Down-to-the-Metal Software, 2007-

It's no easy trick to compress what one is and what one does into a sound-bite. For a while I considered "Gordian Knot Consultancy" to suggest a talent for cutting through complex obstacles to understanding, but it had several problems. Explaining the allusion to somebody with little classical education takes valuable time away from the elevator speech and, worse, brings in a touch of condescension.

Then there was "Sirius Computing," contrived to suggest by the sound a superior brand of analysis and implementation, and supporting an obvious and appealing logo. Unfortunately, my long-time home town of Cambridge, Mass. already had a Sirius-themed software firm, and now the radio channels have fully appropriated the name and the logo.

Finally I realized that "Down to the Metal" expresses what I brought to the LRO and what I can readily offer to other special situations. I added a sort of subtitle to clarify further: "Programming and Logic Design" -- deliberately choosing the old-fashioned term rather than "software."

The next problem, in a sole proprietorship particularly, is the title for one's office. Rich Katz, heading a small organization within a larger one, achieved simultaneous self-promotion and self-deprecation by styling himself "Chief Grunt" of his Office of Logic Design. I considered the popular "President" or the more fanciful "Emperor" but thought them pretentious where no living soul owes me workplace allegiance, and settled on "Artisan" to convey the old hands-on spirit.

All this had to be settled in time to order business cards to take to the 27th Digital Avionics Systems Conference (DASC) in October 2008, where (at Rich's suggestion) I presented a paper on my LRO work. That paper had a "lessons learned" component, recounting embarassments suffered by IBM and Intel when they didn't get their design verification done properly.

The next revenue work by Down to the Metal was a logic design sketch to show how missile safing logic, using a microchip accelerometer to calculate distance from the launching vehicle, could be implemented in a tiny corner of an FPGA. The funding for that project went elsewhere before the design could be built and tested.