About life in the last third / Avram's Past

Avram Miller: A Former Something



I am beginning to wonder if I have youth envy.  Every day I read about this 20 something, that 30 something, or even that 40 something.  No one write about that 50 or 60 something.  In 2 1/2 years, I will be a 70 former something.

I don’t really feel much different than I did when I was a “something” or at least I am not aware of that.  I don’t know if I am young for my age but then I don’t have many friends that are my age and yes those that are my age are beginning to seem old to me. I sometimes joke that I like to hang out with my friends kids because my friends are too old for me, but there is a bit of truth in that.

I know I have to work at staying young in body and mind but not sure how different that that would be if I was still a “something”.  But I am beginning to think that there may be a disconnect in how I think and feel about myself and how those “somethings” see me both physically and professionally.  After all, a guy like Mark Zuckerberg was just 15 years old when I resigned from Intel in 1999.

I use to be the youngest guy in the room and now I am normally the oldest.


How we perceive age changes as we age. I think back now on people who played a major role in my life.  The first was Joe Kamiya. Joe was a scientist that gave me my first break and hired me (without any credentials or educational background) to develop the first digital equipment used for bio feedback (brain waves).  I was 21 and he was 41.

Then there was Prof. Paul Hugenholtz MD who hired me to run the computer department at the Thoraxcenter in Rotterdam .  I was 24 and he was 42 years old. By the  time I left  five years later, I had 30 people or so working for me.  I had a position equivalent to assistant professor and was about to be made an associate professor.


My next boss was Moshe Barone at MG Electronics Israel where I ran the International Computer Business for that company as well as its parent company, Mennen Greatbatch  I was 29 and  he was in his early 40s.

At the age of 34  I went to Digital Equipment Corp which was the 2nd largest computer company in the world.  I ran half of the hardware engineering before becoming group manager for small systems. During my more than three years at Digital I had a number of bosses but for most of the time I was there I effectively worked for Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO.  Ken was just 18 years older than me so he was only about 52 when I first meet him (I am now 15 years older than he was then).

In 1993 at the age of 38, I left Digital to become President of Franklin Computer.  We were an Apple II Clone company that was growing faster the Compaq until Apple squashed us with a Legal Suit.  I reported to Barry Borden the Chair of the Board. Barry was 44 years old.


In 1984, I joined Intel Corp. working for Les Vadasz. I was 39 years old. Les and Andy Grove (his boss) were just 48 years old I ended up as Vice President of Corp. Business Development and co founded Intel Capital.  When I left Intel in 1999 we had made billions of dollars in venture investments.   More than that, my primary contribution was playing a leading role in creating the consumer internet and in particular the residential broadband networks that have made so many somethings rich and successful. .


Les Vadasz was my last boss.  I decided to work for someone that would never feel that I was too old, myself. In 1999, I left Intel to run my own advisory business.  The Avram Miller Company.  I called it that because I had been going to the Allen&Company Sun Valley conference for about seven years.  They listed all the companies that were attending. They were companies like Coke a Cola, GE, AT&T and of course The Walt Disney Company.  Herb Allen invited me to attend one last time after I left Intel.  So The Avram Miller Company showed up right above The Walt Disney Company. I was now too old to be a something but I was still a someone.


I have a great deal of respect for what 20 something can do because I remember being a 20 something.  If I have an age bias it is thinking that 50 year olds are old. But of course they are not.  There are just older than older than I was and younger then I am now.  The good news is I now work for someone that will never think I am old, myself.

13 thoughts on “Avram Miller: A Former Something

  1. Thank you for this. It was the most therapeutic thing I have read in a very long time. I too am adjusting to aging and no longer being “something,” but only “someone.”

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  2. Avram
    What amazing pictures of you! And what amazing talent you have in so areas. The world desperately needs people not just like you but YOU. Potential economic collapse. Fracking Haarp Earthquakes as a result No known solution to Fukushima crisis Come on now Mother earth is calling your name

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  3. I remember the 1992 Digital World in Los Angeles when Dr John Malone made his offhand remark about 500 channels of television. After working for years in Boulder for supercomputer companies, it was like seeing the world in an entirely new way. Who could have imagined people like Lily Tomlin or Diana Gagnon-Hawkins and their vision of tomorrow? When I introduced myself to you at that conference, all starry-eyed, it was even better than being at a get-together for rockstars.

    In the whirlwind years that followed, I got to work for Dr Malone and Bruce Ravenel too, among many others. Living through that era was a little like being Willie Wonka: of the billions of people that had ever lived, the privilege of being able to work on those amazing projects was a lot like winning the lottery.

    Today, we are seeing technology move as fast and become as ephemeral as women’s fashion. The vistas on my periphery are moving faster and I perceive my advantage in perspective narrowing to months, not years. Yet your post reminds me we have always stood on the shoulder of giants whenever we imagine new things. May you always be able to look at new things with the pristine eyes of youth. Thank you.

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  4. After turning 50 and after a few years as a mostly stay-at-home mom to four children, I’ve come to see that my mother really is an eighty-something in so many ways. While it’s fun to watch all the startups launched by brilliant 23 year olds, when I’m in need of the “big stuff (the meaning, and reason and direction of my life),” which no new app will ever provide for me, I look to her as an example of being happy with little material comfort, always seeing the good in people and life, and persevering–regardless of the sometimes overwhelmingly large obstacles life has placed in her way.

    So even though I don’t know you, I’m sure you’re a 70-something in so many ways that a 20-something can’t touch.

    BTW, Intel Capital funded a startup I’m helping out at, so thanks!!

    Trish McDermott

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  5. Great thoughts and arcticulation !

    Joe Kamiya, your first tech boss, ironicallly was my last! After the KamLab, it was all startups. I was a Something when and only when the company was a Something. During challenging times I would feel more like a Nothing. Few things are as thrilling as a company out in front or as depressing as one falling behind.

    About transitioning from the youngest to the oldest in the room, it’s funny, but you’re not always aware of that at the time. Aging goes largely unnoticed when you’re too busy to reflect on it. My transition from being the Young Turk to the Old Man just sort of happened. Fortunately for me, the role du jour usually felt OK.

    What would have surprised the younger me, many of the 20-something whiz kids from the early days are still brilliant! They didn’t stagnate technically out or just get stupid. Good news for those of us who worry about gradual brain death!

    It will be interesting to see what happens with Zuckerberg. Will there be 650-page Jobsian biography? Or does it stop with “The Social Network?” Will his children’s friends want to hang out with him?

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  6. Have you ever thought about creating an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share
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    would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

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  7. Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better! Going through
    this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this.

    I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he’s going
    to have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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