“I knew Peter was well respected by many engineers in Silicon Valley, but I had no idea he was revered!

Peter was a scholar and a gentleman and a positive role model for any engineer he ever met. We miss him.”

— Austin Lesea, in IEEE

I had actually never heard of Peter Alfke until a friend of mine showed me an ode she wrote to his “obvious” idea of “FIFO”  (First In, First Out algorithm) for data queues. When he developed this algorithm, it was not considered obvious or easy.

While reading about Peter and the ideas he made into reality, I realized how many things that were once difficult are now considered quite easy.  And that is because of people like Peter.

Peter died in 2011 after an excellent career. From the stories shared by those who wrote about him, he was not just a brilliant man, but a good person. May we all have the chance to leave such an eloquent legacy.  May we have the chance to solve things that are difficult today, so that those who come after us can tackle even more interesting challenges.

Ode to FIFO

Seems obvious, I suppose
a simple idea
to chain data into a list
like people waiting at the DMV.
But nothing is really obvious
until someone makes it so.
I picture you as a little boy
holding someone’s hand
and quietly noticing the behavior of queues.
All that time in all those lines not wasted
because it showed you how
to make those data snakes
obedient and orderly.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

An example FIFO queue image by aykapog from Pixabay 

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