Another tribute to Ray Davies

Whilst searching for respected figures in my life to help me decide if SPC is an idea worth validating ‘in the wild’ or not, I remembered an exchange on LinkedIn, some years ago, I had with Ray Davies.

Ray was the leader of the Photonics Academy at OpTIC during the summer of 2009 where I attended that year’s summer school. He had been leading it for a good while and he led it for a good while after. The exchange we had is now lost to the LinkedIn archives because his profile no longer exists. Standing outside vaping (of all things) a few possible root causes crossed my mind as to why his profile had become invisible. LinkedIn is a large and complex beast with many a user definable setting – perhaps he’d changed his privacy settings or even boycotted the platform in some way? Perhaps it was a migration problem that Ray, being so focused on teaching and learning, hadn’t seen fit to chase up?

Then the other possibility hit me like a ten ton truck:

Except through otherworldly means that would be ineffective at best, I can’t share my wild ramblings with Ray. So I’ll share who Ray was to me.

During my time at OpTIC, close to the mists of the past as it is for me, the consistent memory I have of Ray is a warm, fierce and challenging teacher. He taught me that ‘everything is a computer’ (in the sense that every object on planet earth has the ability to change information – in most cases electromagnetic waves in the visible spectrum – that is, light). He taught me that even though you don’t know how to build it yet, the idea is all that matters. The details can be figured out by trusted experts (I’m looking at you, Boris). He taught me that naming things, even with janky backronyms, is an important part of the Tao of the Electronic (and indeed Photonic) Engineer. Without Ray, it is likely I wouldn’t have found my way into my chosen subject at university. Without Ray, I would have never believed that a group of teenagers in an open plan classroom could make a group of entirely novel, and socially useful, inventions in five weeks. It was Ray’s insistence that our inventions be of social utility that likely grounded my engineering practice from then on. Whatever SPC turns out to be, we owe a large part of it to Ray.

Without Ray, I would be living a dimmer version of my life. In the software engineering game we often talk about (10x) Nx engineers. We don’t often talk about teachers – what is their N? To describe Ray as a 10x teacher doesn’t cut any mustard. Imagine a googol (yep – neither can I). Imagine a googolplex. Imagine a googolplex + 1. Ray is a ‘that’x teacher.

So let this be a lesson. Stay in touch with your mentors and teachers – or one day you might read a webpage authored by a Professor and that page might make you feel regret for conversations never continued.

Thank you for teaching me that too, Ray, even after you’ve gone.

Photonics for life!

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