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The Pilgrimage

When, in 1993, Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED, for which he won the 2014 Nobel Prize for physics, his first thought was to show it to the greatest name in the Japanese semiconductor industry who had pioneered LEDs in the country, Jun’ichi Nichizawa. Nichizawa had tried to develop a blue LED ten years before without success. The great man ...

Education According To Mr Bell

As one of Edinburgh Royal High School’s less distinguished students, Alexander Graham Bell resented education conducted under strict discipline and consisting of memorising facts by rote. Bell derided the system of “giving out a certain amount of work which must be carried through in a given space of time and putting the children into orderly rows of desks.” Instead Bell ...

Being A Guinea Pig

Although Sony was the first Japanese company to license the transistor, other, bigger companies, like Toshiba, soon out-produced them. Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka at first took umbrage when a magazine article described Sony as a ‘guinea pig’ in this respect, but soon appreciated that it was an unintended compliment. ”One of our most important jobs is determining how to apply ...

Why Psion Made Pocket Computers.

Psion is one of those start-ups which was profitable from Day 1. “In the first year – 1980- turnover was £120,000 and I made £12,000 profit after paying my salary,” recalls founding CEO David Potter, “and I could see I was going to make a great deal more the following year.” Potter had been going to people who were writing ...

The Promise That Was Never Kept

Ten years ago, half a dozen years on from the 3G auctions, everyone was getting fed up with the slow roll-out of 3G and the poor, unreliable, spotty service. Michel Mayer, then CEO of Freescale, which was still in the wireless business at that point, was vocal in his condemnation of the network operators. “The reason for the slow roll-out ...

Asparagus or Spaghetti?

Eight years ago, the then CTO of NXP, was contemplating that perennial bugbear of the electronics industry – complexity. He boiled it down to a simple choice: Spaghetti or Asparagus?  He reckoned that the industry was moving from spaghetti-like electronics systems design to asparagus-like systems design. “Systems have become very complex. In terms of the architectural challenge it is phenomenal”, said ...

The Man Who Went Multi-Core 25 Years Early

Multicore has been the thing ever since the industry ran out of GHz but, 35 years ago, it wasn’t. “We were 25 years early”, says David May, Professor of Computer Science at Bristol University, Fellow of the Royal Society, co-founder and CTO of  XMOS, architect of the Chameleon microprocessor which became the Hitachi SH, and, most famously of all, the architect ...

The Wild West

The chip industry was wild and woolly in its early days. Out on the Silicon Frontier men were men and the the game was hard-ball. “We knew exactly what we wanted to do and who could do it and when we needed additional experienced personnel we would reach into the Fairchild organization and take anyone we wanted,” recalls Charlie Sporck ...

Oaks From Acorn

When you ask people what kicked off the Cambridge start-up scene some say Cambridge Consultants, some say Sir Clive Sinclair. Actually it was a bit of both. In 1967, Sinclair Radionics, selling hifi and radios, was doing well. Its turnover topped £100,000 and the company moved to Cambridge. The decision was almost accidental but it had important effects. “In 1967, ...

The Technology Of The Future

Fuel cells are, of course, the technology of the future, but will they always be? In April 2005, IBM and Sanyo announced they had developed a prototype direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) for notebook PCs that will ‘probably’ be commercialized around 2007 or 2008. The same year, Fujitsu Laboratories and NTT launched a prototype high-capacity micro methanol fuel cell with a ...