An Engineer in Cairo

Last Friday, Jan 28th, mass protests began in Cairo against the oppressive regime of Hosni Mubarak.    They were well covered by Al Jazeera, but the New York Times had nuthin’.   The government had shut off  cellphones and the Internet in an attempt to disrupt communication amongst the protesters, so they couldn’t reach people there.

There was one local expert, though, who was able to get digital data out: Prof. Mohammed Ibrahim Elmasry, emeritus, of the University of Waterloo, Ontario.  He put up a series of posts on his Facebook wall about the rising unrest, and even managed to get videos out.  The Times used his videos to show the protesters pushing police back across one of the main bridges across the Nile.  The shot below is the view from his 17th floor apartment window overlooking the river:

He’s no ordinary academic, though; he’s been a leader in integrated circuit design for the last 30 years.    I’ve seen some of his books myself.  He has dozens of papers in the leading periodical in the field, the Journal of Solid State Circuits, with titles like “Dynamic current mode logic (DyCML): A new low-power high-performance logic style”.  One of his students became co-CEO of Research In Motion (RIM).

He grew up in Cairo and did his undergraduate work there, and then did his doctoral work at the University of Ottawa.  He joined Waterloo in 1974 and has been there ever since.    He seems to have retired to Cairo, and has been doing a lot of traveling in the last few months.

He’s also a fiery writer and a champion of Muslim causes in Canada.  He’s overjoyed at what’s happening in his mother land:

Cairo, Tuesday Feb 1, 2011: I joined 2 million people in Liberation square and all streets leading to it, 1-3 pm local time; men and women, new born babies, kids, students, elders, men and women, Muslims and Copts, women with no head cover, with hijab, with niqab. People were well organized, caring, youth cleaning streets, giving sand…wich, water and juice. On break I joined protesters with a sandwich of Egyptian beans. People were calling for Mubarak, his family and his regime to leave Egypt. They pledge to continue until he leaves. Some 5 millions took to streets across Egypt today. This Friday Feb 4th is marked “Mubarak’s departure” day. ButTODAY the government organized pro-Mubarak demonstrators to clash with pro-democracy demonstrations – shame!

He hasn’t said how he’s been able to post all this, which is hardly surprising.   The most obvious way is a modem on a landline, but that’s hard to move video over.  Maybe he has a satphone.  Given that goons are now beating up journalists and anyone with a camera, I hope he can keep his methods secret!

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