Maestro of TechGoldman expands the horizons of digital compression 4/17/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern
When college kids take on summer jobs, it usually means they will be toiling in fast-food restaurants or bagging groceries. Not Matthew Goldman. When he was a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts during the early 1980s, Goldman spent his summers learning the ropes of the TV business. His father, the general manager of Community Cablevision of Framingham, Mass., put him to work climbing poles, handling installations and—most significant—doing technical work at the system's headends.
Goldman has climbed more than telephone poles in the years since, rising to the forefront of TV-technology specialists. He has been instrumental in the design and implementation of technologies that bear the acronyms of some of television's most critical components, from MPEG-2 compression to DSM-CC (which enables video-on-demand and other two-way communications over the cable set-top box) to PSIP (a digital-broadcast protocol for over-the-air delivery of programming guides and other important features). Lately, Goldman has been involved in the standardization of Microsoft's next-generation compression technology (VC1).
“In 1992, I didn't even know what MPEG stood for,” says Goldman (it stands for Moving Picture Experts Group). “Two years later, I was part of a team that traveled the world and helped create a standard that would change the face of TV and entertainment.”
Without MPEG video- and audio- compression standards, the development of many elements of entertainment technology—including digital television, DVDs, HDTV and Internet video streaming—would likely have been hampered. And the next-generation standards, based on the MPEG-4 Advance Video Codec (AVC), will reshape the landscape yet again.
Trade-Show turning Point
Becoming a leader in the area of video compression wasn't always on Goldman's agenda. He graduated from WPI in 1982 with a degree in electrical engineering and had his eye on computer-microprocessor design. “Most engineers end up first getting involved in sales or something non–design-related,” he says. “But I was actually able to get a job with Raytheon” as a hardware designer.
In 1986, Goldman moved to Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), and became involved in the design of high-end central processing units, which involved working with a team of developers. He soon realized that, while he was very good at it, he didn't stand out from the team. “When there is more than one person working on a chip, I thought I could easily be replaced by a CAD tool,” he recalls, laughing. “So I decided to get back to my roots, which was doing more systems-level design.”
It was a good move: DEC was changing the industry with its high-capacity data-storage devices, and Goldman became a design engineer in that area. He recalls a trade show that was a turning point: Attendees liked the gear, but “they were all coming up to me and saying, 'This is great, but can your servers deliver video instead of data?'” DEC soon formed a group to look at the potential of video compression, and Goldman was put in charge—thanks in part to what he had learned during his college-era summers.
A perfect fit
Goldman became part of the MPEG standards committee in 1992, and he helped edit the initial specifications and revisions for MPEG-2. He was also named project editor for the development of standards for Digital Storage Media-Command and Control (DSM-CC). “It was my baby,” he says, “but I had a lot of help.”
In 1996, after 11 years at DEC, Goldman eagerly moved to Divicom, a company that specialized in MPEG work. “MPEG was just starting to come into its own, and it was rapidly exploding in popularity,” he says. “Divicom was full of expertise that was phenomenal, and it was fantastic to be part of it.”
Four years later, Divicom was bought by Harmonic, and Goldman decided to move on. At the time—just before the tech bubble burst—it was commonplace for Silicon Valley technicians to jump at the chance to work with promising startups. Goldman's chance came in the form of World Wide Packets, a company involved in the deployment of Gigabit Ethernet to residences. “It was way ahead of its time,” he says of the technology. The company struggled, and after 9/11, Goldman was downsized.
The layoff gave him a chance to rethink his career. Working as a consultant, he helped develop an MPEG splicer that the Fox Network now uses to help pass its digital signals through local HDTV transmitters directly to viewers. Through that experience, he came in contact with Tandberg TV, which hired him last February. “It was a perfect fit,” he says.
Eric Cooney, Tandberg TV president and CEO, agrees. “He's dramatically raised our technical profile, becoming a sounding board for our customers, an in-demand conference speaker and an active participant in many industry organizations,” Cooney says. “He has a real zest for technology.”
Recently promoted to VP, technology, for Tandberg TV, Goldman has two challenges: making sure the company's products have the features American buyers need, and raising the awareness of Tandberg, a company that maintains dual headquarters in Norway and the U.S., and has offices in 90 countries. “We may have all of our compression engineers in the UK,” he says, “but that doesn't mean we don't have expertise in the Americas.”
For Goldman, his has been a career path that proves a college student could do worse than spending the summer working for a cable company.