What happened to the rest of the year, you might be wondering? Why write a retrospective editorial in a November magazine? Time is very subjective, and it has been said by many much wiser (and older) than this writer that time seems to pass more quickly the older one gets. As engineers, of course, we understand that, empirically, this is nonsense. Time is simply what we measure it to be, whether in units as small as picoseconds or as long as years or the proverbial backcountry "coon´s age." (If any readers are aware of the measure of a "coon´s age" in the more conventional hours and days configuration, please send an e-mail this way.)
Because time does seem to pass more quickly as we get older, now might be the perfect time to look back over the year. Consider it a form of "status monitoring," as a self-check on the progress that each of us has made so far as individuals as well as part of a team.
Financially, for companies with a calendar-based fiscal year, it is that time to assess how the business has gone, and a chance to make amends for lackluster months by securing whatever end-of-year contracts are available.
In terms of technology, it is a time to review not only your company´s progress, but also your own. Was the year spent designing slight modifications of existing products? Or was the time invested in and finding solutions that were both innovative and practical? Did your efforts and those of your engineering team bring pride and honor to your company?
Technological accomplishment need not be measured in terms of patents, although patent applications provide one measuring stick for progress. Sometimes, it can be something as seemingly trivial as developing a set of measurement procedures for a test bench that leads to improved accuracy and in guiding an engineering team to new insights about a design project. Improving the team is at least as important as improving the self.
Because those of us involved in media, such as magazines and websites, tend to live in two different times-the present and the publication date-there is a tendency for retrospection at this time of year as we work on year-end issues. The bills may be due today, but the mind is on an issue months from now.
Some readers have already expressed interest in a sneak preview of the "Top Products of the Year" published in each December issue of Microwaves & RF. The list is compiled by the magazine´s editors, but reader input is always welcome (firstname.lastname@example.org). By soliciting reader opinion, of course, we involve our readers into our own delusional "temporal duality," of living now but thinking in the future. This looking ahead is not always a bad thing, however, since it also makes us look back and take a hard look at where we are now.