JavaOne Developer's Conference, 2006

I often think of my life as consisting of numerous "chapters"; periods during which I become very involved with a particular interest, pastime, or career. People who have known me for a long time can probably name some of those interests, and it's always interesting to me when I run into someone I haven't seen in a while and then realize that they still identify me with a chpater long since forgotten (just this week I ran into someone who still knew me from my days administrating The Winona Ryder Site... eight years after I had closed that website down). Other chapters (often highlighted on my main homepage) have included: computer programming, mathematics, Scrabble playing, puzzles, and, of course, LEGO building.

Also of great interest to me is when two or more of these chapters overlap or intertwine. Usually a chapter of interest in my life lasts about 3-5 years, but every now and then, a past career resurges and gets tangled up with a current endeavor.

Such is the case with this LEGO project.

Anyone who keeps track of my LEGO website knows that my output of projects has lessened during the past couple of years. I certainly feel that the "LEGO chapter" of my life is in its final stages. I'm much more selective about the commissions I accept, and I do far fewer personal projects.

Then, late in 2005, a previous chapter of my life, that of Java programming, returned when Sun Microsystems (for whom I worked in the mid-nineties, before I started LEGO building) offered me another job. It was quite appealing: I could work remotely from my home in Alabama (there was no way I was going to relocate to California again), I was working with a group of intelligent friends and colleagues, and, of course, the offered salary was attractive. I wouldv'e been stupid not to at least consider re-entering the "corporate world," given this opportunity.

So, officially on 2 Feb 2006, I returned to work as a full-time employee of Sun Microsystems, Inc.

After a month or two back at the company, I realized that the big JavaOne developer's conference was coming up soon. I couldn't resist pointing out to some of Sun's folks that for the past six years I had been using a self-written Java application to design and build LEGO Mosaics.

Would Sun like me to demonstrate PIXELEGO at the 2006 JavaOne conference?

Why yes; yes, they would.

So that is how I managed to combine the LEGO and Java chapters of my life.

In May 2006 I found myself at JavaOne as a Sun employee... building a LEGO mosaic.


The mosaic project itself was fairly typical. In this case I was building a 90" x 50" rendition of a computer generated model of a Ford Mustang (with the Java "mascot" seated therein). What was more interesting about this demonstration was the fact that I was at a computer tradeshow and I was showing off not only the mosaic, but also the actual software I use to design the project. I was not selling PIXELEGO nor giving it away; just creating a medium sized mosaic to show off a "fun side" of the Java Technology.

I got a lot of questions not only about the mosaic, but also the software I used to create it (I also got a lot of the frequently asked questions: "How long did that take to build?", "How many pieces?", and so forth).

I finished the mosaic at the beginning of the third (and final) day of my presentation. It is in the hours following completion, logged in via wireless network, that I am writing this webpage.

As I said before, I had been getting a little burnt out on LEGO building during the past couple of years. Yet, I have to admit, I had forgotten how much more interesting LEGO building (even at its most monotonous) can be compared to computer programming (even at its most enthralling). I can pretty much guarantee that in the near future I will be returning to more of the former rather than continuing with the latter...

A few more pictures

The "performance" attracted a lot of attention, both from attendees (scroll down this page), and a local news station (note the picture of me with "The Father of Java").

Back to Eric Harshbarger's main LEGO page.