Have you been longing for a working Apple 1 computer? Or maybe a reproduction of a Pascaline? This Saturday, May 25 at 10:00 am (CET) you’ll get your chance when Auction Team Breker of Cologne, Germany, holds an auction of “Mechanical Musik Instruments as well as Science Technology and Fine Toys & Automata.” Along with the Apple 1—one of only six surviving functional ones known to exist—which they expect will fetch about $400,000, is an experimental 17th century mechanical calculator, a hundred-year-old telephone, and an original Apple Lisa.
The World IP Day program was to promote and celebrate the many benefits of intellectual property in San Jose and the SF Bay Area. San Jose and Silicon Valley lead the nation in patent generation and the city co-hosted this West Coast event to celebrate the contributions of innovators and creators worldwide.
Marcian E. “Ted” Hoff’s keynote speech is summarized in this article. Other speakers included: James Pooley, Deputy Director General of Innovation & Technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization (a United Nations organization based in Geneva), Michelle Lee, the Director of the Silicon Valley Office of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, San Jose Council Member Rose Herrera and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.
Early Inventions and a Surprise Phone Call
At age 12, Ted Hoff became interested in electronics. He started reading electronic design magazines, built a short wave radio from a kit, and then built an oscilloscope and repaired TVs. After graduating from high school in 1954, Ted got a summer job doing electronic assembly work at General Railway Signal Company in Rochester, NY. This work involved using transistors, which were very new at the time.
During the following summers away from college he continued to work for General Railway Signal Company. That work led to two patents, one covering a circuit which detected trains using audio frequencies transmitted along the railway track and the second covering lightning protection for that circuit. The filing date for the first patent was in 1955 when he was only 17 years old!
After completing his university education (BEE 1958 from RPI, MS 1959 & PhD EE 1962 from Stanford), Dr. Hoff worked for Stanford Professor Bernard Widrow- PhD, as a Research Associate until he got a surprise phone call from Bob Noyce in 1968. Noyce had just left Fairchild Semiconductor and asked Ted to join a new semiconductor memory start-up company named Intel. Ted jumped at that offer and became employee #12 at Intel where he worked till 1983.
Semiconductor Memory Challenges and Opportunity to Replace Core Memory
In his early years at Intel, Ted designed and developed semiconductor memories and generated application information for them. Intel’s goal (which few at the time believed was realizable) was to replace magnetic core memory in computers. In 1970, Intel predicted the IC memory price would drop to 1 cent per bit by 1972 and that would be the crossover point. In contrast, today you can get over 100M bits of memory for 1 cent!
But cost was not the only issue. The most dense semiconductor memories at that time were DRAMs (dynamic random access memories), which were characterized by the structural simplicity of its storage cell: three transistors per bit compared to six used in static RAMs (SRAMs). Later DRAMs would be made with only one transistor and a capacitor to store each bit. Both static RAMs and DRAMs lose data if power is removed, while core memories do not.
In addition, DRAMs are volatile, e.g. storage is lost if the data are not accessed frequently. To ensure data retention, refresh circuitry was added to refresh each row of memory cells every few milliseconds. This made the DRAM controller’s logic circuit more complicated than SRAM, but that was outweighed by the fact that DRAM is much cheaper per storage cell and because each storage cell is very simple thus providing higher densities.
Ted wrote a mini-textbook on Semiconductor Memories (he calls it a pamphlet) that this author used in a SCU Graduate EE course on that subject in Fall of 1971!
As the time to design, package, test and sell semiconductor memories was quite a long process, Intel decided to develop custom circuits for various customers in order to generate revenue. One of those customers was a Japanese company named Busicom who (in April of 1969) asked Intel to design MOS LSIs for a family of calculators. Hoff was assigned the duty of helping Busicom engineers transfer their chip specifications to appropriate engineering teams within Intel.
Many complex chips were involved in that initial design effort, e.g. BCD arithmetic, shift register control, keyboard scanner (and de-bouncer), printer control, display control, etc. As he learned more about the Busicom design, Ted became concerned that it might be a problem for Intel and with Bob Noyce’s encouragement. As a result, Dr. Hoff proposed to greatly simplify the design by eliminating many proposed chips for the calculator. The simplification was accomplished by implementing the functions as stored programs running on a very simple general purpose central processor. Hoff was later joined by co-designers Stan Mazor and Fredrico Faggin. The architecture he had defined was sufficiently simple that it allowed the central processor to be implemented as a single MOS LSI chip -the Intel 4004 (U.S. Patent #3,821,715)- which was released as a general purpose product in November 1971.
A few months later (April 1972), Intel introduced the 8008 8-bit microprocessor. In April 1974 the very popular Intel 8080 microprocessor was announced along with a set of peripheral LSI chips and a development system. By 1975 the microprocessor was established as a replacement for many MSI random logic designs and as an embedded controller for many different types of devices and equipment.
Monolithic CODEC for Digital Telephony
In 1975, Bob Noyce asked Hoff to study the telephone industry to see if there might be a role for Intel to play. Hoff put together a team that developed a single chip CODEC (COder-DECoder), which converted between the analog signals associated with a conventional telephone call (POTS) and a standard digital telephony format known as Pulse Code Modulation (PCM).
At the time, the principal use of CODECs was for T1 carrier digital transmission between telephone company (telco) central offices. However, the Intel CODEC allowed extending the use of that PCM digital format into new application areas, such as private branch exchanges (PBXs).
The CODEC does conversions in both directions between analog and digital representations. Analog signals are converted to a 64 kilobit-per-second PCM digital signal and vice versa. Voice coding and signaling are included.
