CONSULTANT

Story

An artist and filmmaker working in the medium of computer technology.

Hi, my name is Tom Pittard. For over 30 years I worked in Silicon Valley as director of quality/software engineering, senior engineering manager, technology leader, software developer, researcher, hacker, hardware engineer, and investor. The companies I worked in included Atari, Apple (10+ years), SRI International, RSA Security, Hayes Microcomputer Products, and startups (Integrity Solutions and Edge Dynamics). I also spent significant time on my own independent R&D in areas like non-blocking message based systems, Language/Action Perspective (LAP), and distributed object communication and migration. 


I'm currently using open source tools such as Scala, Akka, Hadoop, and Kafka to create an infrastructure for developing and testing business and media solutions. I'm also writing a book called CLOUD MEANING about the dynamics of algorithmic contexts and AI in The Cloud.



So here's a bit of my personal story and path to computer technology:


My initial formal education beyond high school was in an art school in Atlanta that eventually merged with the Savannah College of Art and Design where I studied fine arts painting. 


In my early 20s I established an art studio in Monterey California where my large expressionistic works were widely shown 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 prints on paper from my California Impressionist work here: ImpressionsPittard


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". At that point my interest shifted from the world of still images and painting to filmmaking. I did dozens of short expermental films which were primarily used in light shows for live theater and concerts.


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.


Big Apple Experience:

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.  That whitepaper is now part of the Special Collections catalog at Stanford University Library.


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.  


I also became a Founding Supporter of SAVE THE FROGS, which became a major international educational lobby and field-work organisation 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 Research Projects & 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.