Ten years after

April 28, 2008

Dan_Saks-April 28, 2008

Ten years ago this month, what was then Embedded Systems Programming magazine published my first Programming Pointers column, entitled "How I Got Here." In it, I described the events that led me to start writing this column, and what I thought I'd write about. A ten-year anniversary is one of those times when columnists look back and reflect on what they've written. So I guess it's my turn.

The first half of that first column was a recap of my early experiences at the Embedded Systems Conferences, principally how the titles and contents of my conference lectures evolved in response to audience reaction. Those experiences led me to two observations that have colored my work ever since and still appear to be true.

The first observation is that embedded applications are very diverse. This is still true, but there's more I should have said about this, so I'll say it now. It's not just the applications that are diverse: the hardware they run on and the backgrounds of the people who write them are also very diverse. It's difficult to make accurate generalizations about this business. (How's that for a generalization?)

Every so often in those early years at the conferences, I'd make some sweeping statement that began with phrases like "All platforms have..." or "Compilers never let you...". Much more often than not, someone in the audience would raise a hand and say "But on my platform...", or "But with my compiler...". I soon learned to avoid making such all or nothing statements. In my speaking and writing, I now rarely use words like "all", preferring instead more measured phrasing like "most" or "nearly all". "Typically" and "almost always" have replaced "always", and "rarely" has replaced "never". I don't think it means I'm a wimp. I think it reflects the reality of this business.

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