1999: Air Fiber etc.

I consulted for this firm formed by Jim Dunn and other people I knew first back when I worked at Linkabit in the late 70’s.  Linkabit was a military satellite communications contractor founded by Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi, the same guys who founded Qualcomm later.  We were a small elite company with attitude.  I worked on TX/RX code for a weird custom bipolar 32 instruction stack machine known as the Dual Modem.  I kept trying to get Irwin to switch to a more conventional minicomputer to make life easier for us ‘micro coders,’ but he was unswayable.  I also worked on a graphics display to be used in a strategic Airborne Command Post.  I moved on before it was deployed, but I remember seeing those displays in a video they once aired about military strategic aircraft.  Linkabit had many great engineers like Jim that seeded many San Diego tech startups.  I had also worked for Jim years at Primary Access Corp. (later bought by 3Com) where they were doing T1 class and up telecom systems.

This startup in 1999 was called Air-Fiber, Inc..  They were designing free space laser connected internet nodes for building complexes where cabling was problematic.  These are two of the boards I worked on with Jim Troxel there.  I was just starting to learn about lasers and SONET (Synchronous Optical Networking) standards.  Jim did the heavy lifting.  I mostly did placements and arranged for layouts.  I also designed some high speed CPLD HDL for some of the interfaces needed.  The top board here was for a motor driven turret that was used to aim a laser at another remote turret transceiver. The lower one shows a single OC12 (622 Mb/s) optical fiber interface.

Air Fiber Turret motor control boardAir Fiber OC192 interface board

Later I did some similar consulting at Copper Mountain with Sam Takahashi, also x-Linkabit.  One thing I remember doing  was a high level design and component selection for a DSL concentrator system running at up to OC48 (2.5 Gb/s).  They had money problems at one point and had a consultants purge.  I do not know if they ever built what I specified.  Another company I worked for doing similar SONET work was called Maxima.  For Artecon Corp. I designed a high channel count S-Bus card.  For Path One Systems, another startup, I delivered VHDL code for a video over the net system.  I was very late due to a bug that baffled me, and they were very unhappy.  VHDL has been the bane of my existence as an engineer.  Logic need not be so wordy and obscure.  In summary, this Air Fiber project was really just one example from many telecom projects I supported as a contractor.