Reflections from Chief Editor Paul Studebaker on 25 years of Readers’ Choice Awards

Our awards 'would be nothing without the readers who make the choices. I hope all of you who have voted this year and over the years will accept my thanks,' Studebaker says.

By Paul Studebaker

As your once and current editor in chief, I’m in my 14th year on the Control staff, including a decade from 1993 to 2003, but I was still surprised to realize this is the 25th time we’ve compiled our Readers’ Choice Awards. I remember the early years, when we ensured the integrity of voting by using paper ballots bound to the magazines and certified with your issue’s mailing label. Respondents wrote their answers in blanks on the self-mailing ballots—we examined each and every one to ensure no vendors participated, and no one voted more than once.

Back then, even more than now, we had to decipher your handwriting and spellings ("Semens"), interpret your intentions (“InTouch” meant Wonderware) and translate brands and divisions to companies (Square D meant Schneider Electric). So it took an experienced editor to tally the ballots, which numbered in the thousands. For each subcategory, I would use a sheet of notepaper and go through the entire stack, listing the company names and adding a tally mark for each vote. Once I got the knack, it only took about 40 hours.

WANT MORE?: See the results of Control's Readers' Choice Awards over the years

Joe doesn't gloss over anything. Sometimes its very scary, but he has a way of letting you hope that maybe we'll survive.

Now we use e-mail and a locked-down, web-based survey. The digital ballots are still individually examined to ensure voter integrity. I still decipher, interpret and translate, but without your handwriting, my only insight into your personality is how you spell and use capitalization. As a group, your skills are much improved.

All kidding aside, our Readers’ Choice Awards would be nothing without the readers who make the choices. I hope all of you who have voted this year and over the years will accept my thanks, and that everyone will consider voting when the ballots show up in your inbox later this year.

Over those many years, Control readers have benefitted from the writings of the best collection of contributors in the industry. Béla Lipták continues to astound me with his comprehensive knowledge, insatiable curiosity and willingness to always be working on the next edition of his unparalleled Instrument and Automation Engineer’s Handbook.

Greg McMillan and Stan Weiner keep hitting home runs, month after month, year after year, delivering the kind of real-world wisdom that can only come from many long days in the field, with the kind of wry wit you can only get from engineers who have spent too many long days in the field. Greg also contributes our “Control Talk” blog, where he often takes advantage of the web’s unlimited space to impart larger and more detailed portions of his process control lore.

Joe Weiss’ “Unfettered” blog imparts cybersecurity news and knowledge with the perspective of an automation engineer completely aware of its intricacies and potential consequences. Joe doesn’t gloss over anything. Sometimes it’s very scary, but he has a way of letting you hope that maybe we’ll survive.

Béla, Greg and Stan date back to my first stint as editor in the 1990s. Joe, Ian Verhappen and John Rezabek started during Walt Boyes’ tenure, and I’ve found them to be an acquired taste—but one I’m pleased to have acquired. Ian’s familiarity with networking rules and standards is invaluable, and his ability to explain what they mean and why we need them is a treat. John blends genuine writing talent with deep experience and a collection of anecdotes that I’m proud to get into print and in front of as many engineers as possible.

At the end of every year, we used to express our appreciation by sending the members of this stellar team a token of appreciation—a little something to eat, drink or smoke—but the hardships of the past recession put what I hope will be a temporary end to the practice. Meanwhile, guys, you have our thanks.

We recently added Russ Rhinehart, who brings the perspective of a semi-retired professor to “Develop your potential.” Russ knows a lot about process control, and his drive to be sure the next generation of its engineers gain useful employment shows in his pragmatism. So far, so good.

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