Saturday, December 29, 2012

Today would have been Richard Crandall's birthday

This post could just as easily have gone into my Empoprise-MU music blog, but for reasons that will become obvious it is here in the Empoprise-BI business blog.

One recent post that WAS placed in the Empoprise-MU music blog was a post entitled Diplomat Drummer. In the course of that post, I wrote:

A month or two later I met my dorm dad, Darrell Jenks, who frankly looked like a forest ranger, with a huge beard. And he played the drums - in fact, a Reed College band, Daryl Jenks, was named after him (although, unlike John McVie who had a band named after him, Darrell Jenks never officially joined Daryl Jenks).

One person who did join Daryl Jenks was a fellow Reed student named Chris Ruf, who recently wrote the following in a comment to this item:

I first met Richard when he arrived at Reed my junior year
and I took his electronics design course. I can still remember my oral final
exam, which he conducted when he ran into me scrounging in Commons at the end of the semester. He had me design a particular amplifier using an op amp circuit, and explain why it worked from first principles. We started playing together in a band that year, too (first Daryl Jenks, then White Noise, and finally The Chameleons). He offered to teach an independent lab course for me, and we designed and built a series of audio signal processing boxes, a synthesizer, a mixer, and power amps for the band. Our band played downtown sometimes, at The Long Goodbye and PSU frat parties, but most often in the S.U. at Reed. I can’t think of any better way to learn and understand electronics.

The "Richard" to whom Chris referred was Richard Crandall, who was a professor at Reed. I remember the Chameleons, especially their song "Little Red Rooster" (which included scientifically valid recordings of a tree frog). I was unable to find this song online, but I did find two other Chameleons songs here.

But Crandall had a much greater impact on my life. Although I never officially had him as a professor - my Physics professors were Nick Wheeler and David Griffiths - I did run across his work during one series of Physics labs, in which we learned Pascal programming on a Digital PDP/11-70 computer running the Unix operating system. Those who know me know that my exposure to Unix had a dramatic effect on my future career post-Reed.

I've referred to Crandall a couple of times in this blog - once in a joke post that wondered what would have happened if Xerox had been more forceful in protecting its technology (see footnotes 4 and 6), and another post that briefly noted that Crandall was mentioned in Steve Jobs' autobiography.

Oh yes. Most people who know about Crandall heard about him via his work with Apple and NeXT. Or perhaps they know about his work with really large prime numbers.

But whether you knew him as the guy who wrote your physics lab or the guy who was at your wedding, there is sad news. The piece that prompted Chris Ruf's comment was Crandall's obituary, written a few days ago on December 20.

The Reed community was stunned today to learn that physicist, mathematician, computer scientist, and inventor Richard E. Crandall ’69 [physics 1978–] died this morning at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital.

The cause was not immediately clear, but Professor Crandall was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

I didn't hear the news until December 29 - ironically enough, Crandall's birthday (at least according to Wikipedia).

It's been a rough year for brilliant Reedies who dabbled in music. First we lost the Diplomat Drummer, and now we've lost the Scientist Albatross Player.
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