I Make Things

In looking at what I have accomplished with my life (an inevitable piece of introspection, in my situation) I discovered a theme.  It wasn’t something I was looking for.  I always felt my career was a creative endeavour, but it turns out that I make things, lots of things.

Embedded Software

I had used various mini-computers at my dad’s work, and also a Canon Canola 1614P at high school.  I had also built several electronics kits with a soldering iron, including a memorable digital (woohoo!) clock that lit up the room beyond anyone’s ability to sleep.  In 1997 I spent all of my savings on a Dick Smith Mini-Scamp computer (then $105, in today’s money, about $2000).  The SC/MP was my introduction to assembler (manually assembled!) and embedded software.  I canibalized a calculator for a keyboard and display (a great bird’s nest of wires on vero-board), and wrote a monitor, but with no EPROM I had to enter it manually every time.  It took me weeks to save the $80 for 1KB of RAM to expand the Scamp, and by then I had an electronics habit, and got a better paying job to support it.

I enrolled in a double degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.  My parents were worried that “this computer fad” would blow over, especially ans Mr IBM had famously said that the world only needed five.  They felt that electrical engineering was a good fallback profession.  In the end, I worked out that I was much more buzzed to write software than design and build computers (and more likely to get work, too) so I finished the Computer Science degree, and ditched the EE degree.

The great thing about the Electrical Engineering studies was that I could read and understand schematics and hardware.  This set me up well for writing device drivers and other low-level software that talked directly to hardware.

“Embedded software” is the software that is built into gadgets and widgets.  These days most gadgets have software inside them.  In my hospital room, for example, there is a pump for blood products and other infusions; computer cpu inside, embedded software inside.  There is a set of digital scales; computer cpu inside, embedded software inside.  The digital thermometer they keep sticking in my mouth can show you the last umpteen readings: computer cpu inside, embedded software inside.  Last month the range hood over the stove stopped listening to the buttons, and I had to unplug it to reset thing: computer cpu inside, embedded software inside. The list is endless.

In the 1980s, I got a series of jobs writing embedded software, including a significant stint at Telectronics, then the 3rd largest heart pace make manufacturer in the world.  The head of engineering (s/w and h/w) would start each weekly meeting with “Hands up who would have the new pacemaker implanted today?”.  This is a very intimate perspective on quality, and was the seeds of the motivation behind Aegis, when I wrote it a decade later.  Sadly, I don’t have a hardware memento of my time at Telectronics.  A decade plus in Canberra was spent on application software and sysadmin.  After moving back to Sydney, the late 1990s to the present have been spent on more and more embedded software.


pic of router table.


Coding and Camping, a crazy idea that works.  Invite a bunch of people provide an awning for shade (laptop screen contrast), and a very quiet generator for power.  It’s like a weekend of “around the water cooler”.  I came up with this ides as SLUG meetings morphed into helping Users, and less and less technical content, It became clear if I wanted a technically meetin I was going to have to make it happen myself.


We are still trying to figure out how to import Bendamustine.  In the mean time I remain on high dose Dexamethasone, although not as high as last month, on the theory we may have whacked the bone marrow too hard, and that is why very few neutrolphils were made.  Time will tell.

I’m spending lots of time in the chemo day unit, getting blood products twice a week.  Apart from random splurges when I make some red blood cells or platelets, it may be that I’m needing blood products slightly more often; it isn’t clear yet if this represents an actual trend in the “worse” direction.