IEEE 125th Anniversary Celebration

Computer History Museum by Dzou @ wikipedia.org

You can always learn something by hearing top notch presenters speak both in terms of content and style. And even after traveling the world, you may find hidden gems in your own backyard…

This evening I attended a local celebration for IEEE‘s 125th Anniversary. This was structured as a reception (code word: “networking”) followed by several keynote speeches.

First up on the program was a presentation to SRI (formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute) to recognize the 40th anniversary of the first transmission on the the ARPANET (the predecessor of the internet). At that time there were just four nodes: SRI, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and University of Utah. A large number of the original engineers were on hand to have their achievement recognized.

Lew Terman, the 2008 IEEE President and CEO, provided the introductory remarks along with the SRI presentation. In addition, he presented a video that IEEE produced in honor of their 125th anniversary. He was an “okay” speaker, however he was clearly reading his prepared speeches at a hurried clip.

The first “keynote” was Vint Cerf who is Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He was a fantastic speaker and he was clearly enthusiastic (speaking without notes) about what he does and the future. And not to mention witty. He was retracing some of the history of the internet and included a few plugs for Google applications (Google Earth, Mars, Moon, etc.) just to show how far the Internet has come and to tease us about the future. If you get a chance to see him speak, definitely do so.

The second “keynote” was Howard Charney who is Senior Vice President, Office of the President, at Cisco. His presentation was very good – however he seemed more “scripted” and more formal than Cerf. It may be his background as a lawyer. And more so than Cerf he was predicting a future that requires order of magnitude additional bandwidth. Of course, this was no surprise to anyone in the room… His speech looks like a repeat performance of a similar presentation he made for GMIS earlier this year. Worth the time to watch.

T.J. Rodgers from Cypress Semiconductor was supposed to be the next speaker. I’ve always wanted to hear him speak since I’ve read many of his “notable” remarks. Unfortunately, he was a no show and sent his regrets saying we would likely read about the deal he is closing shortly…

The event was held at The Computer History Museum where I was able to browse part of the museum before the presentations. The exhibits were great and the “Visible Storage” (i.e. computer antique display) was fascinating. This collection ranges from pre-computers, to the early computers of the 1940’s to more recent items including one of Google’s first home-made servers. Last year, I was very excited to see an actual Enigma Machine that I happened upon in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. And all this time, I could have simply gone down the street to see one…

I don’t know why I haven’t been to The Computer History Museum before, but I really hope that I will find time (maybe with the children especially as they grow older) to go back again and again.

Between the speakers and the museum, well worth attending. As an added bonus it was free to IEEE members. Hearing excellent speakers can certainly demonstrate “how it’s done” and increase the desire to improve one’s own speaking ability. A note to most of us: neither Cerf nor Charney “read” their slides. The slides were mostly used as illustrations with a minimum of text. And I’m making a note that I need to attend future events like this now that I know what I’ve missed by passing them up…

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