SNJ: T-1915 | “NASA’s unsung heroes: The Apollo coders who put men on the moon” | Author: Nick Heath | Publisher: TechRepublic | #SmitaNairJain

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Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 9.05.28 AMNASA’s unsung heroes: The Apollo coders who put men on the moon

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Learn how pioneering software engineers helped NASA launch astronauts into space, and bring them back again — pushing the boundaries of technology as they did it.

Homer Ahr had been asleep for 15 minutes when he got a call from his boss at Johnson Space Center.

“All he said was, ‘Homer, get into mission control as fast as you can.’ I didn’t have an idea of why I was going in there,” he said.

“Within 30 minutes at most I knew that they were truly in a life or death situation,” said Ahr.

Earlier that evening, Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert had brought NASA mission control to a standstill with the now famous statement, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

The Apollo 13 craft was more than 300,000 kilometers into its journey to the moon when an explosion ripped through the tiny capsule.

On that day in April 1970, with the vessel venting its precious supply of oxygen, NASA knew it had few options for getting the three Apollo astronauts on the stricken spacecraft home safely.

“From that realization on, all we did was do everything we could to get them back,” Ahr said.

“It’s sort of like being in the ER, you know? If you have to jam a needle into somebody’s chest to reactivate their heart, you just do it. You don’t think about what you’re doing. You just do it.”

One of the many pressing issues was how to mount a rescue without firing the engines on the damaged part of the craft. At Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, mission control narrowed the options to a maneuver never attempted before. The survival of the astronauts now hinged on using the descent engines on the lunar lander to put the craft on a homeward trajectory.

SEE: How a NASA team of black women ‘computers’ sent an astronaut into orbit in 1962

Mission control had limited time to work out how to pull off the maneuver. Luckily, just months before the crew blasted off from Cape Canaveral, two programmers had written the software for mission control to calculate just such a move.

One of those programmers was the 22-year-old Ahr, just a year out of college and working for IBM as a maneuver-planning expert supporting NASA flight officers in mission control.

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“If what had occurred on the Apollo 13 had occurred on Apollo 12, we would have had a real bear of a problem,” said Ahr, since the algorithms for calculating the maneuver had only just been added.

“Physically you could do it, but computationally and in the mission control center, it would have been extremely difficult to figure out when to do the maneuver and how to do it,” he said.

Mission control needed assurance that firing the descent engines would work, and Ahr and a colleague spent the night running what was called a dispersion analysis, checking every possible parameter to see if the move would put the craft on the right course.

“I couldn’t even tell you the number of times we ran computations,” said Ahr, “but we did the dispersion analysis, and the conclusion was, ‘Go ahead and do the maneuver.'”

The computers as heroes

The eventual safe return of the astronauts was due to far more than that series of calculations, but Ahr’s recollection illustrates just how crucial the early computers were to the lunar missions.

With its goal of putting a man on the moon, NASA’s Apollo program is perhaps the most ambitious technical endeavor ever undertaken. Throughout the 15 Apollo missions that included six moon landings, the precision needed—in terms of positioning and velocity—to put the craft on the correct trajectory on the journey to and from earth was exacting.

Every maneuver that would be carried out by the spacecraft was calculated in advance by IBM computers in the Real-Time Computer Complex (RTCC) at Johnson Space Center, and checked against the craft’s actual maneuvers throughout the mission.

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Just as important to the return of Apollo 13, and the success of the wider program, were the computer systems underpinning the numerous simulators at Johnson Space Center and Cape Canaveral. The simulators included working copies of the spacecraft’s command and lunar modules, and allowed NASA astronauts and the flight controllers on the ground to practice every part of the journey: from the launch, to the lunar landing, to earth re-entry, working in tandem as they would during the mission.

Simulators replicated not only the workings of the onboard computers, but also fed data into ground systems, recreating the experience of an actual mission as closely as possible, and preparing staff to deal with a host of potential problems.

Jack Winters, who managed simulators testing and started out writing software for simulators during the earlier Gemini missions, said the training for the flight controllers was invaluable for the Apollo Project.

“On Apollo 13, for example, they were much, much better able to spot the problem and develop workarounds because of the training,” he said.

During Apollo 13, these simulators would let engineers and astronauts on the ground—working alongside astronaut Ken Mattingly, who had been replaced on the Apollo 13 flight crew at the last moment—figure out how to bring the command module’s onboard systems back online with the limited power available, a crucial step ahead of re-entering earth’s atmosphere.

Merritt Jones was working at Johnson Space Center as a computer programmer and an astrodynamicist, calculating the mechanics of how a spacecraft moves in orbit.

Working out the correct order to restore the lander’s systems was incredibly important for the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew, he said.

“They had to reduce the power required for the startup sequence. The startup sequence was critical. If you didn’t start in the right sequence, the systems wouldn’t work well or wouldn’t work at all.”

Pushing boundaries

The computers used during the Apollo missions were impossibly crude by modern standards. Each of the RTCC’s five IBM System/360 Model J75 mainframes had about 1MB of main memory, not even enough to load a typical web page in 2017.

“The software that controls what happens when you move your mouse on your PC—the mouse driver for Windows—takes more memory than all the NASA supercomputers put together had for Apollo,” said Jones.

Despite filling an entire hall with electronics, the mainframes each topped out at about one million instructions per second (MIPs), some 30,000-times slower than the fastest processors used in today’s personal computers.

NASA was bumping up against the limits of what technology at the time could do, which often meant relying on cutting-edge, and sometimes unproven, hardware and software. And where the tech simply didn’t exist, NASA’s commercial partners had to invent it.

