Hi, my name is Tom Pittard. For over 30 years I worked in Silicon Valley and internationally as senior engineering manager, special projects manager, technology leader, director of quality/software engineering, software developer, researcher, hardware engineer, and entrepreneur. The companies I worked with include Atari, Apple (10+ years), SRI International, RSA Security, Hayes Modems, and startups (Entegrity Solutions and Edge Dynamics). I also spent significant time on my own independent R&D.
My initial formal education beyond high school was in an art school in Atlanta, the Atlanta College of Art, which eventually merged with the Savannah College of Art and Design , where I studied fine arts painting, design, and philosophy.
=> POWERFUL IDEA: Beauty. "Art" has a lot to do with the way we think and feel about things - point of view.
In early 1965 I moved to Monterey California where I met fellow artist William Avrum Rabinovitch. Together, and with help from John Boit Morse, we established art studios and a gallery space on John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. During the mid-late 1960s my large expressionist paintings were exhibited in our Monterey gallery and other West Coast venues and became part of private collections in the US and Europe. I still paint a bit from time to time and you can see a small collection of the available images from my more recent California Impressionist work here: Fine Art America.
=> POWERFUL IDEA: Trust. A community of highly creativity people, extended some trust and given adequate funding, will probably come up with something interesting and meaningful.
From Multimedia to Atari:
In the late 1960s and early 70s I produced a series of Multimedia Theater and Video presentations including cinematography and sound on an Emmy winning educational television show called "Urban Mythology". More than a single film, Urban Mythology was a collection of photography and film programs sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and directed by my art teacher, Tullio Petrucci. These programs proved highly successful in bringing creative and expressive contexts into the lives of a substantial spectrum of urban youth.
After working with Urban Mythology for a year, my interest shifted from the world of still images and painting to filmmaking and multimedia. I did dozens of short expermental films which were primarily used in light shows for avant-garde theater and rock concerts.
=> POWERFUL IDEA: Synergy. Art, Science, and Technology all work together. Don't over-specialize, be curious about all of it.
In the mid-1970s I returned to school and studied filmmaking at the University of California (UCSC). At UC Santa Cruz the filmmaking studios were in the same building as the computer science labs and I spent a lot of late nights learning more about computers. I became interested in what was happening over the hill in Silicon Valley with the emerging computer game and graphics companies like Atari. I began to think about how digital technology might work as a sort of universal platform for all kinds of media - still images, sound, film, and animation. Later at Atari I found like minded people who called this idea "Digital Media Convergence".
After graduation I went to work for Atari Computer Games, where I did a variety of different jobs, including contributions to games as well as programming manufacturing automation. I learned a lot at Atari but liked the early Apple computers much more.
=> POWERFUL IDEA: Abstraction. All media experiences and relationships can be abstractly represented through appropriate systems of encoding.
In early 1981 I joined Apple where I worked in both the Product Engineering Group and the Advanced Technology Group (ATG). I was with Apple for almost 11 years, and by all accounts made some important contributions to many of Apple's most interesting projects (1980s - early 90s). I worked on video hardware, processor architectures (ARM), and prototype broadband network applications with UI, image, and video objects. In 1990 I was given an Apple Advanced Technology Award for the work I did with hyperlinks and multimedia over Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) broadband networks and ISDN. I also wrote one of Apple's very early Technical Reports (#14), called Language Action and Computer Network Interaction, which was considered "disruptive" when it was initially published in 1989. It is now part of a Special Collections catalog at Stanford University Library.
=> POWERFUL IDEA: The Future. Building an organization to create great value and success is an art form. To do something really new and better you must have the creative imagination and funding to bring the future into the present.
Post Apple Technical Management:
In the 1990s and up to mid 2008 I worked with a series of companies in Sr. Engineering Management positions including SRI International ("Stanford Research Institute"), Edge Dynamics, RSA Security, Entegrity Solutions, and Hayes Microcomputer Products. I also had my own consulting practice based on my Actor Model communications framework, the Communications Component Architecture (see Technologies page).
Investing in Personal Interests:
In July 2008 I formed a small investment company that focused on environmental research and Green Investments. I became a great fan of High Mountain Oolong Tea, and my wife and I did some work to help reduce the use of toxic pesticides in the mountain Tea farms of Taiwan.
In 2009 I became a founding supporter of the endangered species organization SAVE THE FROGS, which evolved into a major educational lobby and field-work organization dedicated to the protection of global amphibian populations. Frogs are a major "indicator species" for the health of the environment for all life forms, including us humans. The alarming fact of their declining numbers sends a serious message that we need to do a lot more to clean up the environment.
Recent Technology Research & Insights:
In October of 2012 I began a series of personal research projects related to my interest in high-speed multimedia data storage and analysis. My earlier work at Edge Dynamics had schooled me in the realities of "big data" and the many limitations of the existing database and VM technologies of that time (2004-2008). While at Edge I began to experiment with an early version of Apache Hadoop and realized that Hadoop's distribution and redundancy architecture had the potential to solve many of the problems our QA/test group had revealed.
The research I've been doing in the multimedia data context since 2015 has led me into the potential of Reactive Systems and tools like Akka Actors and Streams and the Scala programming language. These tools have the potential to allow developers to efficiently harness the power of many processor core concurrency with global scale data to go beyond analytics and brute force machine learning into new domains of coherent meaning.