Unfortunately, the reason for that is not the best--engineers get laid off, and the lack of jobs causes them to start their own companies. Some of these startups can be wildly innovative, developing new technology that falls into the breakthrough category. That technology is often acquired by and brought to market by one of the bigger companies, but such innovation may not have otherwise occurred.

I've heard it said on may occasions lately, "Let's use this recession to our advantage." There's not really any other way to look at it right now.

Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine and editorial director of TechInsights. He can be reached at rnass@techinsights.com.

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