Who are you? - Embedded.com

Who are you?

In the summer of 1969 The Who put on a concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. Columbia, now a city of some 100,000, barely existed. Jim Rouse was secretly buying thousands of acres of farmland to create what he hoped would be an idyllic society devoid of the racial tensions that were then tormenting the nation. The pavilion had been built shortly before, ironically on the grounds of the Oakland Manor slave plantation.

Some of my friends and I attended that concert, rather annoyed with ourselves for obeying our parents and not having hitchhiked to Woodstock a few weeks earlier. It was a fantastic event, and as I recall the group played all of Tommy, which had recently been released.

They didn’t play Who Are You, because that album didn’t appear for another decade.

But Who Are You?

Surveys don’t ask this question. They should. They drone on for hundreds of questions about which CPU or RTOS you’re using and what your future choices might be. You’ll note that it’s rare to see the data actually released to the engineers who spent ten or 15 minutes responding. A little summary data will be presented, but the purpose of most surveys is to either sell the results to companies planning future products or to promote a magazine.

Every couple of years I do a salary survey and release all of the data (2014’s is here), but the goal of that is to get a sense of what people make, not to learn about their backgrounds. It is clear, though, that we engineers, at least in the USA, are aging. We’re retiring faster than new graduates are entering the field.

Who Are You?

Me, I was one of those introverted kids more interested in building circuits than baseball, who became an EE at the time the microprocessor was invented, who had learned programming in high school and college. I became an engineer when the company realized they needed someone who knew computer hardware and software, and have spent the last four decades in that fuzzy but tremendously fun space between electronic circuit design and writing firmware. I’m not entirely sure what .NET is, and, though I did write some commercial windowing VB code years ago, today when I need to manipulate files will either write bash-shell scripts or use Visual Studio to write C code in console, non-windowing, mode.

Over the years I have known embedded people who were English majors, ex-military technicians who became excellent digital designers, one salesman who was one of the worse programmers ever, a developer with an MS in computer science who had never written a program longer than 20 lines of code, and many EEs who spend all of their time writing firmware. There was a young man from the ghetto who came to us with no experience but tons of enthusiasm; he eventually ran our production department, but was later undone by drugs. One brilliant EE hated engineering; he later left and went into theater.

What about you? Are you an EE who spends all day writing firmware? A test engineer? A CS graduate who somehow found yourself in the embedded space? Use the comments to enlighten us. It’s clear that there are more firmware people than digital hardware folks, and more of the latter than there are analog and RF people.

Take a minute and tell us about yourself in the comments section below!


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 .

10 thoughts on “Who are you?

  1. “JacknnSince I have already done this as a profile it's easy to open the discussion by pointing at it.nnhttp://www.embedded.com/user/antedeluviann”

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  2. “I graduated in electronics over 20 years ago – I played with electronics over 10 years before graduating (HC11, Z80). nI built several radio transmitters and other analog circuits.nn(Un)fortunately I entered computer networks field just after graduatin

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  3. “I have a degree in Computer Engineering. For the first 14 years of my career I wrote low level embedded C (no RTOS) for a variety of products. For the last 9 years I have been designing projected capacitive touch panels for embedded products. I still w

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  4. “You can get my professional profile on LinkedIn, but this is only for communicating to potential customers relevant information.nhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/donherresnIt does not contain my background in manufacturing engineering, quality engineer a

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  5. “nnI think of myself as Gentleman Dilettante of electronics.nSome others consider me to be an menial Idiot Savant.nOthers say I am a pain in the butnSo that's Crusty in a nutshell? Not quite.nAt 12 years of age I was tutored in basic electronic theor

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  6. “Are the other thing I excel in is bad spelling and mild dyslexia which is not helped by this site not having a revise button that I can see.nnI also get annoyed at editors that never publish articles they have on hold. “

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  7. “2 years of Industrial Electronics trade school in high school.nBachelors in Computer SciencenMinor in Computer EngineeringnSpent my senior year in college reading every embedded software book I could get my hands on.nI fortunately got a job in medical

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  8. “I was always good at science and math then when i went to college, I discovered engineering. I discovered microprocessors when I got an internship during my junior year. This caused me to take a few more digital logic and computer science classes than I o

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  9. “I wasn't sure what to do when I finished high school, but my parents encouraged me to do an engineering degree, because if nothing else it would give me relatively secure prospects. So I did an EE degree with a foundation year and have been doing c progra

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