David Temkin is Hightail’s titan of all things tech. We caught up with him to discuss punch cards, pulp sci-fi and the power of pixels.
How did you get into technology?
My father was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rutgers and would occasionally bring home the terminals and punch cards he used to program simulations. But I had no interest in computers until the day he brought home an Apple II+, which had the novel idea of using graphics and sounds. Suddenly this world of abstract algorithms and processing power became a more tangible and emotional place. I was hooked.
What do you enjoy most about working at Hightail?
I love the fact that we’re building a product that millions of people – people far outside of the Silicon Valley bubble – use as part of their daily work. When I updated my LinkedIn profile to show that I’d joined Hightail, I got emails from people in entirely different businesses congratulating me and telling me how much they rely on Hightail. That was awesome.
Who or what inspires you?
Philip K. Dick wrote sci-fi books from the ‘50s until he died in 1982. At the time, his novels were considered trashy genre fiction – pulp paperbacks with lurid covers. But as the years have passed, his writing has come to seem more and more prophetic, more relevant. The topics he focused on – what’s real, what’s simulated, what’s human, what’s a machine – have become increasingly vivid as the world we live in has become increasingly computerized, increasingly simulated. I find his work inspiring.
Favorite piece of technology (besides Hightail)
Lately I’ve become very enthusiastic about ultra-high resolution screens – what Apple markets as “Retina” displays. They first appeared on smartphones in 2010, and are now seen on tablets and laptops as well. It might seem like a minor upgrade, but for me it’s a game-changer – I now prefer reading on one of these screens to reading typical printed material. You simply can’t see the individual pixels, and that’s amazing. Over time I think we’re going to see a revolution in user interface design and digital typography as designers shed the constraints under which they’ve been operating for the last 30 years.
I like dark drip coffee with a little milk and sugar – the Silken Splendor from Philz is nice.
Describe your ideal vacation
About once a year, I go to Hawaii. I’ve been to most of the islands by now. Kaua’i and Maui are my favorites. I go with no agenda except to do as little as possible. Though with each passing year, it’s gets harder to truly disconnect from work.