Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


A tribute to Russell Smith from Mike and the Sendero Group: (Reflections and thanks)

I am currently on a ski vacation in Chile. As I plunge down a slope, there is a knot in the pit of my stomach, not from the speed of the descent but from the terrible feeling of loss of Russell to his family and to those of us who had the privilege of working with him.

I first got to know Russell when I traveled to Christ Church in 1995 to see about Pulse Data being an Open Book dealer for Arkenstone. Russell Smith and Mike Pedersen exemplified New Zealand hospitality. Russell has been described as the Bill Gates of the adaptive technology industry and although this may be true in many ways, I can’t imagine that Bill Gates is as approachable or accessible as Russell was. Even when I met Russell casually prior to that trip, he would always let me know he was around at the various conferences we would attend. He and Mike were genuinely appreciative that I would come all the way to Christ Church to court their business. Russell’s hospitality and personal touch beginning with that trip to New Zealand forged a business and personal connection that would have a huge impact on my life and on those who would in turn benefit from the company I would start in 2000.

On July 4 of 2001 at the NFB convention in Philadelphia, Russell and I had our first meeting to evaluate the feasibility of taking the accessible GPS we had developed on the laptop and putting it on the very successful BrailleNote. I met the same day with Dick Chandler of Freedom Scientific to discuss the same for their Pac Mate, still on the drawing board. I continued to meet with them both over several weeks, the most memorable of which was a meeting with Russell at a hotel in San Francisco. He had a list of questions to ask me. I would give him an answer and then there would be a pregnant pause. I couldn’t figure out if I should say more or just wait for a response. I soon learned that Russell was very contemplative and he was simply pondering my answers.

He must have liked what he heard. In September 2001, Pulse Data and Sendero Group agreed to collaborate on a BrailleNote GPS project. Within 6 months, we had version 1 ready to show at CSUN and it was shipping soon thereafter, in April 2002.

Since that time, I have made a trip to New Zealand as has Charles, both of us enjoying the hospitality of Russell and his team. The BrailleNote GPS has graduated to version 3.3, none of which would have happened without Russell’s support behind the scene. GPS has always been on the pioneering edge of technology and its benefits not obvious to all. Everyone enjoying the benefit of this technology today should give some thanks to Russell for recognizing the value of accessible location information. Sendero is largely still in business since its inception in 2000 thanks to the success of the BrailleNote GPS and the trust and support of Russell Smith. His impact will carry on in a very tangible fashion as we continue to improve the BrailleNote GPS beyond what either of us imagined 4 years ago.

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