Whilst this story passed by mainly unnoticed, I was very sad to hear that Philips is exiting the TV business. I have a lot of wonderful memories of working with the TV guys in Eindhoven and it pains me to see everything move to a JV in China.
My first degree-related summer-job in college in 1989 was in Eindhoven. My Dad knew a Dutch businessman who had connections in Philips and he got me a job in the Overseas TV department. The people I worked with were just amazing. They made TVs for places like South America where they had to handle every crappy signal that was thrown at them. This included not just poor TV signals, but rubbish power quality too. Those Philips TVs were the Toyota Landcruisers of the television world. Where everything else curled up into a ball and cried, your Philips kept on truckin’.
I spent that summer running circuit simulations on a giant Computervision Workstation. Funnily enough, that was the summer I realised I’d never be a hardware guy and totally moved my focus to software.
Come graduation in 1990 and I couldn’t find a decent job so I went back into UCD and did a Masters in Speech Processing. In 1992, I emerged looking for a job once again. Luckily the first place I applied to was S3 in Dublin, 90% owned by Philips.
Mossie Whelan was intrigued that I had done summer work in Philips since he assumed every Irish person who did so, did it through him, as a Prof of Comp Sci in Trinity! In any case, the Philips thing must have helped and I got a job as a Software Engineer.
My first couple of years were spent working on GSM basestation software but then I landed a fantastic project, building the software for the first generation of Philips own MPEG-2 chipset. Up until then they had used SGS-Thomson chips. The work was tough as hell and we spent months in Eindhoven trying to get buggy silicon to display moving images. Finally, we cracked it and got the thing working. One of the happiest working days of my life.
I’ll never forget a meeting a few weeks later where some Sony execs came in for a demo of the system in action. They were looking to use Philips as a chipset provider, despite being competitors in the TV space. Little did they know that we were manually restarting the software every 30 seconds or so from our giant Lauterbach emulator, just to keep everything moving!
After that we kicked off a much bigger project for the next generation of silicon but I never saw it deployed as I moved to Integral Design to spend the next 4 years working on Toshiba’s MPEG-2 software.
But my admiration for Philips never subsided and the first big TV we ever bought with money from our wedding was a 32″ Matchline. Still my favourite TV ever.
So to everyone in Philips TV in Eindhoven, my lifelong respect.