A case in point was the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). While the ground systems might sound underpowered, the onboard computers were orders of magnitude more simple. The guidance computer for the Apollo spacecraft needed to be small enough to fit in a cramped capsule and light enough for the Saturn rocket to get it into space. The wardrobe-sized IBM mainframes that NASA used on the ground were out of the question.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory (MIT-IL), which had the contract to develop the AGC, turned to a new technology, integrated circuits, which had the potential to make computers faster and smaller by etching multiple transistors onto small chips. At that time in 1961, integrated circuits had only been invented two years earlier and were something of an unknown quantity, but by 1963 MIT-IL had ordered some 60 percent of the world’s available ICs.

“A lot had to do with power and weight,” said Bob Zagrodnick, an engineer who worked on the AGC at Raytheon, which built 43 of the computers during the course of the Apollo program.

“These are small units and they didn’t take up a lot of power. We’d constantly strive to minimize weight and power consumption.”

rtcc2.png

The Real-Time Computer Complex (RTCC) for the Apollo Program’s Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center. The RTCC was situated on the first floor in Building 30, below the Mission Operation Control Rooms. There were no windows to the outside world in any of these rooms.

Image: Homer Ahr/NASA

More unusual was the way the software running on the AGC was literally woven together. At Raytheon’s production line in Waltham, MA, weavers looped wire through circular magnets, creating a metallic tapestry whose pattern corresponded to digital zeros and ones, which in turn encoded the programs run on the computer.

“They actually threaded the flight program information into the core rope memories,” said Zagrodnick. “It was a very intense activity, so mostly women who were good at needle and thread were the ones who weaved or put together the core memories.”

Back in Johnson Space Center, IBM found itself facing an entirely different challenge. As the name suggests, the computers in the RTCC needed to be able to handle new jobs and data in real time, to fulfill their role monitoring spacecraft trajectories and driving complex simulations of the missions. The problem was that at that point in the early 1960s real-time operating systems didn’t exist.

According to Ahr: “We had to get a multi-tasking, multi-jobbing operating system in the 1960s — before IBM had ever built a multi-jobbing, multi-tasking operating system.”

So IBM invented one, modifying the existing OS on its System/360 mainframe, in addition to creating a real-time database called DataTables, “well before you had anything called a relational database,” said Ahr, with strict rules around which data could be updated and when, to ensure critical information relating to the spacecraft would be accurate and available when needed.

Working with a new OS added a fresh wrinkle to a task already fraught with challenges, with calculations throwing up unexpected results due not just to application errors, but also mistakes in the relatively untested operating system.

Download this article as a PDF (free registration required).

Shooting for the moon

The pressure on the young IBM programmers was intense, with individuals working as many as 80 hours in a week, in a bid to hit the hardest of deadlines.

Winters said: “NASA had a schedule. They were going to fly on certain dates. They announced that to the public and IBM surely did not want to be the one that caused the flight to be delayed.”

That drive to work round-the-clock was partly driven by the punishing timetable, but also by the thrill at working to put a man on a moon, and desire to beat the Russians in the space race.

“We were so excited,” said Winters. “We were young. I think I was 21 when I started. We didn’t know what we couldn’t do. We just thought we could do anything. Here I was working on software that was going to go into space and eventually to the moon. The adrenaline factor was tremendous.”

Being young enough to not fully appreciate what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do sometimes paid off handsomely, according to Harry Hulen, who primarily worked on the software used at the simulators in Houston before going on to oversee others’ code.

“You could kill a guy if you messed this up. You could kill a guy.”

TOM STEELE, NASA COMPUTER PROGRAMMER

 

 

 

Hulen recalls having difficulty simulating the propellant tanks on the Agena unmanned rocket during the Gemini missions, the US manned spaceflight project that preceded Apollo, when he took a trip down to his local Sakowitz department store.

“There on the shelf, along with the usual kinds of books that you see in a store, was a book called Rocket Propellant and Pressurization Systems,” he said.

“I bought it, and it turned out that that book was exactly telling me what to do with the requirements that I had. I just totally ignored the requirements that NASA had written and programmed out of this book that I bought at Sakowitz,” said Hulen. “It worked well. No one caught me, and the results of it worked just fine. They were able to simulate certain things to a higher degree of accuracy than was required.

“The important thing is I was, maybe, 22 years old, and I didn’t know I was doing the wrong thing. I just said: ‘This looks to me like what I ought to be doing.’ I suspect that there was quite a bit of that,” he said.

That’s not to say it was always easy to strike the right balance between personal and professional commitments. Many of the young programmers were starting families at the time, but often found themselves having to work late to test software, due to machines being in constant use during the day.

“A lot of our development time was in the middle of the night,” said Winters.

“I spent many a late hour in the computer room testing software and overseeing the testing of software. In fact, my first divorce was probably caused by all the hours I worked during that period,” he said.

SEE: Photos: The computer programmers behind NASA’s Apollo missions

At the back of every engineer’s mind wasn’t just the success of the mission, but also the lives of the astronauts that depended on software doing its job.

From the moment Tom Steele joined IBM in 1963, working out of Huntsville, AL on software for the guidance systems on the Saturn rockets used during Apollo, he said his team were made acutely aware of what was at stake.

“Every contractor had a program of manned-flight awareness. Those programs were designed to both make you do things better, but also to make you be able to handle the idea that you could kill a guy if you messed this up,” he said.

Ahr felt that responsibility particularly keenly during during Apollo 11, the 1969 mission that landed the first men on the moon.

apollo-coders-02.jpg

Engineers gathered in the Mission Evaluation Room during Apollo 11.

Image: NASA

His job at that time was to run software that computed maneuvers of the rocket and the spacecraft at each stage of the mission, and check the real-time position of the spacecraft against the projected results, working to support the flight officers in mission control.

The role was by no means straightforward, requiring Ahr to sit at a console listening to about eight different phone lines at once, as well as the audio feed from the astronauts. He remembers the fear he felt when those lines began echoing to the sound of an alarm as the Apollo 11 lunar module descended towards the moon’s surface.

“When those alarms were going off during the first descent, it was scary, to say the least,” said Ahr. “It was chaotic to listen to all of that at one time and try to stay calm, keep your head up and not panic.

