Opinions Resisting the Mainstream

If you don’t feel as if you are too early, you may be late already

by Fred Steinhauser, OMICRON electronics GmbH, Austria

To achieve much in your lifetime, patience is not the most useful habit

There are several reasons to attend a funeral service. One is to show respect and empathy to the bereaved. In such cases we often did not know the deceased person well. One other reason, of course the most touching one, is to say farewell to someone we knew. We share the grief with others and try to accept the fact that from then on, memories are all we keep of this person.
In July 2021, we received the sad news that Hubert Kirrman had unexpectedly passed away from a cardiac arrest when he was hiking with his wife and friends in the Swiss mountains. The burial was private, there was no way to go there and to say goodbye. But in September, more than two months after Hubert had passed away, his bereaved wife invited friends and companions of Hubert for a remembrance meeting. Close to a hundred people attended. And there were not only former colleagues from ABB, but many who shared his other activities.

I knew Hubert for many years through our work in the IEC standardization. And besides the current topics discussed in the working groups, we sometimes exchanged thoughts on other things, often on technical issues, but not only.
At least I thought I knew Hubert. As I should learn, nothing could have been less true.
After his wife gave an introduction and an overview of Hubert’s life, several of the guests took the opportunity to tell something that connected them to Hubert.

We learned about so many things I had no idea of. About his time in Colombia, where he taught at a university in Bogota. And that he was considered a gifted joke teller.
And that he was a musician. He often played the guitar, and he also liked singing.
He was a passionate sailor; he and his wife spent much time on boats on lakes and the sea.
He was co-founder of the Pro Velo society and its president since 1980. Long before it became popular, he pursued the vision of riding the bicycle as an environmentally friendly way of getting around in urban areas.
Several speakers from his professional environment mentioned that it was not always easy to exchange arguments with Hubert and sometimes fierce discussions did evolve. But here we need to understand the consequences of engineering thinking.

Unlike in everyday life, there are far fewer things up for discussion in engineering. Engineers need to know, based on facts. To know, Hubert did research to make himself sure. When Hubert knew, let’s say, that 1 + 1 = 2, he saw no point in even discussing if 1 + 1 could maybe, under certain circumstances, considered to be 1.8 or 2.1 as well.
This strictness was not appreciated by everybody. To some degree I can reenact Hubert’s attitude. You need patience to convince other of things that appear to be crystal clear to you.

Everyone is replaceable, this holds true for everybody. Hubert would have agreed to this for sure. But some are harder to replace than most of us, and Hubert is one of those. Although he was officially retired, he was still active as a caretaker for the topics of which he thought to be of importance.
Hubert looked out for support; he would have been glad if one of us would have raised her/his hand to take responsibility for the matters he cared about. Now he left a gap, and we struggle to fill in. We miss him, but now it’s up to us.

His legacy is a challenge for those who will take over.


Fred Steinhauser studied Electrical Engineering at the Vienna University of Technology, where he obtained his diploma in 1986 and received a Dr. of Technical Sciences in 1991. He joined OMICRON and worked on several aspects of testing power system protection. Since 2000 he worked as a product manager with a focus on power utility communication. Since 2014 he is active within the Power Utility Communication business of OMICRON, focusing on Digital Substations and serving as an IEC 61850 expert. Fred is a member of WG10 in the TC57 of the IEC and contributes to IEC 61850. He is one of the main authors of the UCA Implementation Guideline for Sampled Values (9-2LE). Within TC95, he contributes to IEC 61850 related topics. As a member of CIGRÉ he is active within the scope of SC D2 and SC B5. He also contributed to the synchrophasor standard IEEE C37.118.