Mr. Holland's opus

January 23, 2013

Susan Rambo-January 23, 2013

If you've attended the Embedded Systems Conference ever, especially last year, as part of the DESIGN West, you may have encountered an energetic jovial Brit often parked in the press room with his silver Mac or wandering around the show floor. This man, avuncular and kind, was always quick with a funny story and loved to talk, especially about sports or to tell of some humorous encounter he had had with a colleague or industry member. Last year at the conference, it was more than usual press meetings for him. He was running the show--the conference portion of it. Now, less than a year later, he is no longer with us. Colin Holland, Embedded Systems' Man in Europe and fan of the Charlton football team and the Raspberry Pi alike, passed away on Jan. 17, 2013 after a 9-month battle with cancer.
Colin Holland, ESC 2011
Colin cared a great deal about Even if you didn't know him, you might be interested in his role in remaking this site. As the editorial director of, he oversaw the editorial redesign for the new site this past year, despite uncertainty about his health and being half-a-world away in London, UK. (All the developers and support staff including me are in San Francisco, CA.) From May 2012 onward he was diagnosed and treated for cancer. Because part of his treatment was to do things he enjoyed, it was my luck that he asked to continue working on and writing for the site. Writing about electronics was something he really loved doing. See Colin's blog on

I had worked with Colin since 2002, when he became the editor in chief of Embedded Systems Europe, the sister pub to Embedded Systems Programming and, and would see him at least once a year when he came to the Embedded Systems Conference here in California. So, I was delighted when in January 2012, he stepped in as the editorial director of our U.S. Embedded franchise a few months before DESIGN West (Embedded Systems Conference, or ESC). Being editorial content director of ESC also meant running Embedded Systems Design magazine and After the conference in March, Colin oversaw the closing of the 24-year-old print magazine Embedded Systems Design (born in 1988 as Embedded Systems Programming) and then relaunch of It was a year of transition, to say the least.

From May through September 2012, Colin and I worked closely together on the redesign of, with the help a site designer. We completed all the requirements wireframes and design mocks on July 2; the site launched on September 14th, having gone through another post-requirements style redesign to make our site responsive to differently-sized device screens. (We editors weren't party to the responsive redesign, which was probably why we threw fits when we saw it. Colin said "I hate it." Gradually, we got over it and liked the final design.) After all that work, when the site launched, I felt it was triumph of teamwork and perseverance, despite all the bugs and requirements yet to be fulfilled. Without Colin's guidance, expertise, and support, I don't know if we would have reached that moment.

Several site features are purely his idea. You can thank him for the return of a news section, for one, and some of the names: industry (news); development articles instead of design articles; insights (blogs). Since we weren't supposed to have news on the site, he concealed the news behind the name Industry. He decided what topics the 12 development centers would cover. He insisted that more of our content be revealed to make it easier for engineers to scan for content quickly without clicking on tabs and other pages. Without going into the full site redesign process (battle scars and all), suffice it to say, throughout this saga, Colin clarified our ideas, kept them simple, and defended them well.

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