“It was like you’re sitting at a football game, there’s tons of people yelling, and screaming, and hollering, plus at the same time there’s a fire. You know, fire trucks show up, ambulances show up, police show up, and they all have their sirens on,” he said. “That’s what you’re listening to as you’re trying to sit there and calmly watch the real-time data come in.”

Fortunately the descent to the lunar surface was near-on perfect: “As good a descent as we could have ever flown,” said Ahr, thanks to the many fail-safes built into the Apollo systems. In this instance, the rendezvous radar in the module had been switched on, overloading the Apollo Guidance Computer with jobs. However, the system was able to prioritize the tasks needed for the descent, and ignore those related to the radar.

Ahr credits his ability to stay calm and do his job to the extensive training ahead of the mission, where all manner of problems had been simulated, and an awareness of the important role he and other ground staff had.

“Every action you did on the console affected the success of the mission and could affect the lives of the astronauts,” he said. “You had to have sort of a characteristic where the more pressure there was and the more stress there was, the better you worked.”

There was mutual respect between the IBM engineers and their NASA colleagues, born out of their close working relationship and the high stakes involved in making manned spaceflight a reality.

“We were truly a band of brothers,” said Ahr. “We were always committed to the same goal: successful missions.”

Download this article as a PDF (free registration required).

“I’m kind of amazed we pulled it off”

Adding to the pressure were the profound limitations of the primitive technology at the time, whether it was the ease with which console operators like Ahr could make mistakes when typing data into a teletype machine during a mission or having to write programs for the IBM mainframes on punched cards.

“In retrospect I’m kind of amazed that we were able to pull it off,” said Winters.

Each stage of the programming process was incredibly cumbersome. Programs for the IBM mainframes at Houston were written on coding pads, which would then be given to keypunch operators who would punch them onto card decks.

With the main IBM Federal Systems Division office situated nearly a mile from the computers, it was often necessary for a courier to deliver the card trays to the Computing Center and return the results, limiting the number of times software could run to an average of 1.2 times per programmer per day.

“My monthly salary was the same as one hour on the mainframe.”

MERRITT JONES, NASA COMPUTER PROGRAMMER AND ASTRODYNAMICIST

 

 

 

Hulen said: “If you were lucky, you got a run back the next day. What you got back was paper, and quite often, it was a core dump,” a sign that the program had crashed. Debugging this code, mostly Assembly language with some Fortran, to identify the cause of the problem was nothing like today.

The core dump would be a stack of paper, “maybe eight or nine inches” high, without a word of human language on it.

“It would all be in hexadecimal, and you had to learn to read that and find key points that were within the dump. What you needed would probably have fit on one page, but there wasn’t any real means to know what you really needed, so you got these huge core dumps back,” said Hulen.

“You had to be very fluent in hexadecimal and be able to recognize your assembler language instructions literally in machine language,” he said. “You had to know a good many people to get help. On a bad day, it might take two or three days to work it out.”

Documentation was also minimal, particularly in early missions. Hulen recalls working on telemetry software related to the Agena rocket used in Project Gemini. Programmers kept a bit-by-bit breakdown of each of that software’s basic components, known as words, which was written on a piece of cardboard they called the bit board.

“The only documentation was this bit board that we had put together. It worked quite well until one night the cleaning crew threw it out,” said Hulen. “We had no backup for it. We had a real crisis there, where we had to figure out what each one of those bits was and try to recreate the bit board, which never was totally successful.”

Over time, however, the unprecedented scale of the programs being worked on required IBM to develop sophisticated project-management plans, techniques that would be used for decades to come.

“These were extremely large software programs. There were over a million lines of code of application software,” said Winters. “There were very few successful examples of developing that amount of software successfully.”

There were about 500 IBM programmers based around Johnson Space Center in the Clear Lake area of Houston, spread over about 10 different buildings. To effectively coordinate the workforce, IBM came up with an approach of breaking down the software into modules managed by different teams and setting dates for when design, coding, integration and testing of the code would be complete.

Winters said one of the early managers, Dick Hanrahan, “pioneered that kind of management technique,” adding that the approach would go on to be used for large projects across IBM’s Federal Systems Division.

The power of the processors and the amount of memory available was so constrained that programmers would spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to simplify code, particularly if an instruction was carried out repeatedly.

“I would spend months trying to put the equation into a form that would take less memory and execute faster and still get an acceptable correct answer. And I do mean months,” said Jones of his work calculating spacecraft trajectories on IBM mainframes.

“I would spend a month trying to remove one instruction from a loop,” Jones said. “If I took one instruction out, I could save, say, 10,000 instruction executions. I only had 1,000,000 available to me and the operating system took some of those.”

Another instance saw Jones writing code to directly manipulate the zeros and ones of the machine code, using “masking instructions” to derive a far more efficient way of checking if one number was bigger than the other.

apollo-coders-05.jpg

Mission Control celebrated when Apollo 13 made it safely back to earth.

Image: NASA

“If you looked at the code, it would look horrible, but it would be fast,” he said.

According to Jones, without these extreme optimizations, software that carried out real-time calculations, such as the spacecraft’s current position, simply wouldn’t have been able to run on the computers available.

Given the IBM mainframes used in mission control had thousands of times less memory than a machine today, software had to be loaded in sections, each of which related to a different phase of the journey to the moon. Each section would take seconds to load, further complicating the process of tracking a spacecraft that could be moving as fast as seven miles per second.

Systems onboard the spacecraft were massively more limited than those on the ground, with the Instrument Unit computer aboard the Saturn V rocket capable of just 15,000 operations per second and not supporting floating-point math. “You can’t even begin to compare that to today,” said Jones.

The scarcity of computing power meant the relative value of the programmer’s time to the computer’s time was the inverse of what it is in 2017, said Jones.

