Signing off

September 26, 2016

Jack Ganssle-September 26, 2016

In 1989 Tyler Sperry, then editor of the print publication Embedded Systems Programming, asked me to write a monthly column for the magazine. That morphed into Embedded Systems Design which in turn succumbed to the demise of print in 2012. During those years I wrote some 260 columns for those publications. A later editor, Lyndsey Vereen, wisely saw the importance of the web and asked me to contribute a weekly on-line column starting in 2001. That was some 700 articles ago.

Over the years the magazine and web site were bought and sold a number of times. This summer Aspencore (part of Arrow Electronics) acquired it from media giant UBM. I have no insight into Arrow’s plans but suspect that not much will change.

But it’s time for one change – this will be my last column. At this point in life I’m cutting back on work activities a bit. Scant free time is taking its toll.

In the intervening years I’ve gone from a relative youngster to being eligible for social security. My family life revolved around a two-year-old son and soon a daughter, to now being a proud father of self-sufficient adults building their own lives. Once a late-night phone call portended some teenage driving incident. Now my cell is always at hand to respond to the exigencies of ancient parents.

How life changes!

And how this field has changed! In the 80s only the latest PCs had 32 bit CPUs – they were a rarity in the embedded world. Windows was unusable and Linux didn’t exist. Connectivity mostly meant an RS-232 port. The web had yet to be invented. A few low-power eight-bitters could run from batteries but any kind of computational horsepower required connection to the AC mains. There was no Wi-Fi nor any of the huge array of wireless protocols available today.

Developers mostly used in-circuit emulators to debug their code. That was my business in the 80s and 90s – we made emulators for a number of processors, but that technology is now obsolete. Propagating bus signals over a long cable at hundreds of MHz is just not feasible. And who sockets processors anymore?

There was no JTAG debugging. No IDEs. No source level debugging. In the embedded world systems were more likely to be coded in assembly than C.

Some surface-mount existed but most avoided it in favor of through-hole technology. None of the exotic packaging like PoP or WLCSP had been invented.

Digital cell phones were not available. Yet two decades later Martin Cooper, the inventor of the hand-held mobile phone, gave a keynote at the ESC and I’ll bet not a single attendee did not have a cell in his or her pocket.

Over the years I’ve made friends with many of you. Some in person, others I only know from email correspondence. You have all enriched my life tremendously, and I’ve learned a lot from our interaction. Thank you, all.

Most web sites have comments that would make a sailor squeamish. Here they are unmoderated, though it’s probably possible to delete those that might be inappropriate. That has never happened, at least for my columns. And that says something pretty special about’s readers, who are consistently polite and bursting with useful information.

Though Marybeth would love to see me retire that’s not happening any time soon. I’ll continue my newsletter, seminars, and other activities. This field is so endlessly fascinating that stopping would be like cutting off a limb.

Keep in touch! The best part of writing this column has been interaction with you readers. Thanks for all of the dialog. And keep reading The change that has characterized this field will only accelerate; this site offers the information you need to keep up with the latest technology.

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, and works as an expert witness on embedded issues. Contact him at His website is


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