Remembering Joe Pavlat

Summer ended with sad news for our OpenSystems Media family when we learned our friend and co-worker, Joe Pavlat, Editorial Director of PICMG Technologies magazine, passed away suddenly at his home in Grass Valley, California. He was only 63 years old.

Joe joined our family back in 1996 when we partnered with him and the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) to form CompactPCI Systems magazine. The publication reigned as the top magazine in OpenSystems Media’s stable for more than a dozen years, even after it evolved to include AdvancedTCA in its title as CompactPCI and AdvancedTCA Systems. Its success was attributable to Joe’s passion for the technology, which he co-developed, as well as his leadership as president and chairman of PICMG since its inception 22 years ago.

As my colleague, Pat Hopper, Publisher at OpenSystems Media, said to me when we heard of Joe’s passing, “No one did more for CompactPCI and AdvancedTCA than Joe.”

On the occasion of PICMG’s 20th anniversary Joe renamed the magazine PICMG Systems & Technology as the organization’s membership had become more global and its standards embraced by multiple industries worldwide including: telecommunications, industrial, the Internet of Things (IoT), automotive, aerospace, and defense.

Such growth was a tribute to Joe’s leadership and enthusiasm for the open standards developed under the PICMG umbrella as well as his knowledge of embedded computing developed over a 36-year career that included leadership roles at Prolog, Motorola, and Parker Hannifin.

From a military electronics perspective Joe had been a leading advocate for the adoption of open standards and open architectures in military systems since we met two decades ago.

Ironically, PICMG was founded shortly after the famous commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) memo was issued by then U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry that ordered military programs to leverage COTS wherever and whenever possible. Twenty years later COTS solutions based on PICMG standards such as CompactPCI and COM Express are quite commonly deployed in defense applications from radar to satellite communications. Joe had a right to be proud of that achievement.

Always press savvy and friendly Joe had a way of making complicated engineering subjects easy to understand and easy to write about for young trade press reporters. He taught and informed, but never tried to spin me.

Joe also saw the humor in what he did, especially during what some have termed the “bus wars” where standards such as VITA’s VME were placed head to head against CompactPCI. While the wisecracks would fly back and forth between each organization over the years, he knew it was in good fun as many of his members made products under the VITA and PICMG banners.

The back and forth also made writing about single board computers more enjoyable and not surprisingly PICMG and VITA standards got more coverage in the trade publications.

When I joined OpenSystems Media five years ago, Joe was one of the first to welcome me and say how excited he was for us to be working together. A gentleman with a kind manner, he was always quick with a compliment when he saw an article he liked and sincere when he asked after his colleagues. Those traits combined with his knowledge, expertise, and reputation made him popular with his co-workers and a valuable member of our team.

“I was lucky to have known him,” said Rosemary Kristoff, President of OpenSystems Media. “Just having him around made you feel better with his candor and his unique ability to keep things in perspective. Joe was a genuine, frank, and loyal friend.”

He had an easy way with conversation as his interests could range from embedded computing to hiking to physics to flying. A native of Wisconsin, he originally pursued a physics degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before turning toward computers and instrumentation. He actively kept up with physics over the years, even participating in experiments in Antarctica and on top of the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii.

Joe also loved to fly and even volunteered his time to fly for the Monterey Sheriff’s department Aero Squadron. For years he said he wanted to take me flying, saying there was never a more careful pilot than he. Joe only flew on perfect days because as he told me: “I hate turbulence.” The same could be said for how he approached his work with OSM. We never saw him encounter a bump he couldn’t smooth out.

The PICMG Systems & Technology magazine, in all its iterations, was always a reflection of Joe. His was the face of PICMG, CompactPCI, and AdvancedTCA. I cannot think of those without thinking of Joe.

I also cannot imagine having a PICMG Technologies staff meeting and knowing he won’t be there to share his advice, tell a story, or reminisce about old friends.

I wished I’d flown with him and I wish he were still here, so I could tell him that. We miss you already, Joe, and always will.

Predeceased by his parents and brother, Joe is survived by his wife. Per his request no services will be held.

For other remembrances of Joe, please read my colleague Brandon Lewis’ touching tribute, detailing his first years as an editor under Joe, here. Also be sure to read PICMG’s remembrance of him as well as an industry obituary on Joe written by John Keller, my former colleague at Military & Aerospace Electronics.