“Today, you can buy as much compute power as you need if you have the money to buy it, and the programmer’s time is worth more than the computer by far. In those days, one hour on an IBM mainframe was worth one month of someone with a Master’s degree in math doing this work. My monthly salary was the same as one hour on the mainframe.”

Surprisingly, Steele said most of the programming techniques used today were available in the 1960s: “You just didn’t have any computers that could take advantage of them,” he said.

The limitations of the technology were so numerous and the calculations so complex that the best that the engineers could hope for was getting as close to certainty as possible.

“There weren’t any absolute yes / nos. [But] you had to make the decision like there were,” said Steele.

Getting as close as possible to certainty meant testing for every conceivable outcome. However, certain things couldn’t be tested on the ground, like how the weightless environment of space would disturb air bubbles in the soldered joints on electronic circuits. So, equally important, was learning from every earlier mission.

“The one thing that is true: we never, ever flew a mission that didn’t have a failure. Ever,” said Steele.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges, the Apollo program not only achieved President John F. Kennedy’s massively ambitious goal of putting an American on the moon by the end of the 1960s, but followed it up with multiple return trips to earth’s rocky satellite.

Decades later, the Apollo programmers describe a feeling of pride, but even more of being incredibly lucky.

“I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to have been a part of that. I feel it’s probably one of the most fortunate things that has ever happened to me in my life,” said Winters.

Steele sums it up even more succinctly: “There was never a day, never a single day there wasn’t a problem to solve, and it was amazing. It was an amazing ride.”

Download this article as a PDF (free registration required).

Photo credit for hero image: NASA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

nick-heath

Nick Heath

Chief reporter

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

 

Publisher: News, Tips, and Advice for Technology Professionals – TechRepublic

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SNJ: T-1914 | “Facebook teen-in-residence defects to Google and launches Lies” | Author: Zack Whittaker | Publisher: TechCrunch.com | #SmitaNairJain #CopyPaste

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Facebook teen-in-residence defects to Google and launches Lies

At age 17, Michael Sayman was Facebook’s youngest employee ever. Having already launched 5 apps, he wowed Mark Zuckerberg, earned a demo spot on stage at Facebook F8 conference, and scored a full-time engineering gig as the social network’s go-to teen. Over the past three years, he helped Facebook try to crack the middle school market with apps like the now defunct Lifestage.

But in August he switched sides, leaving to go work for Google. Yet his arrangement hasn’t stopped the now-21-year-old Sayman from tinkering with apps during his off-hours.

Today he launches his latest, a trivia game called Lies where you try to guess the one true fact about a friend amongst an array of fibs. It follows the social mechanics of his first hit, 4Snaps, which was like Pictionary but where you take four photos instead of drawing to get people to guess the right word.

Facebook is constantly accused of copying competitors like Snapchat, but with Lies, Sayman is returning the favor. Lies mimes the interface of tbh, the anonymous teen compliment sharing app Facebook recently acquired after it hit #1. “The idea came to me as an evolution of the past games I had created, as well as what I noticed was becoming popular on the App Store today.”

In Lies, you first upload your contacts, and then take a Tinder-style profile quiz where you swipe yes or no about questions about yourself. Then you’re given tbh-style four-choice questions about friends with the goal of correctly guessing which tribia tidbit about them is true. The statements range from “I’ve gone skinny dipping” to “I’m afraid of crowds” to “I’ve kissed someone on the first date”.

When friends answer questions about you, you get notified. “This game ends friendships” it declares, as you might learn who doesn’t really know you or thinks the worst about you.

That’s about it. Sayman proudly says he built the app over just two weekends before joining Google, so it’s thin and might still be a bit buggy. An Android version is in the works.

While a cute idea, Lies may succumb to impatience and vanity. It takes a few minutes of non-stop self-interviewing to answer enough questions to fill your profile and unlock the game. Some teens may flake before ever getting that far. And people might lie when answering some of the lewder or defamatory questions, like whether they’ve ever peed in the shower or stolen money from their grandparents. That breaks the game because friends’ guesses are irrelevant if the source of truth is fake news.

You could see Lies as the devil-on-your-shoulder counterpart to the tbh angel. The racier questions might draw people in, but the constant dealing in shameful topics could get exhausting. Still, Lies is another step towards Sayman cracking the code with a hit mobile app. He’s been building them since he was 13. And with Snapchat, Facebook, Houseparty, and other startups all chasing the teen market, Sayman’s combination of youth and experience make him a hot commodity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

fullsizeoutput_8edcJosh Constine is a technology journalist who specializes in deep analysis of social products. He is currently an Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch.

Previously, Constine was the Lead Writer of Inside Facebook, where he covered Facebook product changes, privacy, ads, ecommerce, games, and music technology.

Constine graduated from Stanford University in 2009 with a Master’s degree in Cybersociology, examining the influence of technology on social interaction. He researched the impact of privacy controls on the socialization of children, meme popularity cycles, and what influences the click through rate of links posted to Twitter.

Constine also received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Stanford University in 2007, with a concentration in Social Psychology & Interpersonal Processes.

Josh Constine is an experienced public speaker, and has done on-stage inteviews with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung, and Senator Cory Booker. He’s been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, The Atlantic, BBC World Magazine, Slate, and more, plus has been featured on television on NBC and Fox News. Constine is available for speaking gigs.

[Disclosures: Josh Constine advised a college friend’s social location-sharing startup codenamed ‘Signal’ that was based in San Francisco before dissolving in 2015. This advising role was cleared with AOL and TechCrunch’s editors. Constine’s cousin Darren Lachtman is the founder of Niche, which connects social media stars to sponsorships from brands, and was acquired by Twitter. Constine has personal relationships stemming from college housing with founders at Skybox Imaging (now Terra Bella), Hustle, Snapchat, and Robinhood. Constine occasionally does paid speaking engagements at conferences funded by companies he does not cover. Constine owns a small position in Ethereum cryptocurrency.]

