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Happy New Year!
Normally, as you will know if you are a regular reader of Breakfast Bytes, I go offtopic the day before a break. Indeed, I had written this post and intended to run it on Thursday December 22nd. But late on Wednesday, we finally decided to put out a press release about a new product, which meant I could publish a blog post that had been held up waiting. Obviously, I can't publish a blog post on a topic before the press release crosses the wire even if, as in this case, most of the post is about something else (a presentation for CadencelIVE Europe). Anyway, if you missed the post it is Cadence's DDR Portfolio...and LPDDR5X-8533.
I decided to use this post to give thanks for some of the fortunate things that have happened in my life. Of course, Thanksgiving is more traditional than to give thanks for good fortune, but I was in Germany for Thanksgiving week and Breakfast Bytes went on hiatus. This was then going to go just before the break for Christmas and New Year, but we had a last-minute announcement that day so I had to juggle things.
First, let me give thanks to you, the readers of Breakfast Bytes. I started Breakfast Bytes when Cadence hired me in October 2015, so it has been going for a little over seven years. That means that there have been something like 1,600 Breakfast Bytes posts (ignoring the Sunday Brunch video posts). With a post usually being between 800 and 1200 words, that is probably over 1.5 million words. I doubt any of you have read all those words but, to my amazement, I wrote all of them.
In my post about my father, The Father of Breakfast Bytes, I pointed out that my Dad had great timing in when he was born. Despite being in the military all his life, specifically the Royal Navy, he never saw active service and so kept out of harm's way. His father was in the trenches in the First World War and even got wounded by a bullet through his neck. But he survived and went on to have a successful career as a bank manager.
I consider that I was lucky to be born when I was, too. I was never in the military, so I don't mean it in that sense. But I think life was a lot easier growing up when I did, compared to my kids, never mind Generation Z (born in the mid to late 1990s), so in their 20s now.
First, it was easy having a satisfying life as a little kid since there was no helicopter parenting or busybody rules. Even aged 4 or 5, I would go out and play with friends in the neighborhood with no adult supervision. I have no idea if that really led to greater self-reliance or not. But here's one example. As I said, my father was in the Navy. But my mother was a schoolteacher and so it was not feasible for her to drive me to school (plus my parents only had one car). So I had to take myself to school on the bus. And I don't mean a yellow school bus, those don't exist in Britain. I was just on the normal bus. Plus, I had to change buses in both directions to make a connection. Thinking back on this today, this seems almost insane, but back then everyone had to make things work any way they could. I asked my mother about this in the late 1990s before she passed away, and she just said, "you were a very responsible four-year-old".
Another piece of good fortune was that in those days, because the Navy moved everyone around so often, they would subsidize sending us kids to private boarding schools. I worked out once that I'd have been to over a dozen schools if I'd just gone to the local school wherever my parents lived. But as it was, I went to just two. One in Weston-Super-Mare called St Peters (famous alumni include Roald Dahl and John Cleese) from ages 7 to 13. The second called Wycliffe College just on the edge of the Cotswolds. My brother went to the same schools and hated the experience. I loved it and ended up with straight A grades in my A-levels, the important exams you take at the end of your school career that Universities use to determine whether to accept you (the system has changed somewhat now).
I got accepted to Cambridge, where I studied mathematics for two years, and then computer science for one year. Back in the late 1970s, there was a great TV program in Britain called The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. It had a character called CJ who was always saying things like, "I didn't get where I am today without knowing the night is darkest before the storm" or "I didn't get where I am today trusting the easy chairs." Of course, this being the internet age, there is a page listing all of them from the whole series. Well, I didn't get where I am today without studying computer science. Breakfast Bytes exists because I became a programmer (starting at age 14) and moved to Silicon Valley (among other things).
But going to university in that era was a much easier financial proposition than it is today (in both the UK and the USA). The government paid all tuition for all students (probably not foreign ones, but I don't actually remember). It also gave all students a financial grant for living expenses. This was means-tested, and your parents were expected to make it up to the full amount. As a result, I graduated with no student debt. In fact, in my final year, when I was also doing part-time work programming (£1 per hour), I was pretty well off (well, for a student).
I then went and studied for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. After about 6 months, I was working as a delightfully named "university demonstrator" before I was promoted to the even more delightfully named "computing officer". As a computing officer, I was on the same salary scale as lecturers (tenure-track professors equivalent). That was enough for me to eventually buy my first flat (condo) when I was about 26. It cost just under £10,000 (meaning I could put it on my credit card today!), and, when my son was born, we bought a bigger two-bedroom flat that cost something like double that much. My daughter and her husband just bought their first house a few years ago in upstate New York. My son has not bought any property, but since he lives in a building owned by his wife's mother, he is not really under any pressure to. He just had his first child about a year and a half ago at age 40. In comparison, I was 28 when he was born, over a decade earlier in age. So for me, I could progress on life's ladder about ten years ahead of my kids.
As I related in my post I Came to the US 40 Years Ago Today, I was able to buy a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Silicon Valley one year after arriving here (for $129K). I had a PhD, so I wasn't exactly on a true entry-level salary, but my wife didn't work so we bought it on just one salary. Today, that house is $1.5M and so inaccessible on an equivalent salary today.
It seems that in a lot of countries, many of the Gen Z-age men and women have given up trying since they see no hope of having the sort of normal life that my generation took for granted. Of course, my generation had to study hard and work hard, but it didn't require something out of the ordinary, like an inheritance, to be able to afford and house and a family. In China, giving up is called "lying flat" (躺平), or in Japan hikikomori (defined by the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as people who haven’t left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months). It seems that there are plenty of people in the US who proverbially live out of their parent's basement (well, not in California, since we don't have basements).
News reports say that 52% of "young adults" live with their parents. Of course, for that generation, Covid has put many people's lives on hold for a few years, years that will be hard to make up. Whereas given my job writing Breakfast Bytes, I could just work from home and very little of my life went on hold. I was again lucky with my timing that Covid did not happen when I was a student, or even when my kids were little.
Not only did I get the opportunity to move from Britain to the US, but I also got to live in the South of France for over 5 years. Cadence has an office in Sophia Antipolis because I was one of the team at VLSI Technology who decided to open our European R&D center there. I wrote about that in my post Sophia Antipolis. For the last six months, I ran worldwide R&D and so I would spend two weeks in California and then one week back in France. So much for my standard answer to whether I preferred France of the US, which was that I preferred living in France and working in Silicon Valley. It wasn't much fun when I actually did that.
So, like my father but for very different reasons, I think that I was born at a time that made life a lot easier than it has been for the generations that came after me. And for many other opportunities that I have been given. So thank you.
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