“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 

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.


"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...


"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...


"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...


"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...


"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...


"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This