Publisher: TechCrunch – The latest technology news and information on startups

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Why the ‘end of the startup era’ could be great for entrepreneurs

Three prominent tech thinkers recently declared the end of the startup era, questioned the future of tech innovation generally and heralded the rise of the “Frightful Five” — Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — who will dominate the future of tech. All of the posts make credible arguments, but ignore how consolidation could be good, even great, for startups.

If we define startup success as building cornerstone companies that will go down in history and be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, we may, in fact, be entering a lean period. If we define success as building an ever wider assortment of products, shipping them to tens of millions of users and earning hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars in short time frames, the good times may just be getting started.

Just look at the case of tbh — Ben Thompson suggests that Facebook likely paid ~$80 million for the seed-funded, one-year-old company. Each founder probably made close to $15 million for a year of work, making them better paid than All-Star NBA Champion Stephen Curry. Entrepreneurs may have to settle for acquiring mere generational wealth, rather than becoming “pledge to cure all diseases” wealthy, but the death of startups has been greatly exaggerated.

How consolidation could be great for startups

The kind of industry consolidation we see with the “Frightful Five” isn’t new to tech, it’s the norm in most industries and can actually spur innovation. The pharmaceutical and packaged food industries are heavily consolidated, have thriving startup scenes, are hyperactive in M&A and provide a glimpse of how the future of tech may unfold.

Pharma

The pharma industry was one of the earliest tech businesses and is one where first-mover advantage is real. As many leading pharma companies were founded before 1780 as after 1980, and eight of the 10 biggest companies are more than 100 years old. This sounds like the makings of a moribund market, but, in fact, between 2014-2015 there were more than 100 biotech IPOs that generated $10 billion in proceeds. A hundred years after the “winners” were established in pharma, startups are still producing money-making miracle drugs and minting multi-millionaire startup founders with startling regularity.

Company

Year Founded

Market Cap

Johnson & Johnson

1886

$382B

Novartis

1758 (1)

$215B

Pfizer

1849

$215B

Roche

1896

$201B

Merck

1891

$170B

AbbVie

1888 (2)

$146B

Amgen

1980

$130B

Sanofi

1718 (3)

$121B

Bristol-Myers Squibb

1887

$105B

Gilead Sciences

1987

$104B

1) Originally founded as Geigy. 2) Originally founded as Abbott Laboratories. 3) Originally founded as Laboratoires Midy. Market Cap data via Google Finance.

How did this happen? The established companies have scaled their organizations to handle the drudge work of getting a drug through clinical trials, past FDA review (and its global counterparts) and, once cleared, into the hands of doctors and patients. This organizational structure and scale make them ill-suited to pursue novel R&D, which is where the startups shine. Startups can now orient themselves entirely toward finding breakthrough cures and not worry about commercialization. If a startup develops a novel cancer drug, or even a molecule that looks promising, Sanofi, Novartis or one of their peers will buy it.

Food

Critics of the pharma comparison will point out that intellectual property is critical in the biotech/life sciences industries and software-based tech startups don’t have the same negotiating leverage. This is a fair point. However, the pattern of large companies focused on marketing and distribution acquiring nimble innovators also plays out in the packaged food business, which, like software, has little in the way of IP, relies on commodities as inputs and thrives by surfing changing consumer tastes. Look at the top 10 packaged food companies by revenue and the years in which they were founded:

Company

Year Founded

Market Cap

Nestlé

1886 (1)

$90.2B

Pepsico

1898

$62.8B

Unilever

1872 (2)

$48.3B

Coca-Cola

1886

$41.9B

Mars

1911

$35.0B

Mondelez

1909 (3)

$25.9B

Danone

1919

$23.7B

Associated British Foods

1935

$16.8B

General Mills

1856

$16.6B

Kellogg’s

1906

$13.0B

1) Originally founded as the “Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company.” 2) Originally founded as “Margarine Unie.” 3) Originally founded as “Kraft Foods.” Market cap data via Business Insider.

Despite this consolidation, last year there were 614 food and drink company acquisitions.

The diversity of the startups is impressive, their simplicity of their offerings even more so.Krave Jerky served paleo enthusiasts, and Dave’s Bread was a godsend to gluten lovers, but both were rewarded with quarter-billion-dollar exits for improving on product categories that are approximately 10,000 years old.

Startups aren’t limited to acquisitions either. Chobani went from a niche product to owning20 percent of the yogurt market in a little over 10 years. In 2015, two dog food startupsdebuted on the public markets with a combined $6 billion in market cap.

It’s true that the founders of RX Bar will probably not go down in history the way W.K. Kellogg did, but they still managed to turn a $10,000 investment into a $600 million fortune in four years. That seems like the sign of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, not a weak one.

Not only could this pattern work in tech, in some sectors it’s already the norm. Google has acquired at least 211 startups since 2001. IAC has owned the online dating space from Match.com and has bought up many of the 45 sub-brands that make up its portfolio.

Tech is maturing

Some believe that the tech industry will be perpetually churning and creating new market leaders. As Friendster gave way to Myspace, and Myspace lost out to Facebook, so shalt Facebook be upstaged by the next great social network. Microsoft once looked unassailable and was ultimately brought low by changing technology and the Justice Department, and so will Google, they say.

That’s always a possibility, but the reality is these companies have benefited from capturing billions of users in the crossover from desktop to mobile computing and established business models that are native to the web. The founders of Facebook, Amazon and Google will likely be running their companies for decades to come.

How to navigate the post-startup landscape

Fortune favors efficient entrepreneurs…
In a world where new tech startups don’t have a clear path to Facebook-sized valuations, one way to thrive is to avoid raising so much VC funding where becoming the “next Google” is the only way to win. There’s no shame in a $100 million startup. Fred Wilson and USV have created a legendary firm on $1-3 billion dollar exits (with a couple of notable outliers).

