I got my engineering degree in Canada. Upon graduation, most students participate in the Iron Ring ceremony, where they receive a ring representing an engineer’s obligation to protect the public. You can spot a Canadian engineer by the ring worn on their pinkie. Part of the ceremony refers to Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Sons of Martha, forever toiling in obscurity so that others can enjoy a carefree life. A more contemporary interpretation would be the Morlocks in the time machine (the 1960 movie is a nice rendition of the H.G. Wells novel). I don’t fancy myself a cannibalistic cave dwelling troglodyte. Others might disagree.

People working in the embedded field are very much like the Sons of Martha (or the Morlocks) working in the shadows so the world at large can be a better place. embedded systems are, by their very nature, invisible.
The programming world is far from homogeneous. It has many tribes and subcultures. Some of the more obvious include Open Source, Linux, Microsoft, methodologists, academics and a number or language oriented tribes.

Each of the tribes have their rock stars. Open Source has Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond. Linux obviously has Linus. Microsoft (the ecosystem, not the company) has many figures with a high profile: Scott Hanselman, Carl Franklin & Richard Campbell (via DNR), BradA, ScottGu and plenty of others. Methodologists such as Kent Beck, Booch and Jackobson all left a mark. The ultimate academic Rock Star is of course Donald Knuth.

However, the embedded world does not seem to have the same figures. Jack Ganssle and Jack Crenshaw are probably the two most visible, due to their longstanding association with Embedded Systems Journal. This is very strange, as embedded software programming is a very large segment of the programming world. This reality is also reflected in the lack of on-line blogs targetting the embedded world. I dont believe the fragmented nature of the embedded world is entirely responsible for this state of affairs.

Is it that embedded programmers are more introverted than the rest? Are we simply the Morlocks to the larger community’s Elois? Am I simply blind and can’t see our own Rock Stars? What do you think, who are the embedded rock stars?