When Jonathan Wells, a consultant in Silicon Valley, decided to nominate Brian Berg for an IEEE-USA award last year, he was confident that he was proposing a winner.
“I’ve worked alongside Brian in IEEE for more than 10 years, and he is tireless in his efforts on behalf of the IEEE Consultants Network of Silicon Valley,” says Wells, an IEEE Senior Member. So in late 2017, he was pleased to learn that Berg had been selected for the IEEE-USA Region 6 Professional Leadership Award. Earlier this year, Wells says he felt “honored” to see his colleague recognized at an IEEE awards luncheon near San Francisco for “outstanding services to the consulting and engineering profession.”
During the event, IEEE President Jim Jefferies praised Berg’s “extensive contributions as a volunteer.”
With apologies to President Jefferies, the phrase “extensive contributions” barely begins to describe the extent of Brian Berg’s volunteerism within IEEE. Now a Senior Member, he joined the organization in 1977, while taking graduate classes part-time at Stanford University. Over the course of his 39-year consulting career in Silicon Valley, it’s safe to say that Berg undoubtedly set a new benchmark for IEEE volunteer service. As IEEE Life Senior Member Clyde (Kip) M. Brown, one of his endorsers for the award, puts it, “Brian gets it done.”
- In 2012, Berg served as Chair of the Santa Clara Valley (SCV) Section, and he currently heads its Technical History Committee.
- In 2013, his love of history motivated him to become the Region’s Milestone Coordinator. Since then, he has been responsible for five milestones, assisted in the dedication of four of them, and secured funding for two. Berg also helped to obtain an IEEE Foundation grant for the docent programs at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
- In 2013, Berg became an adviser to the then-shaky IEEE Santa Clara Valley Women in Engineering Affinity Group—a post he held through 2015. In 2017, Region 6 named the group Outstanding Chapter.
- In 2006, he served as Chair of the IEEE Consultants Network of Silicon Valley (CNSV). Berg’s first effort was to spearhead revamping the website. In just three months, he oversaw the site redesign. The site now includes the ability for members to create their own page on the site. It helped to triple IEEE-CNSV membership in less than four years. (Since 2006, Berg has remained website coordinator, as well as chair for both programs and membership.)
A few of Brian Berg’s volunteer accomplishments in 2017 include:
- February: Primary organizer of an IEEE Milestone dedication event attended by 400 people at the Computer History Museum (CHM) for Shakey the Robot, created by SRI International. Shakey is the first general-purpose mobile robot to be able to reason about its own actions.
- March: Helped to organize the dedication of the IEEE Milestone at the CHM, honoring the so-called “Mother of all Demos”—the public demonstration of Online Systems and Personal Computing by Douglas Engelbart and his team.
- April: At the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., initiated and presided over the installation of a second IEEE Milestone plaque honoring the first demonstration of a CP/M Microcomputer Operating System.
- September: Organized an event to introduce area IEEE members to the new Silicon Valley office of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). With about 15 percent of all U.S. patent applications filed from Silicon Valley, the new USPTO office offers an important resource for members.
- November: At Qualcomm headquarters In San Diego, participated in dedicating an IEEE Milestone paying tribute to the first public demonstration of 3G cellular communications. Earlier, he worked with the IEEE San Diego Section and Qualcomm employees to create the milestone proposal.
“Brian has had an enormous impact on the Santa Clara Valley Section, and the Consultants Network,” says IEEE Life Fellow Laurence Nagel. He also endorsed Berg’s recent IEEE-USA award. “As the Network’s longtime programs chair, he has arranged for speakers at 10 meetings a year for 13 years! In my opinion, the quality and depth of the technical programs place CNSV above any of the other chapters in the Santa Clara Valley Section,” adds Nagel.
Despite all the time he devotes to IEEE, Brian Berg says his consulting business is going strong. With broad experience in optical and magnetic storage devices and storage interfaces, he also handles expert witness engagements involving patent, trade secret and copyright disputes, among others.
But even on vacation, he’s never far from his passions for technology and technical history. When he and his wife, Joyce Avery, were traveling last year through the United Kingdom, Berg managed to get selfies at three IEEE Milestone sites: Bletchley Park, Imperial College, London, and Gallanach Bay, Scotland. Brian Berg—he’s here, there, and everywhere!
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.