I met David Wessel a few times at IRCAM in the 80s - he worked there from 1977 to 1988, when working at HP Test & Measurement, which became Agilent under the baton of Ned Barnholt then Keysight Technologies more recently.
At the time, I was designing my first commercial speakers under the Microphase brand, and I had all sorts of connexions in the audio field, but also I had IRCAM as a client.
That's how I met David originally. My passion for music reproduction gelled with his lifelong interest in electroacoustic music and we became friends.
In 1988, he moved back to the USA, and started a local version of IRCAM that he appropriately named Centre for New Music and Audio Technologies.
In 1984, I moved to Scotland, then Amsterdam and then back to France as a Product Marketing Manager and I was kind of commuting to the US , New York City, Colorado and California with the odd trip to Spokane, Washington for good measure, so to speak...
David and I stayed in contact over the years and he invited me to CNMAT in Berkeley when I was visiting the Bay Area for work. So, on a gorgeous Californian evening, I drove over the Bay Bridge for the first time and headed up to Berkeley University.
No iMaps, no iPhones back then and the sun was rapidly disappearing. Eventually I found the place and David navigated me from the parking lot to a Spanish Hacienda looking building, all dark inside as it was way past business hours by then...
David then showed me around a little, but became very excited - David had reserves of enthusiasm that were second to none - as we approached the northwest corner of the building where the remnant of daylight made it quite a bit spooky...
Then in that corner, there was a big black cube and large B&W monitor next to it, so to speak.
David pressed an invisible button on that sci-fi monolith and after what felt like an eternity, the screen became alive...
You may have guessed by now what it was, but let's just say that even though I was working for HP at the time, I already was a MacIntosh addict and a Steve Jobs fan...and David knew that as there was a plethora of Macs and MIDI devices at IRCAM...
So here I was, bewildered, knowing that this thing was running UNIX with an amazing UI on top, and then the penny dropped with a hint by David:
I was sitting in front of one of the first five NEXT computers that Steve Jobs had generously gifted to the newly formed CNMAT.
I guess you can tell by my prose that I remember that evening like it was yesterday where in fact it happened 30 years ago...
We ended up going out for dinner and it was very late when I came back to my hotel downtown San Francisco. I didn't know at the time it would be the last time I see him...
Now, fast forward to a Christmas party with one of my current client who manufactures LED light fittings a few days ago and I get to sit next to a very jovial Julien Freed, a lighting designer that I knew of for a long time but never met.
So why am I telling that? Well Julien and I got talking - his father is French, people in lighting often consult in audio as well - Julien doesn't - so we start talking about speaker design and music, and then he dropped the name of his brother Adrian who still works at CNMAT i believe and was working for years with David.
Now, the funny thing is that neither Julien nor I could remember David's name, as I had lost contact with him when I left HP in 1992.
So we called our friend Google to the rescue, and bang comes his name and his photo!
I couldn't believe it! The next stage of our conversation did tame our joy as Julien told me about David's passing in October 2014 and incidentally his brother Adrian wrote his eulogy than I am giving you a link to below, as well as a few relevant other tributes. The last one is the best in my opinion.
David Wessel was a very jovial, full of life genius who was so humble and down to Earth, but probably one of the most impressive brains I had the fortune and pleasure to meet in my life!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.