It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the little details of the day and lose sight of what it is that we really do and why – like on a macro scale. (I really wanted to avoid use of the phrase “big picture”, but I’m not convinced that “macro scale” is any less trite and over used than is “big picture”). Right now, for example, what I’m doing is picking words and phrases to write. That is certainly accurate, but also quite meaningless.
I could also say that I’m here to tell engineers what we, at Screaming Circuits, do in such a way that said engineers can make an informed decision as to whether we’re the right company to help get PC boards built. That is also an accurate description of what I do and why. It’s a bit more informative than my fist statement, but still falls short.
Abrupt segue alert
On September 22, 2016, a little after 9:10 am, I was stopped at a traffic light on a rural highway just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was rear-ended. A vehicle hit the car behind me and pushed it into my car. Fortunately, I had my foot on the brake pedal and was able to not be pushed into the vehicle in front of me. Two years and a few months later, as I write this, I’m still struggling with the physical impact of that crash. Since that happened, three other people that I know have been rear-ended, the most recent this Christmas eve day. That’s a fine “Merry Christmas to you.”
Why (specifically) I was on that highway near Minneapolis
In March of 2017, I purchased a new car; A Subaru Impreza. I didn’t buy the specific vehicle that I test drove. The dealer didn’t have a lot of options on the lot in the model I wanted. One was a nice blue that I really liked. The other was grey, a little more expensive, didn’t have a sun roof, but had something called EyeSight – a lane holding and adaptive cruse control system. I was about to sign for the blue one, but changed my mind at the last minute. I had a flash thought that the extra money might be well spent on safety.
I have never regretted that decision. The car is far from self-driving, but if I drift out of my lane, it will warn me and/or nudge the steering wheel to get me back where I need to be. In traffic, the adaptive cruse control will slow down when the car in front of me slows and speed back up when it speeds up. The car will apply emergency braking if a car stops hard in front of me. I consider myself a pretty decent driver (who doesn’t) and yet there have been several times in traffic where the car has hit the brake hard before my foot got there.
This is where I circle back to why we are here. If the cars that hit me and my friends had been equipped with the EyeSight or equivalent system (and the system was active) none of us would have been hit or we would have been hit at a much slower velocity. I would still be able to get out in a kayak or hop on my bicycle for a 70 mile ride. And, this message really isn’t about me. What I’ve written about are just a few examples; relatively minor in scale across the continuum of car crashes.
The electronics hardware and software in those systems is incredibly complex. It’s really hard to design and build that stuff and it’s very important. So, why are we here? For me, it’s to make that process just a little easier. My personal philosophy has me striving to make my little corner of the planet slightly better than I found it, and in this job, trying to make it a little easier for an engineer to do their job fits that bill.
Now I’m trying to think of a snarky but appropriate signature phrase.