By Cade Metz - 12.31.12 - wiredJack Tramiel,"We made machines for the masses,
" said Jack Tramiel, the founder of the company that gave the world the Commodore 64. Then he nodded to the man sitting beside him, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. "They made machines for the classes."
Tramiel passed away this past April at the age of 83, and though he may not have been a household name, the Commodore 64 certainly was.Eugene Polly, Inventor of the Wireless TV Remote
He's been called the patron saint of couch potatoes. In 1955, while working for TV maker Zenith Electronics, Eugene Polly created the first wireless TV remote control. It was called the Flash-Matic, and it looked like one of those toy ray guns your 4-year-old plays with. But it was a seriously useful piece of technology. You could point it at your TV and change the channel without getting up and walking across the room.
Yes, TV remotes pre-dated the Flash-Matic. But they required a wire that ran to the TV. With Polley's creation, you could change the channel from almost anywhere in the room, and we all know how important that is to our daily lives.Polly died this year at the age of 96.
At Zenith, he also helped develop the push-button car radio and the video disk, a pre-DVD home movie technology. But it's the Flash-Matic
that won him sainthood. Bill Moggridge, Creator of the First Folding Laptop Computer
The GRiD Compass was the world's first true laptop computer — the first to open up like a clam shell — and it was designed by Bill Moggridge, who died this year at the age of 69. He was born in London, but eventually emigrated to the United States, where he ran a Silicon Valley design ship that collaborated with early home computer makers such as Apple and GRiD Systems.
The GRiD Compass sold for a whopping $8,150, but at 11 pounds, it was light — so light it could be used on the Space Shuttle and during the U.S. invasion of Grenada. That's heavy by modern standards, but today's laptops continue to use the same basic case design cooked up by Moggridge in the late '70s. Stanford Ovshinsky, Self-Educated Inventor Who Created Amorphous Silicon Semiconductors
In 1968, self-taught inventor Stanford Ovshinsky held a press conference to announce the creation of a new type of transistor using a principle he called Ovonics — after himself. He called it a glass transistor and said it would allow for computers that could fit on a desk and televisions that could hang on walls.
Many painted him a nutcase. He had dropped out of high school and lacked a university degree. But he was right. Ovshinsky's new type of electrical building block — the amorphous silicon semiconductors — provided a much cheaper way to create all sorts of devices, and his ideas laid the ground for everything from solar cells to flat-panel displays to the rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today's used through the '80s and '90s.
Ovshinsky died in October, at the age of 89
. The company he ran for many years, Energy Conversion Devices, or ECD, was never much of a success. But he was vindicated
. Joe Woodland, Inventor of the Bar Code
Joe Woodland — who died this month at the age of 91
— invented the bar code in the late 1940s, and after joining IBM, he would help Big Blue push the code into supermarkets, not to mention the popular consciousness. Today, an estimated 5 billion bar codes are scanned each day, and it all started when Woodland drew some lines in the sand
while staying with his grandparents on Miami Beach. Willis Whitfield, Inventor of the Clean Room
Willis Whitfield created the "clean room," finding a way to remove microscopic particles from the air -- including dirt and germs -- so that they wouldn't harm the production of electronic devices. Whitfield developed the idea as a researcher with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, and it would prove essential to the creation of microchips and other silicon-based devices in the decades to come. He died earlier this month at the age of 92
. Ernest Kaye, One of the Engineers Behind the First Business Computer
Ernest Kaye — who died in May at the age of 89
— was the last surviving member of the team that built the world's first business computer: the Lyons Electronic Office, or LEO.
During the war, Lyons had worked on homing torpedoes, and in 1949, he answered an advertisement seeking electrical engineers. As it turns out the ad was placed by Britain's Joe Lyons tea shops and catering company, which wanted to build a machine to help run its business.
Kaye helped design the circuit boards that went into the LEO, which was based on the EDSAC computer developed at Cambridge University. In 1951, the LEO ran its first real job — and the first business job of any computer. It handled Lyons' bakery valuation. Robert Christy, Manhattan Project Physicist
Robert Christy designed a key component of the first nuclear device ever detonated. The "Christy Gadget" was also part of "Fat Man," the atom bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Christy — who died in October at the age of 95 — was later part of the Physics faculty at the University of Chicago and, most prominently, the California Institute of Technology.Aubrey Leatham, Leader of the Team That Built the First Pacemaker
In the early 1950s, at St. George’s Hospital in London, Aubrey Leatham realized that when patients suffer from atrio-ventricular block — where the heart's natural electrical conduction system stops working properly — there should be a way of artificially stimulating the heart. He asked another member of his cardiology team, Geoff Davies, to build a device that could provide such stimulation, and the result was the first pacemaker.
The team's initial device operated from outside the bottom, at high voltage, but they eventually produced a pacemaker that could be slipped into the wall of the heart via surgery. Two years ago, Aubrey Leatham received a pacemaker of his own. He died this past August, at the age of 89. http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/12/obits/?pid=437