If a startup isn’t building for the long haul, they should orient themselves to a world where more humble valuations are the norm. There are dozens of startups that got huge with almost no capital. It’s possible to make more money as an entrepreneur by raising very little capital and selling for a low price than raising huge sums and selling for a high price. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t aim small or plan their company around an acquisition, but they shouldn’t close the door on the option by overfunding.

…and audacious projects
Today, many equate startups and entrepreneurship with the lean, public development process that enabled Mark Zuckerberg to create in a dorm room the most powerful media company the world has ever known. This is not the historical norm. We may be due for a period where major capital expenditures are required to create the platforms of the future.

That process can look messy. Magic Leap has been able to easily conjure piles of cash, but thus far has been unwilling to perform even the simplest parlor trick for the press, leading many to speculate that its eventual release will result in a Juicero-like splat instead of a Jobsian reveal.

But is it that crazy for a startup to invest $1.9 billion to develop something, that if successful, will be a new kind of display technology with the potential to rival OLED? If this investment pays off, and the patents are strong, Magic Leap will be in a position to compete with Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft in the race for AR. Even if it ends up being “just” an awesome game platform, the amount invested isn’t crazy. Sony spent more than $3 billion in R&D developing their third-generation PlayStation console and Microsoft spent $100 million improving their Xbox game controller. If Magic Leap finally ships a functional product, founder Rony Abovitz will deserve plaudits for his capital efficiency.

Look to places other than San Francisco…
Consumer drones are an $8 billion tech industry that is thoroughly dominated by DJI, a Chinese startup. Perhaps WeChat will decide to take on Facebook in the U.S.? Or Alibaba could one day decide to challenge Amazon in the U.S.? The notion of a Japanese loom maker beating Ford and GM to become the leader in U.S. auto sales seemed crazy at one point as well, but Toyota did it all the same. And who knows what’s being developed in the dorms at Tsinghua University.

…including vape shops
In a world where Warby Parker, Casper and Juicero are considered tech companies, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize that the e-cigarette category has become an $8 billion market, and is projected to be worth $20 billion in the next five years. This is within striking distance of Ethereum’s market cap, but unlike cryptocurrencies, which have been obsessed over by the tech cognoscenti, e-cigarettes emerged from gas stations and bodegas seemingly overnight. Vape shops won’t spur the next great startup, but their rapid growth shows that tech has not drawn its last (root beer-scented) breath, and that huge opportunities for startups can come from anywhere.

The market is never truly settled

Nvidia was founded in 1993 with the goal of making better graphics cards for gamers. By its twentieth anniversary, it had attained a comfortable corporate middle age with a valuation in the single-digit billions. Then AI folks began to rely on Nvidia’s hardware, and the company enjoyed a 10X improvement in their stock price in the space of two years. What was once a company that served a niche segment of the tech industry is now a major player — Nvidia’s market cap is twice as large as Tesla’s! It may be the end of the startup world as we’ve known it, but students of business history should feel fine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BPHHBD1S_400x400
Joseph Flaherty

Joe Flaherty is director of Content & Community at Founder Collective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: TechCrunch – The latest technology news and information on startups

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Do These 5 Things if You Want to Become a Public Speaker
Discover five actionable insights to help you become a public speaker within your industry.
CREDIT: Getty Images
 Public speaking can do wonders for one’s career in terms of positioning as a thought leader within your industry and having exposure to countless executives in the audience which is advantageous for anyone that’s looking to grow a business or advance in their career.

However, the journey to becoming a public speaker isn’t one that comes overnight. Like anything else, it requires years of hard work, mastery of a topic, and a lot of patience.

Sure, it’s easy to watch well-known speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk or Tony Robbins take a stage and think to yourself “Oh, I can do that!” But the reality is that these individuals have invested years in speaking on those stages.

Having spoken at over 30 industry events and conferences such as SXSW and Social Media Marketing World in the past two years, I am often asked by aspiring speakers in my social network how to get speaking engagements.

Below is a breakdown of what it takes to become a public speaker in 2017:

1. Able to Teach and Drive ROI

Conference and event organizers aren’t looking for just someone who can come in and recite a blog post that they read online or provide vague, general content (a “theory”).

Instead, they are looking for subject matter experts or thought leaders on a particular topic or platform (i.e. social media, SEO, email marketing, etc.) who have performed the work previously and are able to teach an audience how to do it themselves in order to drive ROI for their business.

Conference organizers are hypersensitive to the fact that attendees often pay upwards of $1,000 or more to hear from seasoned experts, which is why you should not bother applying to speak at an event if you haven’t performed the work that you intend on speaking about. Ask yourself, what makes you qualified to speak on a particular subject matter?

2. Gain Experience in Your Community

Before speaking in front of thousands, I spoke at events at technical colleges in my community to a dozen or fewer individuals. Sure, it’s not as sexy as headlining a stage at a major industry event but it’s where you realistically need to start to gain experience speaking in front of professionals who can easily spot the difference between someone who knows their subject matter and fluff.

My advice to anyone reading is to get started with your local Chamber of Commerce and industry events within your community or host a small meet-up where you can speak about a topic.

3. Volunteer at Industry Conferences

If you want to get on the radar of the decision makers who organize top-tier events in your industry, be sure to volunteer your time at these events. As a volunteer you will get a free conference badge which will give you access to everyone attending, including speakers, and may even present you with an opportunity to speak–sort of.

Almost every conference that I have spoken at in the last two years has track leaders who introduce every session and speaker. What better way than to get your name in front of conference attendees and time on the microphone than by being a track leader? Events like Social Media Marketing World often will have up-and-coming speakers start off by being a tracker leader at their event before moving onto panels or solo sessions.

4. Email Event Organizers

Anytime someone asks me how do I get speaking engagements I let them know, in short, I email conference organizers. You don’t need an agent or virtual assistant to do this for you. Simply identify a dozen or so industry events that you want to speak at over the next year and send an email to the committee or individual responsible for selecting speakers (which is often posted on their website) and make your pitch.

