Monday, March 24, 2008

BPN 1047 A Dutch ICT pioneer, management guru and environmental hero died

Last week on Friday Eckart Wintzen died at the age of 68 years. He was a local Dutch ICT pioneer, management guru and environmental hero. I had the pleasure to meet him in the eighties.

Eckhart Wintzen was an ICT pioneer, who worked for Philips Computer Industry (PCI) and the European Space Agency (ESA). But he was and entrepreneur with a vision and 1976 he started up BSO, a bureau for computer development. But it was not just another computer company. His management style was remarkable. The company was not divided in a holding, divisions, subsidiaries and departments, but he promoted the principle of cell division. A company with 50 people was his ideal size for an independent company. As soon as the company grew beyond 50 employees, it would split into two companies. Creativity and independent thinking were hallmarks.

In 1990 BSO merged with the IT division of Philips into BSO/Origin. In 1996 the division Communication and Processing was added; the name changed to Origin. In 2001 Origin merged with the French company ATOS.

With the capital gained Eckart Wintzen started to keep himself busy with societal duties and projects. He was a frequent speaker, who could inspire the audience with his unconventional views. He was involved in the Dutch political circuit. But he started also social companies as the Benelux branch of the icemakers Ben & Jerry, He was partner in Greenwheels, a company for shared use of cars and in Advanced Immuni, an AIDS research company. In the ICT field his company Exo’vision produced the Jaguar amongst the real-time video phones.

I met him in the eighties at the BSO head office in Utrecht. I had come into contact with Toon Witkam, who was the head of one of his research projects. This project was concerned with producing a translation machine. At that time, there was only the machines translation software Systran; which did have the quality needed to serve as a rough translation for the corps of EU translators. Toon Witkam and his team designed the DLT (Distributed Language Translation) project. This project is aimed at a new, multilingual MT system in the 1990s, which uses Esperanto as an internal interlingua. We talked about the project and about an EC grant for the project. However, the system eventually never left the drawing table and was closed by 1991, leaving a trail of scientific publications and software modules. Toon Witkam became a professor at the Technical University in Delft.

Eckart Wintzen began as an ICT pioneer and a social entrepreneur. He was one of the strongest advocates for a countrywide glass fibre project, which in his views would reduce the Dutch disease of traffic jams. In that view also his real time video phone fitted. In the end he became a real green ICT pioneer with the Greenwheels project, a n urban car share project with a full automated reservation and administration system.

The Netherlands looses a flamboyant, creative and inspiring personality.

Blog Posting Number: 1047


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