Gary Boone Inventor of the Microcontroller

Posted by dbhalling 3 years, 6 months ago to Technology
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I knew Gary Boone, he died recently. This is an oral history that IEEE did. Note that Gary was an engineer for TI going around building application specific integrated circuits for customers. Then he realized that by combining common components on a circuit, he could solve multiple problems (customer requirements) by rewiring (programming) the circuit for a specific purpose
SOURCE URL: http://ethw.org/Oral-History:Gary_Boone


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  • Posted by conscious1978 3 years, 6 months ago
    I haven't read all of the interview, but Mr. Boone offers a lot of insights into the patent process. I particularly liked his remarks on Inventing around Patents.

    Thanks for posting.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 6 months ago
    Here's a (to me) interesting quote: "One thing that I think is important is how patents apply to software.

    There have been recent decisions clarifying that software is patentable. Basically the courts have said, quit bothering us with the details of whether you use iron or silicon or bits. The question is not what it's constituted of; the question is whether it's new and whether it's not obvious. If it's new and not obvious, it's probably patentable.

    Software is not different, despite what you may hear from programmers. Software is not different from any other kind of engineering. You can definitely make those kind of distinctions. This code is new, this code is not. Or, this code may be new, but it's obvious. The same test that has traditionally and I think quite equitably, distinguished patentable inventions from all other inventions, applies equally well to software.

    There are some other regulatory requirements. You can't patent an algorithm, but if you attach that algorithm to a valve, and [the algorithm] decides when the valve opens, then that becomes an apparatus, which falls into the statutory categories of what's patentable.

    Anyhow, I'm boring you with anecdotal war stories, but the concern is not so much legal, because that is clear. But to get back to the attitude of engineering and software design groups, I think that there are some really sad examples of companies whose business is nominally software not obtaining patents when they should and when they probably could. There seems to be a curious attitude among software people that patenting is bad. I don't know if software people are Socialists or what, but most software people I know think it should be free. I'm sorry, but that's wrong. This is America! This is free enterprise! It is only through the patent statutes that one can declare "What I discovered, I'm entitled to exclusively." It's really sad to see a whole category of companies that will become more important than hardware development companies, adopting an attitude that's so negative about such a fundamental right. End of lecture."

    (Emphasis added.)
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    • Posted by  $  sjatkins 3 years, 6 months ago
      I don't believe I am entitled to exclusivity on an algorithm any more than I believe I am encounter to exclusivity on a mathematical proof. I am a commercial software developer and have been for 35 years. I think this notion of putting fences up on software algorithms is completely daft balkanization of the software space. It leads to senseless re-development with minor changes to attempt to dodge patents or avoiding entire areas of solution space due to too high costs, too many restrictions and legal red tape. Copyright is more than sufficient in the software space.

      Crying "Free Enterprise" does not justify applying an IP technique or set of specialized laws where they are not the best choice.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 3 years, 6 months ago
        If you'd read the article, you would have noticed that the author agrees with you, algorithms aren't patentable.
        It strikes me that you guys get hung up on the source code writing, and forget the functions. Copyright might be fine for source code, but if someone come's up with a new function at the object code level while it's connected to a device that can execute it and do something that's never been done before, it's patentable and deserves protection.
        But copyright gives you word for word protection for 75 years plus another 50 for your heirs.
        Patent's are only about 20 years.
        I don't think you guys (programmers) have given this topic enough rational thought or truly understand what this discussion is really about.
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  • Posted by Ibecame 3 years, 6 months ago
    Terrific insight into a fundamental piece of history. He went into some great detail about how things actually get done as opposed to what "history" will probably record.
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  • Posted by  $  sjatkins 3 years, 6 months ago
    Confusing chip and circuit design with software design is a common misconception. It conflates intellectual pursuits with the production of physical devices. One may as well talk of patenting concepts in works of fiction and non-fiction.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 6 months ago
      Really what about an FPGA? Any electrical engineer worth his salt knows that you can implement a design in hardware or software. It's a design choice, speed or flexibility.
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    • Posted by Ibecame 3 years, 6 months ago
      Your statement indicates you lean toward Microsoft. They wave that flag as a proud banner. So did DEC, they made both hardware and wrote software, but had a strict policy that software engineers and hardware engineers were never to meet. That is why Apple is been consist intently and repeatedly kicking their backsides into the gutter.
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  • Posted by freedomforall 3 years, 6 months ago
    "he realized that by combining common components on a circuit, he could solve multiple problems (customer requirements) by rewiring (programming) the circuit for a specific purpose"
    Patentable, or not?
    To me, this is an obvious conclusion, but his specific application may not have been obvious at all.
    I think over selling software's function (unethical, but rampant in software marketing) is a much more serious problem than lack of patentability.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 6 months ago
      Obvious? After the fact perhaps. Hundreds of engineers at least were working in this industry, but you 40 plus years later think it was obvious. This invention was a lynchpin to the modern economy, but you think it was obvious. That is insulting. .

      The word "obvious" has a legal meaning, but people think they can just ignore ifs specific legal meaning. For more information see http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2013/05/28/...
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      • Posted by Ibecame 3 years, 6 months ago
        The advantages of the AC motor were obvious after Tesla demonstrated it. The solution to the light bulb was Obvious after it was solved, utilizing a thermal bimetallic strip which was a scientific toy at the time to measure and control temperature was Obvious after it was put into every thermostat in the world. All of these patents were challenged on the basis of being "Obvious".
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      • Posted by freedomforall 3 years, 6 months ago
        That's great, db. No need to read my comment, just ignore most of it and react. Lash out for no reason.
        The part you ignored: "his specific application may not have been obvious at all."
        In case you don't understand what I think is "obvious" by that comment: I acknowledge having no detail of his specific work, and my comment is regarding his combining components to solve multiple applications.
        I have been solving multiple requirements by programming (software) for decades. That kind of thinking is vital to create good solutions that last for years. No one taught me to do it. I didn't read in a journal. It is just obvious to me.
        I knew what I wanted a programming language to be able do innately, just by thinking, before having any training. I wanted to be more productive and created tools to do so.
        A legal definition of 'obvious' doesn't have any effect on my use of the word since I was not using it in a legal sense. (If there is such a definition at the link you gave, I do not see it.)

        Relax, db.
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