My advice is to write an email or submission which clearly states who you are, what you’d like to speak about, why you’re the best person to speak on this topic, and examples of where you’ve spoken before.

5. Gather Testimonials and Speaking Examples

Having testimonials and examples of your work on stage is a key to success for any speaker. Throughout 2016, as I applied to speak on bigger stages, I was often asked for speaking examples so I invested in having a freelance videographer record a couple of my talks. You can find help on the Thumbtack app or find out in advance if the event you’re speaking at is equipped to record your talk.

Most importantly, have a website which showcases your work including testimonials from prior speaking engagements where you can send prospective organizers to.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carlos Gil is a brand marketing executive, entrepreneur, and public speaker with over a decade of experience leading social media marketing strategy for global brands including LinkedIn. Carlos’s work has been featured by, or seen in, CNNMoney, Mashable, Inc., Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner. He is a recurring speaker at industry events such as SXSW and Social Media Marketing World. Carlos is a native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida now living in San Francisco, California.

@carlosgil83

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various author(s), publisher(s) and forum participant(s) on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the @SmitaNairJain or official policies of the #SmitaNairJain

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Intel and AMD team up: A future Core chip will have Radeon graphics inside

Absolutely incredible! Intel will ship a chip powered by AMD’s Radeon graphics next year to bring top-tier, triple-A games to the thin-and-light notebook market.

By

intel amd core radeon
Intel

 It sounds crazy, but it’s true: Arch-rivals AMD and Intel have teamed up to co-design an Intel Core microprocessor with a custom AMD Radeon graphics core inside the processor package, aimed at bringing top-tier gaming to thin-and-light notebook PCs.

Executives from both AMD and Intel told PCWorld that the combined AMD-Intel chip will be an “evolution” of Intel’s 8th-generation, H-series Core chips, with the ability to power-manage the entire module to preserve battery life. It’s scheduled to ship as early as the first quarter of 2018.

Though both companies helped engineer the new chip, this is Intel’s project—Intel first approached AMD, both companies confirmed. AMD, for its part, is treating the Radeon core as a single, semi-custom design, in the same vein as the chips it supplies to consoles like the Microsoft Xbox One X and Sony Playstation 4. Some specifics, though, remain undisclosed: Intel refers to it as a single product, though it seems possible that it could eventually be offered at a range of clock speeds.

The linchpin of the Intel-AMD agreement is a tiny piece of silicon that Intel began talking up over the past year: the Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge, or EMIB. Numerous EMIBs can connect silicon dies, routing the electrical traces through the substrate itself. The result is what Intel calls a System-in-Package module. In this case, EMIBs allowed Intel to construct the three-die module, which will tie together Intel’s Core chip, the Radeon core, and next-generation high-bandwidth memory, or HBM2.

Editor’s Note: Some people are beginning to refer to this chip as the Kaby Lake G, a name that Intel representatives said they will not confirm. A spokeswoman referred to it as “rumor and speculation.”

The story behind the story: You heard right: This is AMD and Intel, working together. Shaking hands on this partnership represents a rare moment of harmony in an often bitter rivalry that began when AMD reverse-engineered the Intel 8080 microchip in 1975. But in graphics, the two are much more cordial: Intel’s low-end, integrated cores own the majority of the notebook PC market, while AMD is pinched between Intel and Nvidia’s high-end chips. Intel, meanwhile, is no friend to Nvidia, having paid out $1.5 billion in licensing fees since 2011. The enemy of my enemy is my friend—that’s one explanation for how the deal came about.

Mark Hachman / IDG

<p>Intel showed a reference notebook of the sort that will be enhanced by the AMD-Intel partnership. The large, black blank space is designed to be used for drawing with the stylus and for other digital content creation.</p>
<p>” href=”https://images.idgesg.net/images/article/2017/11/dsc00953-100741142-orig.jpg&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>Intel AMD graphics reference design

Mark Hachman / IDG

Intel showed a reference notebook of the sort that will be enhanced by the AMD-Intel partnership. The large, black blank space is designed to be used for drawing with the stylus and for other digital content creation.

AMD and Intel: A win-win for all concerned

According to Chris Walker, vice president of Intel’s Client Computing Group, Intel had a problem: AAA gaming PCs were selling, customers were interested in VR, but notebooks with the graphics horsepower to run them were thick and heavy. Customers, though, were seeing growth in two-in-one PCs and even thinner thin-and-light PCs. This was what Walker called Intel’s “portability obstacle:” How could it bring top-tier performance to notebooks that didn’t weigh a ton?

The answer, as it turned out, was the EMIB, a small sliver of silicon to bridge discrete logic cores within a single chip package. Intel had originally developed the EMIB as an alternative to what’s known as a silicon interposer, the “floor” or “foundation” of a multichip module. The problem with an interposer is that, like a floor, it needs to cover the entire space underneath the module, making it expensive to manufacture. EMIBs are more like small connectors that dip into the substrate. Intel found that they worked for its Altera programmable logic line as well as its more mainstream PC microprocessor designs. In fact, this is the first consumer use of EMIB, executives said.

Intel
<p>This slide, taken from an Intel presentation, shows how Intel believes its Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge is more cost-effective for connecting chips than methods that use an interposer, and far higher in performance than Multi-Chip Package designs.</p>
<p>” href=”https://images.techhive.com/images/article/2017/03/intel_tech_manu_embedded_multi_die_interconnect_bridge-100715607-orig.jpg”>intel tech manu embedded multi die interconnect bridge

Intel

This slide, taken from an Intel presentation, shows how Intel believes its Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge is more cost-effective for connecting chips than methods that use an interposer, and far higher in performance than Multi-Chip Package designs.

Intel’s EMIBs, though, allowed another important advantage: modularity. Originally, Intel positioned EMIBs as a tool to mix and match chips using different process technologies. When designing a programmable chip, adding in third-party logic cores is somewhat common. Within integrated logic as complex as a microprocessor’s, though, it’s nearly unheard of. The EMIB allowed for a compromise, placing CPU, GPU, and memory in close proximity without being part of the same actual design.

