Posts in Category: tech

Evolution

If one was born in 1971, when Intel released the 4004 microprocessor, it is likely to be pure luck if one has seen a computer at 13.

If one was born in 1983, the year in which the Mototola DynaTAC 8000X was first sold, it will be pure luck or privilege if at 13 years old one had a GSM phone.

If one was born in 1991, chances are that at 13 one had access to the Internet. It’s not a given though.

If you were born in 2007, the year the iPhone was introduced, you are 13 years old now and have never lived without a super fast network connection from your mobile computer.

Evolution.

The Tyranny of Timezones

As you log into an internal company-wide engineering event at 3AM, barely able to keep your eyelids open and mistyping your password about 5 times, you can’t help but consider the tyranny of timezones. With some countries still under heavy lockdown and a widely distributed Covid vaccine still months away, being physically closed to an office is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Just in the past few weeks, Amazon announced that their workforce can work remotely until the end of 2020, Google and Facebook have already made such announcements, and your own office, in beautiful Palo Alto, California, seems to remain closed for a very long time. Even offices that are starting to open, like the local office in Munich, is operating under reduced capacity allowing only a small portion of the workforce to come in.

So being close to an office is loosing its importance. However, an office is simply an indication of geographical connection. Employees that go to the “German Office” are likely to be working together, serving customers in Germany (or DACH) and are bound less by the office, but by their timezone and customer base.

And this is where the tyranny of timezones comes into play. A company-wide event can never work on a planet with 37 time zones (explanation to this strange data point is here). Typically in the corporate world, the timezone of the person setting the agenda serves as the baseline, It is natural that an individual looking to set a meeting is starting from her own calendar and then considering other people.

Companies could consider organizing around timezones rather than locations and let employees choose their timezone. A night owl living in Ireland might enjoy working in the East Coast timezone whereas an early morning bird in Poland might enjoy the quirky, half an hour off, Indian timezone. Companies can also define transitional timezones where employees in roles that require bridging very conflicting timezones (like India and Pacific Time Zone), are dipping into a good portion of one time zone and another good portion of another timezone.

There is no reason why an employee working in a PST tribe is unable to effectively work from Baja, California. There is also absolutely no reason why an employee bridging between IST and PST, living in London, is unable to spend the afternoon with the team in Chennai and the evening with the team in Seattle. These are personal decisions that a job seeker can make. In fact, advertising timezones in job listings might be much more effective than locations. “Must be able to spend at least 4 hours a day in IST and 2 hours in PST” will be a much more precise description of a desired capability than “live in the U.K.”.

The digital revolution is changing the way we live and work. It is time to reconsider timezones.

How It Used To be

There used to be a time that in order to call someone, while on the street, one had to walk into one of these booths to make a call. One had to have change or in some countries, special tokens and for some reason, so the story goes, one never had enough coins to make a call. Long distance used to eat coins in unimaginable rate and on top of the calling experience, there were people staring at the person using the booth. Back when only one, nationalized, Telco operator existed, these phone booths were often the only mean of long distance communications for entire neighborhoods.

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine makes a call phone call, using an old GSM Motorola brick, to a friend to inquire about her father’s health. Both George and Seinfeld lecture Elaine about the etiquettes of using a mobile phone to make a health inquiry from the middle of the street.

When was the last time anyone opened a yellow pages? When did one memorize phone numbers? Addresses? Everything, pretty much all information that was ever created, is available at one’s finger tips. We no longer need to queue or have change in our pockets to make a call. In fact, most of us are no longer making calls at all. We FaceTime, we zoom, we WhatsApp, we certainly do not pay for call waiting or for voice mail.

Progress.

The Shifting Laptop Market

You don’t own a laptop or a desktop or any such device that could be considered a personal computer. This blog is written on an 11 inch iPad Pro. The 30,000 (give or take) photos you produced since your first digital camera (a Fujifilm just for the record) are all stored in an Apple cloud somewhere and are accessible from iOS on any device. These pictures have backups on Flickr (unlimited storage). For more recent photos, Adobe is keeping copies. The chances of the Photos library disappearing are slim to none.

You do have a large collection of MP3s that you started converting 25 years ago. Probably one of the first heavy duty CPU usage on your Machintosh Performa was converting and sorting through mountains of CDs to MP3s. They all sound like rubbish these days. Instead, you spend your days connected to bluetooth headphones listening to the same music you have been interested in only using Spotify. Often you are reminded of a tune and have only, on a few occasions, have not been able to find them (Spotify is missing on some early Virgin Prunes albums for example).

The move to the cloud and the fact that most large companies now support their employees with a choice between a Windows and Apple laptop means that you have been living with a laptop, owned by your employer, but without the need to buy your own device. Strangely, Given that Apple’s market evaluation as of today is at 1.68 Trillion dollars, it seems that you do not symbolize a trend. In fact, according to this market analysis, Apple’s Laptop market share has grown in recent years.

How did we get here? You have no insight into the Apple boardroom, but the smart money is on the fact that large corporations buying Apple laptops for their employees is a much larger market than individual consumers. Corporations offering a choice to their employees also mean that people that did not use to buy Apple laptops are now using them.

It is fascinating how the move to the cloud freed this user from a laptop. Apple took the opportunity to sell an iPad Pro making up their lost revenue and your employer picked up the extra tab. Brilliance.

Curiosity and Luck

Being at the right place at the right time. Opening the door even thought you are not sure what is on the other side.

  • Saying yes to Brad when he asked you to come onboard a new research group at the San Diego Super Computer Center (SDDC) investigating “what does the Internet looking like” (1997).
  • Saying yes to the Very High Speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS) offer to come join the team (1999).
  • Calling an employer out of the blue and asking for a job interview even though they did not advertise any jobs (2005).
  • Saying YES to every Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson project. Getting exposed to mobile networks, PCRF, IPTV, Microwave Backhaul, carrier Ethernet and every communication technology that came up between 2005 and 2015.
  • Saying yes to Margaret Choisi’s invitation to join the third ETSI NFV meeting to provide input on “how do we test this stuff”.