Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Elegance: The concept is not easy to explain - there is an ineffable quality
to some technology, described by its creators as concinnitous, or technically
sweet, or a nice hack - signs that it was made with great care by one who was
not merely motivated but inspired. It is the difference between an engineer
and a hacker."
-- Ms Pao, The Diamond Age.

The official tagline for my company Aeste is "engineering elegance".. I've
often asked myself what it meant.. The quote above sums it up perfectly.. It
is what I'm trying to create.. A professional engineering company that
strives to create elegant technology.. Any output from the company has to be
inspired and not just run-of-the-mill..

That was what I was trying to explain to my aunt last weekend, on a bus to
Oxford.. The mechanics of engineering can be easily taught and understood in
school.. However, good engineering is something that cannot be taught.. It is
something inbred..

"A good engineer is inspired, uses engineering mechanics, molds the laws of
physics, and turns inspiration into reality." -- Shawn Tan

I was most recently re-motivated (i've noticed that i require a lot of
re-motivation recently.. i've started to become jaded with reality) on my
visit to Berlin.. We got to visit several organisations.. One of which was an
engineering company whose only output is intellectual property..

I've always contended that my dream is to turn Aeste into an intellectual
property company.. This concept has been difficult to understand by many..
However, it is quite clear in my head.. And after visiting this German
company, it has become solidified.. There is a market for such businesses and
it is perfectly plausible to build one..

Aeste will be a company whose sole output is IP.. These IP will then be used
by other organisations/companies in order to make money.. This means that the
IP produced would have to be of extremely high quality and not your standard
dumb IP produced in much of the tech world today..

While visiting a vehicle manufacturer in Berlin, I was startled to find that
most of their engineering work was aesthetically driven.. As a hacker, and
being brought up in a formal engineering environment, aesthetics had always
been relegated to an after thought.. A skin is something you slap onto a
solidly engineered body, not the other way around..

However, it has become clear that in order to produce successful products,
user interface portion is extremely important.. Products should be
aesthetically driven.. Engineering should be the art of squeezing as much as
possible, into the constraint of the body.. This is true for both hardware
and software work.. User interface is key..

So, I have come to understand the true meaning of "engineering elegance" as I
originally intended it to be, 6 years after I had actually come up with the
tagline.. It's some higher objective to aspire to than to just plain make
money.. Hmm.. So, I guess that I've got something else to look forward to in
the next few decades of my life..

with metta,
Shawn Tan.


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