Goodbye, George.

Who was George Robbins?

George died way too young, but led a successful life of his own definition. He was a gentle soul with a wry sense of humor, a supportive mentor and coworker, a friend to all who were looking for friends. He led a team of more than 20 people who supported many thousands of customers, and he led by earning the respect and trust of those around him. He was a quiet but powerful force, and his death has touched all of us at the netaxs extended family. He was one of a handful of people in the world who excelled at computer administration, programming, hardware, and Internet routing.

His death was a shock to us all - not because of how he died, or what he had or hadn't accomplished, but because of his relative youth and because of the future we all imagined he'd enjoy.

George was a great man who had a profound influence on the lives of many. We at netaxs know snippets of his past at Commodore. Strange humor, gentle soul, supportive coworker, car troubles, "nesting" at the office, and overall a love of the unknown are all traits that we hear about again and again from George's Commodore days.

From Ray Leonard who grew up with George, we have heard that George's passion for electronics and computers goes back to his early years, and that George was a serious train and photography hobbyist for many years. From Ray and from Dana Malerman we know about his social side, helping out at Coffeehouses in Delaware and at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

In terms of George's involvement with the company, customers, and people of netaxs:

George's first contact with netaxs was as a customer, in 1994. He called up and asked for a dedicated dialup connection. I said that'd be a setup fee and $75/month. He asked whether he could route a "Class B" down it - 4 million host addresses, give or take a few hundred thousand or so. I told him I didn't have any problem with this (though it was many times the amount of address space that netaxs had at the time), but I was curious whose it was. So he told me it was Commodore's, and that the connection would go to a sparcstation called "CBMVAX". A distinctive meeting with a distinctive man.

In 1997, George contacted me and indicated that he was pretty clear that netaxs could use some more help. This was of course true, as projects were falling off the lists constantly and we had very few senior people, and I did all of the hardware work on the systems. We had lunch, talked tasks and interests and salary, and he decided to start (even though we had discussed salary).

George started working doing network operations work. At the time we had a "Bat Phone" in the office for business customers, and we were transitioning to become a 24x7 operation. I'll never forget George's first NOC shift. It's 2am. "Hi, Avi. I just tripped over the power cable and all of the servers are down. I'll bring them back up. I went back to bed, fully confident that he could and would.

Over the next 5 years he took charge of the computers, then learned Internet routing, then took over the overall routing and operations of our network as well. George was a trusted advisor to me in running netaxs, and as part of the balance of power with Bernie and Alex, provided keen insight into technology, business, management, and people. Of course, his many e-mail messages entitled "grumble" over the last 3 years or so since I went away to "play" elsewhere full-time are fresh in my mind. I was shocked to find, though, that his first 4-page-long missive on management, operations, and business came in his first month of work in May 1997. Even in discussions about his own role and future, though, George never raised his voice and never behaved rudely.

Of course, one of the very amusing things is that in early and mid 1992, before there was any netaxs, I knew George (by sight, at least). My wife Gail would go with her friends to Radnor Rolls in Villanova and I'd bring my laptop and work and watch. There was usually an enthusiastic- looking guy rolling around, dancing and doing fancy footwork. I never met him but of course a few years ago I realized that had been George. He made it look effortless, fun, and easy. I understand he also called his skating pastime "Chasing girls in circles" :)

The recent merger of netaxs with Fastnet has been both an exciting and an apprehensive time, especially for the management structure at the company. Of course, there are things that I wish had been said that will now never be discussed. George was to be in charge of routing for the combined companies, and I am saddened that he will not get a chance to play with the "new toys and realms" that he was looking forward to.

What do I miss about George?

- Long and ranting, yet lucid, emails.
- The patented grr moustache twitch.
- Knowing that everything was handled from people to technology at netaxs.
- Seeing him play and learn about new things.
- Working with George on new projects and adventures into the future.

Of course, I miss a friend, a true friend - one who would look me in the eye and tell me that I was full of BS - but politely, and with respect. Someone who cared deeply and passionately about his interests, which I was very blessed to have overlap with my own for the last 5 years.