In 1989 I got my first "real" job, left an auto shop I'd been working at in Santa Cruz, and started working for a pre-tech-bubble company. Integrated made VME racks, boxes from the size of a large toaster all the way up to racks larger than your kitchen refrigerator. We also ported, maintained and sold versions of BSD Unix and something I'd never heard of before that we called Uniworks.
Uniworks was this shrink-wrapped version of someone else's product – this tiny company up in Emeryville that was churning out this incredible tiny unix-like system. You could embed this software in the bootroms of your computer, and it would come up with networking and everything else on-line, and you could build applications fairly easily. We assisted in recovering some debris off of Florida that year, using this product. It was a.. Challenging job.
Uniworks was based on VxWorks 4.something, and though it was somewhat clunky compared to today's packages, it was amazing that it was fairly easy to configure and build, and it worked. At the time – the first day I saw it – I thought… "wow… that stuff has the potential to change the world." At that time – the company I worked for had over 200 employees, and Wind had something like 50. I never imagined that the tables would turn, nor how fast.
1989 – that was twenty years ago. Two years later I started working at Wind River. VxWorks has been utilized in everything from MP3 players to telerobotic surgeons to autonomous space robots since then. It has been used to map the human genome, unravel the story of Mars' evolution, and helped find planets around distant stars.
Wednesday the Mars Rovers team sent up commands to reformat Spirit's flash drive. Yesterday Spirit managed to write data to the flash drive, which had been failing to retain data overnight. This morning we retrieved saved telemetry from Spirit. Once again, we've mitigated a problem from 30,000,000 miles away, using simple commands in VxWorks. If we can get Spirit Free now, she may have another 2000 days roving Mars (for our 90 day mission).
I wonder, what will we find over the next 20 years? :-)