That paid off almost immediately. Intel’s still being cagey on all the benefits of the Core-Radeon module that EMiB enabled, but the company revealed two. According to Walker, the module stripped out a whopping 1900 square millimeters (2.9 sq in.) from a more traditional motherboard, where the processor, discrete GPU, and memory were laid out next to one another. (Put another way, the EMIB layout consumes just half of the typical board space, Intel says.) Second, the module uses about half the memory power of a traditional design.

Intel
<p>An example of the space savings Intel achieved by moving the CPU, Radeon GPU, and HBM inside the processor package.</p>
<p>” href=”https://images.idgesg.net/images/article/2017/11/intel-new-8th-gen-processor-package-size-compare-100741119-orig.jpg” rel=”nofollow”>intel new 8th gen processor package size compare

Intel

An example of the space savings Intel achieved by moving the CPU, Radeon GPU, and HBM inside the processor package.

Software, drivers are critical for managing power

That’s important, because heat naturally becomes more of an issue as notebooks become thinner. Intel added what it calls a new power-sharing framework to the module, consisting of a new connection between the processor, GPU, and memory. Just as a system can manage the processing workload between the three components, the new power framework can do the same for power management.

Here, Intel’s software team plays a critical role, both in managing power as well as ensuring that the right drivers are in place for optimizing performance.

“If I look at this as one system with one driver package, with one Intel-delivered driver set, we’re able to apply things like our Dynamic Platform Framework,” Walker said, referring to a set of Intel-designed thermal management technologies that can manage the CPU, GPU, and memory simultaneously.

The Dynamic Platform Framework will allow the system to tweak and balance the three platform components dynamically, based on workload, system state, the temperature of the PC chassis, and more. Naturally, tasks like movie playback will still be routed to the Core chip’s existing, integrated graphics core, Walker said. The integrated 8th-gen Core chips already contain dedicated, optimized logic to play back 4K video using the HEVC or VP9 codecs chosen by streaming content companies like Netflix and Amazon, while using minimal power.

One interesting wrinkle: Intel will be responsible for supplying the drivers for the Radeon GPU, though company engineers won’t write the original code. An Intel representative said they’re working closely with AMD’s Radeon business to supply “day one” drivers for new games, when those drivers become available.

Here’s a video Intel authored, explaining how it all works:

Intel’s graphics business is alive and well

Speculation that Intel might license or outright buy AMD’s Radeon business has circulated for years, especially as AMD has struggled to achieve profitability. AMD, however, enjoyed a rare profit of $71 million on $1.64 billion revenue for the just-completed third quarter, helped by sales of its Ryzen processors and Vega graphics chips. AMD’s semi-custom business, which usually sells chips to game consoles, could use a boost: It reported flat sales year-over-year. (AMD also said it closed an unspecified patent licensing transaction “which positively impacted revenue,” though officials confirmed that the Intel deal wasn’t it.)

jon peddie graphics share largeJon Peddie Research
Intel has dominated the PC graphics market, thanks to the integrated graphics cores inside its Core processors.

It’s possible that the Core-Radeon (Core-R, perhaps?) deal may yield a longer-term relationship. But right now, AMD seems to be positioning it as a single contract with a customer, like any other.

“We’re constantly looking at different things inside AMD, but this is really Intel’s project,” said Scott Herkelman, the corporate vice president and general manager within the Radeon Gaming business unit within AMD. “It’s completely semicustom…I wouldn’t say that we’re going to take this and learn something from it. This is Intel’s project, and we’re helping them execute on it.”

Last January, speculation rose that Intel and AMD had signed a Radeon licensing deal, prompting talk that Intel might be preparing to lay off or otherwise get rid of its own integrated graphics development teams. Walker denied it. “Not at all,” he said.

“As we drive mainstream thin and light to 15mm and lower, the Intel UHD solution is still the market leader in terms of how graphics gets delivered on a PC platform,” Walker added. Nor has Intel licensed the EMIB technology to AMD, he said.

AMD representatives went further, stating that there is no patent or IP licensing in place between the two firms at all.

What’s next? Answering the questions

Unfortunately, we still don’t know the answers to several basic questions: How fast will these new cores run? How many variants of these new Core-Radeon chips will there be? What Intel Core architecture—Kaby Lake, or Kaby Lake-R—are they based upon? Does HBM2 memory confirm that the Radeon core is based upon the AMD “Vega” architecture, and how does it compare to existing chips? How much memory is inside the package? Will the new Core-Radeon modules incorporate AMD-specific features such as VSR, Eyefinity, and Async Compute? And, of course, how much will it all cost?

The latter two questions can be answered in broad strokes. The idea, according to an AMD representative, is that these notebooks won’t be priced in the value segment at all, but in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $1,400 apiece. Meanwhile, Intel executives say that notebook PCs based on the new H-series, Core-Radeon modules will move gaming-class graphics down from systems 26mm thick, to thin-and-light PCs at 16mm and even 11mm thick — that’s slimmer than the original 13-inch Apple MacBook Air, and priced accordingly. (To get a sense of just how thin this is, see our 2012 review of the Acer Aspire S5. A laptop based on the Core-Radeon module would be far, far more powerful, however.)

An AMD representative also said that there’s nothing prohibiting any AMD graphics technology like VSR from being included in the Core-Radeon chip—but that in terms of specifics, it’s up to Intel to decide.

According to Intel representatives, we’ll get more of those answers closer to launch. For now, however, there’s the simple surprise that the two sides came together to make this happen. For those who have watched the acrimonious AMD-Intel relationship play out in court, in the market, and behind closed doors for several decades, even a limited contract seemed out of the realm of possibility. But now, who knows what the future holds?

Updated to add a reference to Kaby Lake G.

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