With the signals in digital format, Hoff recognized that some functions usually performed by analog circuits, such as touch tone processing, would need to be handled digitally. His group developed an early Digital Signal Processor (DSP) to provide such functionality. When a CODEC is used, some filtering of the analog signals is needed, and Ted was fortunate to have consulting assistance from Professor Paul Gray of UC Berkeley. The result was that Intel could offer its CODEC with a switched-capacitor filter. The project succeeded and by 1980 Intel was offering CODECs, switched-capacitor filters and a DSP chip. These telephony LSIs appear to have been the first commercially available.
Career after Intel
In early 1983, Ted joined Atari which had extensive R&D programs underway for PC applications and video games. Unfortunately, Atari didn’t have good financial controls nor good visibility into its market. While initially very profitable, the video game market really started to saturate. Without market visibility, Atari overinvested. They went from annual revenue of well over $2 billion down to below $1 billion in the space of a year. The unanticipated market changes and bad financial controls led Warner Communications to sell the company in mid 1984.
In 1986, a former close co-worker of this author (Gary Summers at Signetics from 1976-79)) started a company called Teklicon to do consulting to attorneys who were looking for either testimonial experts or advice about where to find particular art (i.e. intellectual property or patents). Ted worked with Teklicon from 1986 doing IP research and expert witness work till his retirement in 2007.
In this, his second career, Ted learned that patents were critically important to the semiconductor and high tech industries. He thinks that IP awareness should be part of every engineer’s college education.
Awards and Accolades
Ted received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in November of 2010. He was awarded the Stuart Ballantine Medal in 1979 and The Franklin Institute’s Certificate of Merit in 1996. Hoff was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1996 and goes there each year for a reunion with fellow inventors. He was a recipient of the Kyoto Prize in 1997, and the James Clerk Maxwell Award of the IEEE in 2011. He was made an Eminent Member of the IEEEs Eta Kappa Nu in 2013. He is a Life Fellow member of the IEEE.
Somehow my career has repeatedly led me into doing unexpected and wonderful things.
One such piece of serendipity has been the role I landed at the Jerusalem Science Museum as the curator of an exhibition in honor of Alan Turing. This project took a year and half, and gave me the occasion to work with some amazing people at the museum, interact with many more from around the world, and learn so much about that tragic genius, Alan Turing, of which I wrote here before.
Now we’re finally done, and the exhibition is open to the public. It wasn’t my first exhibition about the History of Computing, which has been my hobby and passion for years; but unlike the five previous ones it started with a major unanswered question, which was no less than this: what is this exhibition to be all about? We started with no clarity as to what is the narrative we’re trying to impart, and how will we impart it to an audience spanning eight year old kids to adults.
We did crack this enigma, and ended up with a wonderful exhibition called CAPTCHA, with good reason. I’ve written a detailed article called The Curator’s Take on the Wonderful CAPTCHA Exhibition, which shares the fascinating dilemmas, solutions and creative processes that went into this challenge, as well as images and descriptions of many of the exhibits. Take a look!
The exhibition itself will remain open for three years, so if you’re in Jerusalem you’re welcome to visit the Bloomfield Science Museum and enjoy it.
Oh, and of course, I misled you a bit: it isn’t all just serendipity. You have to guide your career to intercept such opportunities. But that’s a whole different story, which I help organizations tell on other occasions.
Being the curator of the Alan Turing Year exhibition at the Jerusalem Science Museum, I was invited to sit on a panel dedicated to Turing’s legacy at the ICON Science Fiction, Imagination and The Future festival in Tel Aviv. My talk there was well received, and touches on some interesting truths, so I decided to share its content here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
My Talk About Alan Turing’s Philosophical Impact
But Turing was definitely a philosopher, and a great one indeed…
In this informative March 11, 2013 lecture at the Computer History Museum (CHM), Grady Booch asked and tried to answer this question: ”What does it take to make “sentient” devices (that can feel, sense, think and reason) out of silicon and software?”
But before we can address that question, there are many others that need to be thought about. For example, what does it mean to be intelligent? Is intelligence only in the mind or can it also be computable? Some such as Marvin Minsky believe the mind to be computable; others such as Roger Penrose do not (more about him later in this article). Components of life appear to be common to many species, but sentient life is uncommon.
For a definition of “sentient” please see: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient
How much of a mind can we build out of silicon and software? Can we build sentient machines?
In the end, we are compelled to consider the question of what it means to be human: producing even the illusion of the mind raises profound questions as to their person hood and our relationship to intelligent machines.
History of the Mind as a Machine :
Intelligent machines have been pondered for many centuries:
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) first thought of modeling a human being as a machine.
- Babbage tried to develop a mechanistic explanation for the mind. Was there a “divine programmer?”
- Ada Lovelace said, “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything.”
- There are now many different types of intelligent robots made and used in Japan.
- IBM’s Watson natural language computer plays jeopardy better than humans
Science of the Brain:
Human brain is ~3 inches in diameter. It consumers the energy of a 100W light bulb. The brain is compose of billions of interconnected neurons which resembles “a system of systems.” It’s estimated there are 100B neurons with 100 to 500B neuron connections between them. The connections produce electrical signals and also are activated for “time triggered events.” Grady said that neurons and their connections could be simulated.
Mental states equate with brain states. Different parts of the brain “light up” at different times and in different ways, depending on what’s being experienced. Given that, maybe there’s a mechanistic explanation of the brain, Grady suggested.
Compelling story of Artificial Intelligence (AI):
- Semantic information processing (or symbol manipulation)
- Knowledge engineering and expert systems/ inference engines
- Brute force methods
- Statistical approaches
- Societies of the mind
Other references on AI History (independent of this lecture):