Cooking by the Numbers

PHOTO: Randi Silberman

Michael Tamburro

When we decided to let Spectrum Online visitors interact with six years of data from our annual R&D 100 report [see ”The R&D 100,” in this issue], we turned to IEEE member Michael Tamburro and his colleagues at Agile Partners in New York City. We didn’t find Tamburro through his company’s Web site or a request for proposal. We found him in the kitchen.

IEEE Spectrum’s editor, Susan Hassler, interviewed Tamburro for Spectrum Online’s Geek Cooking podcast back in July [http://spectrum.ieee.org/radio?01.07.07&segStart=2]. As he recounted, he started cooking in his dorm room at Cornell University, exploring the complex world of Italian cuisine while honing his engineering skills. When he and colleagues Jack Ivers and John Berry founded the software company Agile Partners in 2002, Tamburro was well into perfecting the recipe from his Italian grandmother (his nonna) for a pasta-based dessert called cruspola.

Cooking and software development don’t seem to have much in common at first glance. But as we discovered while working with Agile, whipping up a good Web app requires some of the same techniques used when experimenting with a new recipe. All good chefs taste their food during the course of preparation, adjusting the ingredients on the fly—a dash of salt here, a grind of pepper there, and the flavors, ­aromas, and colors meld into a feast for the senses. Agile, whose name comes from a programming methodology, emphasizes flexibility and ­iterations—lots of tasting in other words—before the final product is served. The result is our ”R&D 100 Graph-o-Matic,” which you can sample at http://spectrum.ieee.org/dec07/rndcalc. As Nonna would say, ”Buon appetito!”

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