Mike Nelson
The Real-Time Embedded Systems Specialist

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Biographical Sketch

The following is a brief curriculum vitae in reverse chronological order.

1983 to Present: Embedded Software Engineer

Thunderhill Raceway, exit of Turn 11E

Opening throttle at the end of the ess, entering back straightaway behind the pits.

In my work as an electronics engineer I designed and built programmable hardware. I used microprocessors, bit slice processors, and microcoded finite state machines. Usually, there were not enough programmers to go around, so I wrote my own design verification, diagnostic, and device driver software to run on my programmable hardware.

After a few years of working in industry, I realized the limitations of my knowledge and went back to school at Santa Clara University and University of California at Santa Cruz Extension to learn more about software engineering. Since then, applications of microprocessors and demand for code to run on them grew rapidly, and I spent progressively more time creating software and less time designing hardware. Now, I work almost entirely in the software domain, but I depend heavily on my background in hardware design to program real-time embedded systems.

Besides riding motorcycles, I enjoy photography, and building web sites like Window Cleaning by Jim, Erie Photo Decor, Laurelwood Veterinary Clinic, and this one.

1978 to 1983: Electronics Engineer

Photo by Oliver Yu

When I re-entered civilian life, "Silicon Valley" was the place to work in electronics, and still is today.

My first employer was Intel, and one of my first jobs was building memory systems. Intel was then a leader in NMOS dynamic RAM and bipolar static RAM production, and we built large add-on memory systems for minicomputers from DEC and Data General, and mainframes from IBM and Amdahl.

Later at Intel, I transferred to Microcomputer Systems Division, supporting microprocessor development systems and in-circuit emulators. I was most impressed by the 8051 microcomputer with on-chip program and data memories. This was truly a "system on a chip". By that experience, I was convinced that my future was in embedded microprocessor design.

When microprocessors were not fast enough for an application, I used programmable logic to build finite state machines and bit-slice processors. Finite state machines are still my favorite software architecture, today.

1972 to 1978: Electronics Technician in the U.S. Navy

P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Warfare Patrol Aircraft

In the Navy, I installed, maintained, tested, repaired, and operated radio, navigation, radar, electronic warfare, and digital cryptographic equipment on P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft and the USS Reasoner (FF-1063). Basically, I worked on every electronic gizmo on these platforms except fire-control and sonar equipment.

When everything was running well, I studied electronic design by correspondence to supplement Navy technical schools and "On the Job Training" (OJT).

USS Reasoner (FF-1063)

1968 to 1972: High School

At McDowell High School in Millcreek, Pennsylvania, I took every Industrial Electricity and Electronics course available, and built my own test equipment and audio gear from kits. One summer at the Erie County Technical School, I learned to write COBOL programs on a mainframe computer. I spent hours laboriously hand coding on paper forms, keying in the code on punch cards, rewiring the plug boards of various card sorters and calculators.

However, what really captivated me was the repair work when the field service engineer came to fix our Honeywell 200. He plugged in a portable oscilloscope, opened a briefcase full of tools, and paged through a huge stack of schematics and computer printouts as he probed the guts of the machines.

1953 to 1967: Childhood

As a boy, I was fascinated by electronics. I was more interested in the circuits inside of the television set than the images displayed on the front. My father stimulated my interest by building a shortwave radio receiver to entertain the family on those long winter nights in the mountains of far northeast corner of California. Also, he bought me a book on electricity which had a number of simple projects. I kept myself awake past my bedtime sending Morse code with flashes of light across the room to my brother.

I knew then I wanted to work in electronics. I had plenty of other interests, but I always knew the answer to the question: "What do you want to do for a living when you grow up?" One could say I have "The Knack."

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