Phil was one of those people who meander briefly through your life and change you forever. Phil was in his 60s when I met him. Quite the eccentric man. I was around 11 years old or so when he started to mentor me and tutor me in math and computer programming. We met every Tuesday and Thursday for several years. He taught me assembly language, although he preferred straight machine code, on his ancient 8088 computer, which had an NEC CPU, and he was so thrilled about some of the special machine code instructions it had for high-precision math that he had drawn a diagram of the entire processor on a large 2'x3' piece of plotter paper to better understand how it worked. He also had a couple of HP computers ("Hewpees", he called them) with single-line LED displays and teletypes which read and wrote ticker tape. He was truly a Real Programmer.

One time we decided to have a contest to see who could write the fastest program to calculate all the prime factors of a given number. Well, I decided to write my program in C, since that's the language I knew best and I figured it wouldn't be much different in speed from assembly language. A week or so later, we showed each other our programs. He ran mine first, on my 133MHz Pentium system that I built myself (it was cutting edge stuff back then!), and it took, oh, about 3 or 4 seconds to come up with the answer. Then I ran his, on his old 8MHz system. I was shocked. There wasn't even a noticable delay after I hit the enter key on his program before the answer was printed. And the size of the programs was astonishing: my executable was about 20 kilobytes, but his was a measly 390 bytes! Then he taught me how to reverse-engineer his program (which had no source code, since it was written in machine language!) to figure out how it worked.

He did long division problems in his sleep for fun, was working on a calculus book, and juggling countless other projects at the same time. He used to walk the 1.5 miles over to my house through the woods in his bare feet, with his somewhat wild grey hair blowing in the breeze.

Phil was very humble. I knew he started Phil Wood & Co. (which he has since sold) and he invented some type of disc brakes for racing bicycles, but I had no idea how famous he was until recently. I've seen his "green grease" and "green oil" in bike shops all over the country and some people, when I told them I knew Phil Wood, respond in mild amazement.

But the Phil I know isn't the one that all the professinal bicyclists know. The Phil I know spent hundreds of hours teaching me everything he could. And he enjoyed it. He had an attitude about life that I wish I could have today - always cheerful, always interested in everything. I try to emulate that attitude.

There have been times in the past couple years when I've really wished he was here to talk to, and I miss him. But what he gave to me will always be with me. Thanks for everything, Phil.

Phil Wood brand bottom brackets and wheel hubs were real popular, especially with the knowledgeable cyclists, because they were designed to be user-serviceable. A big difference from those sold these days.

I haven't seen any of his bike parts being sold in catalogs anymore, but bike shops still carry his grease and oil.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.