embedded software boot camp

Baltimore, Technology, and Startups

Monday, February 7th, 2011 by Michael Barr

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be expanding the range of subjects that I blog–and tweet–about. For the last five years I have been focusing my writing in these venues almost exclusively on the development of embedded software. Although embedded systems is my first and foremost passion, I maintain several other interests worthy of attention. Three of these subjects are Baltimore, technology, and startups. For me, these subjects are intertwined with embedded.


I was born and raised in Charm City and have lived and worked within about 35 miles of downtown Baltimore in all of the years since; I’m writing this from about 10 miles out. I’m thus a proud Baltimoron (er, Baltimorean?). Though the whole Old Bay seasoning/Maryland crab cakes thing never caught on with me (I’m a vegetarian, hon) I maintain many ties to The City That Reads and, as a result, struggle to this day with the proper pronunciation of words like museum, wash, and sink.

Now, Baltimore is not particularly known for its embedded software jobs. Yet Jack Ganssle and Nigel Jones as well as many top-notch embedded system designers are located right here. Unfortunately, most of the local embedded developers would have to kill you if they told you what kinds of systems they design. (Suffice it to say that the folks over at nearby NSA and their many subcontractors make a heck of a lot more receivers than they do transmitters.)

You’ll be hearing more from me about what’s going on locally here in Baltimore, because that’s my community. Local is the new global, after all.


As much as I truly love working in the field of embedded systems, I recognize that what we do is typically everything but state of the art. At a very high level, our specialty is putting decades old processor technology and trusted reliable software languages and libraries into previously unthinkable applications–in a diverse set of domains, from medical devices to automobiles. That’s why we mostly still use the C programming language.

However, like most good technologists, I maintain an active interest in what’s going on in the state of the art in my field. On the software side, what seems to be hottest right now is cloud computing, smartphone apps, and big data.

I read and think a lot about all of this. And from now on I’ll be passing along bits and pieces that I hope you’ll find interesting too.


Finally, though I am principally an engineer, I also have an MBA. And for over 12 years I have run a successful small business (i.e., Netrino). I’ve also been involved in a few technology startups that didn’t go so far. And I really enjoy interacting with other entrepreneurs, helping them refine their ideas, and sharing what I’ve learned as a businessman. (Over the years, Netrino has also helped a number of startups develop prototype embedded systems.)

This year all of this stuff seems to be coming together in my world. That’s partly because Baltimore has a rapidly expanding technology startup community. The heart of this community is at the Emerging Technology Center in downtown Baltimore, where I’ll be increasingly making time to get involved. There’s also the wonderful Baltimore Node Hackerspace, where Baltimore, technology, and startups actually intersect with embedded systems design.

I think these additions to the topics covered here and in my twitter feed will make for an even more interesting read. I hope you agree and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply