Alumni Spotlight: John Howard, Computer Software Engineering Technology
Oregon native John Howard rose from a selfless math student to a pivotal role in the creation of the Universal Serial Bus (USB), attributing many of his career opportunities to his connection with Oregon Tech. John grew up in Beatty, Oregon, a small town east of Klamath Falls. As a student at Bonanza High School, John was an average student. He and his brothers were more interested in sports, so right out of high school, John enrolled at Oregon Tech to play football. After a year on the Klamath Falls campus, he noticed that most of his friends were working, making money, buying cars, and doing what John wanted to do. John quit school and joined his high school friends working for a logging railroad for a few years. However, when the logging industry ran into financial problems, John became unhappy with the move to ‘part-time’ employment. John went back to school, influenced by a friend who graduated from Oregon Tech’s computer science department. That friend was Calvin Caldwell, who became a professor at Oregon Tech and still teaches there today!
John returned to Oregon Tech at age 21 and enrolled in the Computer Software Engineering Technology program. After his college break, the first two terms were tough, but John was determined to focus and reconnect. As John jokingly explains, it “wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box,” but he persevered with the help of teachers and classmates. One of John’s professors recommended him for an internship as a technical writer at Tektronix in Vancouver, WA the summer after his freshman year. This internship not only guaranteed him a job after graduation, but the company also paid for his final year of college. John credits Oregon Tech’s strong reputation with helping make this a reality.
After graduating from Oregon Tech in 1985, John worked at Tektronix for a year and began his master’s degree in computer engineering at the only institution offering graduate degrees in computer science at the time, the Oregon Graduate. Institute of Science and Technology (part of the OHSU system). Many ILO alumni have completed the graduate program together at the same time. John Keith, an Oregon Tech alumnus, was working at Intel at the time. Through this connection, Intel hired John as a software technician to work on a collaborative project called Project Gemini between Intel and Siemens, doing groundbreaking work, creating an all-new fault-tolerant computer system. After this project, John transferred to Sequent Computers as a firmware engineer before returning to Intel. He credits his relationships with Intel alumni with the opportunity to return, this time as a hardware engineer on the first-generation memory controller for the P6 (Pentium Pro) processor.
A few years later, John was recruited to work on a new project at Intel, the development of USB, which he had been working on for many years. John’s work on USB has earned him numerous patents. His service with the industry consortium that worked on USB (Intel and six other companies) provided him with experience in technical leadership of industry standards working groups. He has collaborated with leading IT architects across the industry on USB hardware and software, led workgroups, created processes around equity and voting, and more. John had the good fortune to contribute to all generations of USB (they are up to USB4 now). John designed the hardware/software interfaces for the first two generations of USB host controllers (UHCI and EHCI) and was the technical manager of the software stack for the first commercially available UHCI-based USB products. John also co-led the software team developing USB compliance tools. He was the lead architect of Certified Wireless USB and developed the protocol architecture used in the definition of Media-Agnostic USB. For USB 3.0, John wrote the architecture chapter in the specification and transitioned into a mentoring role for technical working groups and continues to participate in USB-related standards activities.
Currently, John is working on input/output (I/O) projects as an I/O architect for Intel. As a senior technical leader, he enjoys spending about a third of his time mentoring junior engineers. When describing his colleagues and the projects he works on, he says, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this! It’s just fun! While John acknowledges the challenges and learning curves over the years, he also enjoys the process. He thinks about the idea of teaching after his retirement in this field that he likes so much.
When he’s not working, which is rare, John enjoys spending time with his wife, Oregon Tech Civil Engineering alumnus Kim Roske ’85, and their college son and daughter. He advises Oregon Tech students that “hard work and integrity gets you far in the industry.” He also explains that “all the jobs I have held during my career have been directly or indirectly attributed to ILO alumni. Alums are very important!
In recognition of his accomplishments in the development of USB, John was recently awarded the 2022 Science Achievement Award at Oregon Tech. Congratulations to John! We are proud to call you and your wife alumni of Oregon Tech.