Al Dean Editor

The End of an Era

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As he writes his last few words for DEVELOP3D, Al Dean is feeling wistful about his time at the helm of this fine publication, but discovers a common thread that means it has all been worthwhile: people


If you’ve read this month’s Editor’s Letter, you’ll already know that I’m stepping down as editor on DEVELOP3D and handing the reins to my partner in crime, Stephen Holmes. It’s his job now to steer the good ship DEVELOP3D into the clear blue yonder. If you haven’t read my letter, then yeah, I’m out of here and on my way to explore a different path.

It’s a strange feeling to be writing those words, particularly given that I, along with the majority of the team, have been working on this publication since its launch. We’ve seen it grow from the inklings of an idea, borne from a desire to do technical publications differently, to become what it is today.

The name ‘DEVELOP3D’ was conceived in a coffee shop in Farringdon, London. We wanted a name that didn’t directly reference technology, but a process – a workflow, if you will. We have always wanted this publication to be about the process and creative endeavour of product development, not the tools. And 128 issues later, that still holds true.

Over the years, I’ve travelled the globe looking for new stories and new technologies to bring back to these pages. I’ve sat in more conference centres than anyone should do in one lifetime. I’ve sat through more product demonstrations than is seemingly possible. I think I’ve only fallen asleep in two.

If I have lessons to give you all from my experience, it’s these three. Interesting things happen when you very least expect them. Stay out later than you think you should. Say yes more than you say no

I’ve also enjoyed myself along the way and had more than a few adventures. Late nights and early mornings never mix well, but if I have lessons to give you all from my experience, it’s these three. Interesting things happen when you very least expect them. Stay out a little bit later than you think you should. Say yes more than you say no.

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That might lead to meeting a former stuntman in a bar in Vegas and discovering that he and his team are building vehicles that could evolve their own chassis design. It might mean meeting a quiet robotics wizard and children’s author, exploring autonomy in the rural idyll of Berkshire.

Develop3d
The very first issue of DEVELOP3D, from June 2008, is still available here

I’ve met people who I’d consider true masters of their art. I’ve met people who have become lifelong friends. Thankfully, there have not been many arseholes.

If you’re looking for travel tips, I can also give you a couple of these. Always check-in your bag – it’s really not worth the hassle of lugging it onto the aircraft yourself.

Travel a day ahead of schedule for long-haul trips, and visit a museum. Go outside more often at conferences. Hydrate.

Photograph your hotel room number – and also, the front of the hotel, just so you can be absolutely sure you’re trying to get into the correct room, in the correct hotel. Especially late at night.

A Tiki bar is always a fine thing to find. Here, Google Maps is your friend. Avoid mixing sake with lager, unless you want to leave early from the memorial drinks for Pantera’s drummer.

Don’t ask Leonard Nimoy when he’s going to resurrect his music career.

This last one is very specific, but also avoid hanging out with Samoan bouncers in San Diego, unless you’re quick on your toes when the cops show up.

Ultimately, the real joy that has been the driving force behind my time at DEVELOP3D has been people. Designers and engineers are a fascinating breed of humans. Initially reluctant to discuss what they do, once you get them started, the conversation can be as compelling as the products they develop.

Taking those conversations and turning them into stories to share, stories that really celebrate that work, has been a true honour and one that I’ll miss.

As with all good speeches, I have some folks I’d like to thank. Above all, my family, for putting up with deadline fever and travel schedules.

The team on DEVELOP3D; it has been a true gift to work with you all over the last 13 years. And lastly, all of the folks I’ve met over the years; keep doing what you do, it has been truly awe-inspiring to explore your world and your successes.