The wonder years

A tribute to the late Stan Karandanis

Jun 1st, 2007
Th 0706vsd Andywilson

A tribute to the late Stan Karandanis

It was a time of hope and a time of learning. On reflection, it was a time of innocence that brings us all back to memories of 1968 and the pioneer work of IEEE authors-those men and women that dedicated their lives to image-processing algorithms and architectures and how to embed them into silicon. And then there was Stanley Karandanis. Inventor, pioneer, radical, manager, friend, father, and founder of Datacube. Stanley Karandanis passed away on May 8, 2007. I will miss him.

Stanley Karandanis will not be remembered lightly by those that he employed. “Quite coincidentally, his father and my grandfather were from the same little Greek village,” says Mike Cyros, now president of Allied Vision, “so we often joked that we might well be related or at least were related through common sheep.” That was Stan.

“Stan was brilliant,” says Glen Ahern, now with DALSA. “He was a physicist by training and worked in that capacity at AT&T Bell Labs before a stay at Monolithic Memories. Datacube was started as a pseudo-retirement project. I am sure he had no idea that this would lead him into a role as a pioneer of the vision industry. Stan and Datacube, along with cofounder J. Stewart Dunn, developed the first board-level frame grabber, the first real-time image convolver board, and many other imaging firsts.” Stan loved the technology.

“I was so fortunate to have traveled the world extensively with Stan in the years at Datacube,” says Cyros, “and we shared many great moments together-from being ripped off by a taxi driver in Greece, to dragging him all around Japan on the trains, to eating unidentifiable meat in Korea, to winning the largest order in the history of the company in Israel.”

Stan’s passing is most certainly the end of an era; the world of vision will not be the same without Stan’s presence. “But,” says Cyros, “I think of the other former Datacube employees who were touched by Stan. It never mattered what your position or role was, Stan was involved and treated everyone as part of the family.

“A couple of months ago, despite reliving so many great experiences we shared in the past, we were lamenting the demise of Datacube. I reminded him of how many families he supported through employment and benefits for so many years,” says Cyros, “and how many marriages and families were created as a result of Datacube (there were several matches made among employees) and how many kids were put through college. He took his greatest comfort in recognizing his impact on so many lives in this way.” That was Stan.

“I met Stan two years before I started at Datacube in 1987 and saw his charismatic vision for the industry,” says Phil Amorese, now with Accusentry. “This was prior to the MaxBus line that revolutionized the real-time image-processing world. Stan knew Gordon E. Moore and lived and breathed the mantra by the products Datacube produced. Only Stan would green-light and bankroll products like the Warper MK II, the MaxVideo 20, 200, and MaxPCI lines, and the Black Widow web-inspection systems.

“Stan was also a mentor, father, and friend. He could balance the tasks of listening, criticizing, advising, and coaching-maybe not in the ratio you wanted but in the ratio that made the best sense for the situation,” Amorese remembers. “Stan taught me leadership through understanding and compassion. Though I worked in the field through most of my tenure at Datacube, whenever I would return home, as we lovingly called ‘The Factory,’ Stan would always sit with me to catch up, listen, and offer advice.”

For me, I’ll always remember Stan as a pioneer, a character, and as a good friend. When I was unemployed, Stanley hired me as a freelance writer. When I needed some technical input, Stan would drag Shep Siegel, Dave Simmons, and others from the Datacube team into impromptu meetings that went on for hours.

But most of all, I’ll remember his wonderful smile, his great warmth, and his affection for those who really cared about what they were doing. That was Stan.

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Andy Wilson

Shepard Siegel of Auburn, New Hampshire, USA remembers

Stan possessed the exceptional ability to drive technological challenges to their inevitable conclusion. There would be no speculation, suspicion or doubt; just proof, the naked answer to what was before just conjecture. "We will take away all the excuses", he would say.

Stan had engineering spot on. He understood one could contemplate science and math until they were blue in the face; but at the end of the day, there wouldn't be any value until something was realized. Stan preternaturally knew the silicon canvas to first principles. Bipolar, CMOS, PALs, ASICs, FPGAs they were all just technologies. Stanley's passion was to build things for the keen end-value he saw; not simply because something was technically feasible.

We met in the early 1980s. Datacube was young and growing its offering of "framegrabbers", devices that could acquire and display frames of video images. These devices were being used in the first machine vision systems. A conventional CPU could not process the video data sufficiently fast and Stan was among the first to appreciate the opportunity to provide a solution. Stan saw the value in fast math and I knew some DSP. He said "Siegel, I'll double your salary and make you a millionaire in a year". He was true to at least one of those points.

Which reminds me of my favorite Stan aphorism: "Perception Is Reality". Descartes and Kant may have noodled with this concept a bit; but Stanley really put it out of the park. Stan was his own gatekeeper between conflicting goals. On one hand there was the stark truth, frequently embodied in the practice of infinite iterative technology refinement. And on the other hand there was the charismatic entrepreneur needing to close a deal now. He used this insight to terrific advantage not just for himself, but unselfishly to those around him, to empower them and to protect them.

I'm blessed to have a quarter-century of "Stan stories" stored somewhere between by ears. My attorney reminds me to add that, when discussing these, I clearly state that I don't recall these specifically and that this is only speculation. So we were all in this sushi bar and Stan said "You know, let me tell you...".

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