About Hans Karlsson
3 November 1942–11 September 1992
Hans Karlsson
“I do not want to lose what I tackle. That is what makes me work for results.” — Hans Karlsson

Hans Anders Rudolf Karlsson was born in Gothenburg, Sweden on 3 November 1942. He received his engineering degree at Tekniska Gymnasiet in Gothenburg in May 1963. In November of 1964, after military service, Hans began his accomplished career working in the mobile radio laboratory at AGA developing a telephone exchange and later developing and implementing the use of an automatic mobile radio telephone system at the request of the local energy authority of Stockholm. Between the years 1967 and 1971 he was in charge of designing an interface between a blood analysis machine, “the auto chemist” and digital PDP computers. It was during this time that he became interested in computers as a hobby and started designing and building his first computer.

In November of 1971, Karlsson began his employment with Ericsson and later for the Ericsson subsidiary, EPA in Melbourne, Australia, where he developed the computer controlled telex exchange, APB-10, as well as the control system, APN 162. Much of his involvement in the controls systems APN 162 consisted of developing agreements leading to standardization of basic features. His work at Ericsson also involved designing semiconductor Ram cards, producing CPU and bus specifications and design involving computer controlled systems, multiplexors and data links. Between 1978 and 1984, Karlsson was a special consultant for writing specifications in the computer standards field, leading several projects. During this time he also led a Mekan group, tough courses on computer structures and the VME bus and participated in many IEEE Standards projects.

After becoming a Section Head at Ericsson, he was responsible for both internal and external relations, working with both hardware and software development of standard computer systems and platforms. In 1984, Karlsson become senior advisor at Ericsson, where he was responsible for international business contacts regarding connectors and the associated hardware. He taught several courses in Sweden on the system construction for APN 167 as well as in Australia on the microcomputer field.

In addition to his accomplished career, Karlsson was involved with many committees beginning in 1981 including IEEE, IEC, ETSI, ESONE and TCI/IEC/TCO. In 1989 he became the chairman for these standards setting committees, vice chairman for the international affairs for IEEE Bus Architectures Standards Committee, and Liaison Officer for ETSI-IEEE in both organizations.

To highlight his career, Karlsson received numerous awards to acknowledge his accomplishments including the Quality Prize, for successful interactive work with companies within the United States, and the IEEE Outstanding Contribution Award for, “outstanding leadership in the development of the IEEE 1301 Metric Mechanical Specification,” dedicated to him in 1990.

Hans Karlsson, self confident since childhood, was a charismatic, infectiously enthusiastic, energetic, kind man, whose personality and determination led him to results. Though his traveling was extensive and the results desirable, his family, wife Agneta, son Peter, and daughter Pia remained center of his considerations.


Hans Karlsson Painting by Sheila Halligan-Waltz
Hans Karlsson Painting
(By Sheila Halligan-Waltz; oil on canvas, 36″x48″)

Hans Karlsson was involved in IEEE and Computer Society Standards Activities for more than a decade. He chaired the highly successful family of 1301 Metric Mechanical Standards for Microcomputers, was an active member of the IEEE Microprocessor Standards Committee, and was vice chair of the IEEE Bus Architecture Standards Committee. He had been nominated for the IEEE Standards Board for 1993.

Friends and colleagues in the Computer Society’s standards activities area knew Karlsson as the “gentle giant,” citing his ability to forge relationship among individuals and groups that elicited both cooperation and results.


On 31 August 1992, the IEEE standards community lost a well-respected and influential leader when Hans Karlsson died of cancer. Karlsson is survived by his wife, Agneta, and two grown children, Peter and Pia. The funeral was held in Sodertalje. Sweden, September 11, 1992. Karlsson was manager of Strategic Partnering, Products and Technology for L.M. Ericsson in Stockholm.


“Hans was commanding yet not demanding”

Paul Borrill
Computer Society liaison to the IEEE Standards Board

“His sensitive, people-oriented approach to management enabled him to achieve consensus on the 1301 standards in record time.  In many ways, Hans’ vision of obtaining results has set a new high-water mark in creating standards documents.”

Joe Trainor
Chair of the IEEE P1301.4 Working Group

“Hans was the leader of all mechanical activity within the Bus Architecture Standards Committee. Han was a very strong leader with a soft touch. Much like a gentle giant (Hans was a very large man), Hans was imposing in stature, but readily approachable, easy to talk to, and an expert in his field.

When Hans passed, I was visiting my grandmother in South Carolina. She could not understand how I knew someone from Sweden and the sadness his passing brought to all who knew him. I remember sitting in a little known, but outstanding basement restaurant in Sweden, watching Hans devour caviar, though I could not understand why. I visited his home, and saw the love and support his family showed to Hans and his friends.

On one trip to Sweden, Hans presented me with an Ericsson logo golf glove. I’ve never used the glove, but still have it, as a memento, over 15 years later.

Thanks for continuing to honor this wonderful gentleman.”

Harrison Beasley

“Hans Karlsson chaired some working groups that Futurebus (IEEE 896) and Scalable Coherent Interface (IEEE 1596) relied on for their mechanical packaging (crates and modules).

That is a standards area that involves a number of industrial interests, and requires negotiating a path through conflicting interests that is fair and practical. Hans was an imposing figure, but one who came across as always fair and reasonable, and helped people feel like cooperating rather than waging commercial war.”

David Gustavson
IEEE 1596 Chair

“Hans Karlsson and I had what I would call a ‘competitive’ relationship. There’s nothing wrong with competition; sometimes it just serves to drive us harder.

And then there was Futurebus+, an opportunity for metrification and Hans Karlsson ready to change the historical established 19inch electronics packaging world to a pure metric equipment practice called Hard Metric versus a Soft Metric inch conversion.

For various reasons everybody, including myself, had our doubts, but Hans was determined. His first hurdle was the interconnect system between the Subrack mounted backplane and the Plug-in Modules. It had to have the right density, the right options such as pin length, signal quality and power options, and the right metric modularity, with target Futurebus+.

Hans quickly faced the lengthy connector industry presentations on existing product to be considered. None of them seem to please him. After one of those presentations, Hans and I met for a beer and he voiced his frustration. We went over the issues and next day he presented a concept to the connector industry, which became known to the industry as the EIA IS-64 or IEC 1076-4-001 48B.38.1.

Now, I considered myself as a Liberal when it comes to Standardization, meaning that what makes technical sense and creates a competitive market is permitted. Hans, I considered an Orthodox purist when it came to Standardization, meaning that you have to following a basic rule rigidly. For example, I saw no reason why a Hard Metric based connector system cannot be used in the 19inch equipment practice (IEEE 1101) whilst Hans rejected such an idea profoundly, insisting that Hard Metric connectors can only be used in an Hard Metric equipment practice (IEEE 1301). This argument came ahead in one of the monthly IEEE meetings at the Los Gatos Lodge.

Hans presented his case first…then I followed using part of his presentation in reverse…and the committee agreed with me. Hans followed me to the rest room…Hans was furious….Hans accused me being a snake. So Hans seem to ignored me for a while; however, we finished the IEEE 1301 and IEEE 1301.1 standards. Then one day out of the blue Hans called me at home and asked if he could come and see me urgently. He came the same afternoon with his wife and he presented to me an Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Development of IEEE 1301 and IEEE 1301.1. He said that he needed to do this personally and apologized for having ignored me. Liberal or Orthodox didn’t matter any more, a deep feeling for friendship developed…six weeks later he suddenly past away.

Eike Waltz
Former Chair IEEE 1101.1/1101.10/1101.11 ANSI USNC TA for IEC SC48D