Friday, August 26, 2005

Intel Developers Forum

I spent a couple of days at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco this week. Intel is an amazing company. Virtually every PC made in the world has an Intel processor in it (200 million per year), or an AMD Intel clone. Most cell phones have Intel chips in them. Intel’s revenues - $37B per year. Net income, $8.25B…

I first worked with Intel processors in 1981… I actually programmed Intel 8080 processors in Assembly code. I remember our resident computer whiz expounding on how, even though Intel never had the best processors, they had the best customer support, and in the end they would win. The two competitors (both with better products), were Zilog (the Z80), and Motorola (the 6800). And who won? Well, you know. And who wasn’t clever enough to buy some Intel stock then and there (or even 10 years later)? Yours truly.

But enough of that. I’m sure you’re dying to know what transpired at the show.

First I have to kvell. The show was (of course) all about Intel’s new processors. Dual core, quad core, etc… Optimized for compact laptop computers – low power and high performance. Won’t burn your lap… You’ve heard of Centrino. Well, the new generations are named Sonoma and Napa… But the processors themselves? They all have Hebrew names. Why? Because they were all developed in Israel: The Banias, the Dothan (pronounced Dotan), the Yonah, and the latest, the Merom. It was super cool. The most leading edge stuff that Intel has is developed in Israel. I felt the same way you feel when your team wins…

The funniest thing at the show… When they tried to show us that video conferencing works, and ended up showing us how it doesn’t. First with China. So Mr Maloney, Intel keynote speaker, demonstrated talking over a video conference line with the mayor of Shenzhou. He asked a question. The mayor listened, and listened, and listened… About 5 seconds later he answered… Then Maloney moved on to Holland, and the head of IT for the port of Rotterdam. The Dutchman listened, and listened, and listened. And about 5 seconds later, he answered… On to Canada. Same story. By this time the audience was almost rolling out of their seats. The great Intel is showing us how well video conferencing works, and they couldn’t get anything better than a 5 second delay. Maloney couldn’t let it rest. He had to go on to Argentina. Same story. They couldn’t have made it funnier if they’d tried. It became the running joke of the show. We were all convinced. Video conferencing still does not work…

Something I found truly interesting? Voice Over IP (otherwise known as VoIP, or IP over the Internet). This is the software and service that allow you to talk with someone over the internet as though you were using a phone – no extra charge. This is the stuff that is going to kill the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), known in geekland as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Well, when POTS was first put in place, around the turn of the last century, the highest frequency allowed was 3400 Hz. That passes voice, but it doesn’t pass the high frequencies. Our ear is actually capable of hearing up to 20,000 Hz when we’re young, and our optimum range is up to 6,000 Hz. Which is why a telephone call doesn’t sound quite like having someone in the room next to you. Well, the next generation of VoIP services will handle frequencies up to 8,000 Hz. Intel gave a demo, and the difference was truly amazing. I’m sure we were hearing the best example (a female voice, complex prose), but still. I’m excited…

What was a bit disconcerting? Well, that there don’t seem to be any women in senior positions at Intel. That’s almost par for the course, but not quite. Intel is definitely an uber-alpha-male domain. I took comfort in thinking about some of the few women who had done very well in hi-tech. Debbie Estrin – former CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Cisco. Jayshree Ullal of Cisco. Kathy Hill of Cisco. It’s only now that I realize they’re all at Cisco… Jeanette Symons – founder and CTO of Ascend. And someone I just ran across - Safra Katz – president of Oracle. That’s it. I think I’ve exhausted the list. Slim pickins. Oh well.

7 Comments:

At 5:25 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Great Post. I loved working at Intel (in Israel - also in Arizona/New Mexico/Santa Clara/Ireland). As my first job out of college, I was their first C developer in Intel Jerusalem. Noting could be cooler for me, since I had their top of the line 386 computer, zomming alonmg at 25 Mhz (with a 387 math coprocessor!). The best part was the RAM...8 Whole Megs of Extended! I was king of the hill! It was great...I stayed with them for 8 wonderful years. Working with PC networking, setting up Israel's first TCP/IP PC network, robotic interfaces...

BTW - Intel has the only Clean Rooms in the world with Mezuzot on the doors. Anyway - back to work.

 
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