Monday, January 12, 2004


"A very unsettling 'aha' moment"

Gary Hughes-Fenchel, a long-term AT&T/Lucent employee who recently "retired," writes:
[I recently had] a very unsettling "aha" moment. The future is already cast in stone. The stupid network has won. I work now for a financial company. Lots of bandwidth. Someone who knew I used to work for Lucent decided to tease me at a meeting: they suggested we add a few servers and become a telephone company. I suddenly realized that once broadband comes into a home there is absolutely no reason (other than reliablity to dial 911) to connect to such a specialized network as a telephone company. The functionality is a subset of my internet.

Switching is dead and cannot be revived.

Voice over IP removes any need for a telephone except for emergencies. And my cell phone (at home, where I can be sure of a signal) probably gives me that. *snip* [Even] wireless telephony is dead. A telephone is really just a small special-purpose computer. (Boy, just wait until some worm/virus/adware/other malware brings down THAT network. Hmm, software to prevent that could be valuable ... been there, tried that.)

*snip* I remain interested in telecom, but the interest is academic. It is difficult to see how I can be employed back in that sector.
Gary continues:
I tried to be a big-picture person. I was far less sucessful at it than you. While you were putting together the stupid network article, I was warning about the demise of big switching because of PC-compatible line cards & switches. I failed to see the end of switching, although I did see the current business model heading into a brick wall. It (fortunately) kept me nervous enough to push me to develop skills marketable outside of telecom. *snip* As for my new career, I really miss the engineering. I want to get back to it ...
Gary has made the transition, which is success, at least economic success. He continues:
I'm very troubled with what has happened to my co-workers. Some - very few - were died-in-the-wool BellHeads. But most would have been fine if [telco] management had just pointed their noses in a different direction . . .
This all came home to me several years ago when I went to an amateur pilot's fly-in. Extrordinary people with ordinary jobs -- clerks, plumbers, firemen, etc. -- had spent years building the most extraordinary airplanes in their garages and basements. Such talent. We are a nation of under-employed people.

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