Friday, January 16, 2009

A personal digression...

Sadly, tonight I just found out that Jack Gifford died. He was a larger than life character and maybe someday they will write a book about him, so here are a few of my memories...

The Athletic Competitor:
The area where we played grass volleyball at lunch was right behind Jack's office. Jack had a fenced off outdoor area next to his office that I think he sat in sometimes. For many months we played and finally one day he came out and said he wanted to play too! We played at a reasonably advanced level and having the CEO come out and challenge us to a match was quite a surprise. Jack partnered with Jeff Kirsten and I had my usual partner, Krishnan. Boy, was Jack aggressive! He came storming up to the net on every point! He was in his 50's at the time and we were early 20's/30's. No matter! Jack kept up the furious pace for the entire match. At one point when I went for a spike, he flew under the net and smacked right into me pretty hard. Then he grunted at me. Kind of intimidating!

Marketting Guy?:
When I first joined MAXIM, I didn't know much about Jack. I assumed he was some kind of MBA guy and not necessarily technical. One time, out of the blue, Jack sent out a memo asking for ANY business idea from ANYBODY. The idea didn't even have to involve chips. Fuzzy logic was all the rage in the industry and one of the business managers, Eric, asked me to partner with him to propose fuzzy logic control chips. I didn't know much about controls but had read up quite a bit on fuzzy logic and figured I could wing it. We met with Jack and gave our spiel. At the end, Jack says "You know I did my master's thesis on electronic control systems and I'd like to ask you guys some detailed questions." Both of us were flabbergasted... We turned pretty red. We looked like total dopes because it turned out that Jack knew way more about control systems then either of us did and I was was supposed to be the technical guy!

Lab Surprise:
One time I was working in the lab and the door popped open. Jack came in and just started looking over my shoulder. The CEO! Breathing down my neck! Ahhh.... He didn't say anything to me and finally another guy asked Jack what was up (I was too scared to say anything). Jack replies and I remember this vividly, "Just checking on the chickens".

Newton Chips:
The Apple Newton palmtop had just come out and there was quite a bit of buzz about it. We proposed building handwriting recognition chips for Newton like products. My boss, Len, obtained a Newton and let me and some of the other guys play with it. We, of course, taught the Newton to recognize the handwritten word, FUC* (replace the * with letter K). In the big meeting, Jack signed his name and as his signature was notoriously illegible and his first name has four characters, the Newton prompty responded FUC* !!! So Jack says "What the fuc*!", throws the thing down and so much for handwritting chips...

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