Category Archive: Education/Positions


Working On What Comes Next

Working on what comes next means watching for trends and needs and then finding the people who see them too.

I’ve executed a wide variety of software projects for many clients, learning a lot about making successful software along the way and developing a network of project partners to add special expertise when required.  I’m available to help you make things that we’ll be proud of.

At present, I’m very interested in expanding on work I’ve done recently in mobile object recognition. I believe that it will frequently replace QRCodes for making a real world object clickable.

2009. One Economy

Promoting Public Purpose Apps

My career took an unexpected turn in 2009 when I was invited into the non-profit world. One Economy helps people enter the economic mainstream by providing digital access, training and media. I had the fortune to serve as director of the Social Innovation Lab there from 2009 to 2011.

My main objective was to promote both internal and external innovation around public purpose applications for mobile devices and the desktop.

Internally, we started a collaboration tool called the Half Bakery (after the web site of the same name) to collect application ideas and encourage input from around the company on projects that could meet the corporate mission. This also served to focus fund raising on sponsor organizations that would be interested in seeing the applications being built.

Externally, we started a developer community at around four key needs related to poverty in the U.S. I wrote or edited many of the articles and business ideas. A4G was featured in this Huffington Post article. A4G is intended to help developers and funders discover new markets among low-income people by creating apps that matter in their lives. In 2011, ATT and Papaya Mobile sponsored the first A4G apps contest.

Part of our commitment for funding was to create our own public purpose applications to serve as examples.

I wrote a native Android application called Respond after the Haitian earthquake. It filled the need for people to have a discoverable app in the stores that pointed them to ways to contribute to relief and get informed in times of crisis. The app can be instantly updated, as it was after the disaster this year in Japan.

We also made an application called MyTaxBack, available via SMS, Facebook, iPhone and Android. It’s a simple calculator to remind people that if they file their taxes they are likely to get a refund as a result of the EITC. The Earned Income Tax Credit is widely held as one of the best innovations against poverty in the US.

As part of the MyTaxBack program I wrote a reusable SMS response tool for text messaging campaigns. Along with this we created a database for tracking users of the various OE programs and media, anonymously, of course, to be able to reconnect at opportune times. For example, if someone files for a tax refund, we would send a text reminder, at about the time they would receive the money, to check out options for setting up a bank acount or paying down credit card debt. The vision is to create sort of a CRM for coaching people to help themselves.

Augmented reality does not seem, at first thought, to be an appropriate technology for helping the poor. Considering though that over half of homeless people have a mobile phone already we felt the need to stay ahead of the adoption curve. So we developed the Beehive Local layer on Layar. It helps social service providers in the field to locate nearby emergency food, shelter and medical help.

As in any non-profit, there was lots of grant writing. I had the chance to work with some real gifted people in this area. One proposal that I was really proud of was for mReady, an application that would run on feature phones and smart phones to help people prepare for a disaster. After Katrina, it was apparent that rescue and relief could have been improved with many of the features available on people’s devices. The app could prepare folks with checklists, storage of important documents, photos of belongings, a rendevous plan for the family etc. The proposal was presented to the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives for consideration.

Of the many ideas left to make into reality, one application I would love to see built is for Facebook. It would be a game that classrooms would play, based on homework material submitted by teachers. The objectives are to both improve and to help in mastering the subject. Advanced students could score points by explaining concepts to strugglers (no giving of answers). If you are interested, contact me.


2004. Qualcomm

Getting Mobile

My service at Qualcomm began as a contractor in 2004. The Portland Design Center where I worked was such a great place and the mobile market was so fascinating that I became an fulltime staff engineer until 2009.

Many people don’t know that Qualcomm got its start in communications for long haul trucking. On my first project, we specified and wrote the first version of Qualcomm Hours of Service, a driver-tracking package used on most long haul trucks in the United States.

Next I got on a team creating prototype applications for emerging markets. In this capacity, I wrote Short Voice Service, a BREW reference application for peer-to-peer voice messaging, a variation of which is now in use in India.


Qualcomm helps makers of new phones to set up their operating systems on advance board-size builds of handsets. This gave me the chance to work on an upcoming release of Windows Mobile running on Snapdragon. I adapted a DirectShow transform filter in Windows Mobile to use the on board DSP.

Each year there is a contest for new business ideas in the company. In the first year of VentureFest, I was asked to help get the Portland into into action. Our office had 70 people compared with 12,000 in the entire company. Three of the final twelve VentureFest teams had members from Portland.

My own team was able to start a new research initiative in image-recognition-based search using mobile phones. I pitched in by writing part of the business plan, the BREW and Windows Mobile client demo applications and the project web site.

One last project at Qualcomm was to help a local non-profit successfully pitch for funding to create mobile phone-based motivation tools for their low-income health care program as described in this article. It turned out this would influence what I did next.

1987 Murphy Software

My Own Business

After a few years of working for someone else, I decided I needed to be my own boss. Having at least a bit of sense, I made the first step of getting a side job. That went well, so being young, cocky and omniscient, I boldly turned in my resignation on October 19, 1987. You can see below how the Dow did that day (Black Monday).

I really hadn’t told that many people I was leaving the company, so the market’s reaction kind of surprised me.

Despite a spooky beginning, things went pretty well for Murphy Software. I did lots of projects in semiconductor fab automation for Intel, AMD, Sematech and others. One connection at Intel made it possible to move from Silicon Valley to Portland where we’ve lived since.

The details about various projects are in some of the articles on this site. In general, running my own business has taught me to stay concerned about the customer. Ask lots of questions, make sure I understand, communicate about progress, constantly iterate and always try to deliver more than expected.

1982. CTX International

Production Control, Analytics and Sushi

This was my second job out of college and it was a blast. CTX (originally called Centex) created a multi-processor based solution for engineering analysis and production control in semiconductor fabs.

It was the Silicon Valley in the early years. Had I gone to Sun or Intel, I might be working on my golf game now. But oh well. Besides working with a great group of people at a start-up, I got to help with all facets of the company’s business in Japan.

My various roles:

  • Product manager for CTX 2600, and engineering analysis workstation
  • Managed sales, custom development and support for Japanese customers of a semiconductor fab automation software product line.
  • Spent 20% of time in Japan.  Most sales calls and training performed in Japanese.
  • Wrote several interfaces to Japanese-made fab processing equipment.
  • Wrote production management and tracking software for semiconductor fabrication plants.

1980. Anistics

First Job Out of College

The name Anistics is a portmanteau of Analytical Statistics.  The company was a small consulting branch of Alexander & Alexander, now Aon, the large insurance firm. Being an analyst there was my first gig out of college. I made presentations about why insurance prices always go up and tried to find patterns in data about robberies of Seven-Eleven stores. There actually seemed to be something going on with the phases of the moon.

My  desktop terminal connected with “the mainframe” via a 300 baud acoustic coupling modem. Nevertheless, we did some pretty cool stuff with a language called APL. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, the financial scenario comparison matrices we set up in that language were essentially spreadsheets. This was right at the time Visicalc was being conceived.


I also created an accounting package at night in APL. It was painful but it worked acceptably for my little side business.

Below is an APL keyboard. The symbols are operators to act upon arrays. Some handle iteration. There were no control structures like while loops and you could do an amazing amount with just one incomprehensible line of code.

Think you can impress the girls with your regexp? This is the infamous Game of Life in One Line of Code:

life ← { ⊃ 1 ω ∨ . ∧ 3 4 = +/ +⌿ 1 0 ‾1 ∘.θ 1 – ‾1 Φ″ ⊂ ω }

1976. Stanford University

Good Fortune

Someone accidentally put my application in the “Accepted” pile. I’m pretty sure.

I started out in exploring social sciences and German. Sophmore year I lived in Berlin — still divided at that time by The Wall. In my junior and senior years I got hooked on computers, started drinking coffee and learned some Japanese. I combined the oddball mix of credits into a degree in International Relations.

Coursework was manageable. The biggest challenge was paying for it, but hustling for good part time jobs to cover tuition taught me a lot about seeing opportunity and the importance of hard work. I took accounting and wrote a program to keep the books of “Campus Enterprises”, the umbrella for my various temp jobs. Then I deducted a portion of tuition on my taxes as education expense.