Death in the Family
Saturday, March 18, 2006 12:27:48 AM
The first time I met Geir Ivarsøy was in 1998 installing Opera 3.5, when Opera got CSS support. What I didn't know then was that this very first good CSS implementation had been Geir's work in few months, but it made CSS geeks worldwide pay attention to the Opera browser. A couple years later many of us ended up as Opera employees.
When I started in Opera I was charmed by that people worked regular hours, the atmosphere was as far removed from the life of a microserf as could be. Geir, our lead developer, went to the office in the morning and home to his family in the afternoon. But what happened in between was pure gold. Dozens of newly employed Opera programmers lined up at his door whenever they had a problem they couldn't fix. Geir would pinpoint the problem and the solution within minutes.
While this complete command of the Opera source code was impressive, it wouldn't fit the organisation we were to become. It must have been around 2002 when he told me with some satisfaction that he didn't personally know the code anymore. And the rookie programmers were rookies no more. It is their work you see in Opera today.
When we needed to jump ship, both continuing on what was to become Opera 6 and developing the next generation engine, Geir and Karl Anders were the architects of Presto, based on experience from the past as well as the requirements from the future. Presto is a large collaboratory effort but it was also probably the most sensitive engineering project we have ever undertaken. We had dozens of projects hanging in the balance, we could not afford to fail and we didn't.
As Opera Software has grown from a handful people to a quarter thousand I still recognize most of the same company culture as when I started. The Asterix-like attitude, never to be fazed by incredible odds (part of what makes it fun to work for this company), the drive to make something that is actually good, and never cease to improve what's there.
Some of this Opera culture can be pinned on individuals such as Jon's endearing conviction that nothing we ever do is second-rate. Less obvious but just as present is Geir's influence, both on those who met him, and those who did not. I would not call him shy, but he was intensely attention adverse, you would never see him first in line when Opera won prizes. He didn't brag even though he had better reasons than most everyone. He focused on doing the task right and doing it well, and the proof was in the code. To this day you won't hear an Opera programmer brag, even when they have good reasons to, and they often do.
Geir's understated sense of humour complemented those of us who enjoy being rather overt in our merry glibness, like elsewhere Geir was subtle but clear. He was immensely nice, likeable, unassuming, but not easily impressed. As the saying goes the good Geirs die young, but in this case his renown will last for a long time.