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Report from Japan – Quake Brings New Perspective on “Power”

Comments(0)Filed under: low-power, power, Hardee, low power, power-aware, system power, EDA360 Tech on Tour, tsunami, earthquake, Japan earthquake: Japan quake

Back in December, I wrote a blog entry entitled "Perspective on Power - 300 Designers and 20,000 Miles Later...". After the latest leg of my travels last week, taking our EDA360 Tech on Tour Low Power Symposium on the road to Taiwan and Japan, I intended to write an update to that blog article. Clearly, the trip was overshadowed by recent events in Japan.

The week started great -- I arrived at Taipei Airport on Sunday evening and went to the Cadence office in Hsinchu Monday morning and met up with my colleagues. The day was part customer visits and part preparation for the seminar the following day. The low power seminar in Hsinchu on Tuesday was very successful -- about 110 folks registered and over 100 actually attended. Customer feedback was very good.

Wednesday was our travel day, leaving Taipei mid-morning and arriving at Narita in the afternoon, making it to the hotel very close to the Cadence office in Shin-Yokohama by early evening. Thursday was set aside for preparation for Friday's seminar, and some local editor meetings.

On Friday 11th March, our low power symposium started in the Innotech building in Shin-Yokohama at 10 a.m., and seemed to be going well. At 2:46 p.m. local time, our seminar was about three-quarters through, when it ended abruptly for reasons you must have been living under a rock these past few days if you haven't heard.

It's strange -- as a long-time Bay Area resident, I've experienced a few earthquakes, but when they first start, it takes a little while to realize what's happening. My first thought was to wonder who was kicking the back of my chair. Then, probably only a second later, I realized what it was. As the room started to rock more and more vigorously, everyone started to get up and evacuate. There were some announcements in Japanese confirming that's exactly what we should be doing.

We were rocking the whole time as we evacuated the building (we were only on the 2nd floor) and continued rocking outside at ground level. The movement was like a large ship on a rough sea -- we had guessed by now the quake was big, but also fairly distant. The high-rise buildings were visibly moving. The initial series lasted 2 to 3 minutes, and aftershocks were frequent and noticeable. After one particularly strong aftershock, we looked up at the plate glass windows of the Innotech building and decided to move away to find some open ground. I should stress that there was no visible damage in our vicinity and no real panic -- it's incredible how buildings and people alike stood up to this quake -- although we were by now hearing many emergency sirens.

In other blogs, I've written about cell phone technology from the point of view of power management. Here's how cellphone technology held up in this event -- there were no cellular voice channels available at all (that continued through Saturday) and even SMS texting was unavailable. Data on 3G phones worked, however. I made a mental note of that for my own family's emergency plans back home.

I was already on the usgs.gov website finding out where and how strong the quake was. At first, they pegged it at 7.9. That later got increased to 8.8, then 8.9, and finally 9.0. One of my Cadence Japan colleagues was now tuning into digital TV on his cellphone. We watched in horror -- maybe 30 minutes after the main quake, maybe a little longer -- as live pictures showed the first tsunami waves hit land and destroy everything in their path.

The whole experience has certainly put power in perspective for me, and reminded me, and the world I guess, of Mother Nature's awesome power. As I write, Japanese engineers are struggling to control one of the very few man-made phenomena that may begin to rival that power. Let's all hope and pray that the nuclear reactors are made safe without further incident. Japan will need a lot of help and support to recover. Let me encourage anyone who's reading to give what they can afford somewhere suitable like http://www.jrc.or.jp or www.american.redcross.org. Thanks.

Pete Hardee




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