(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobs

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”*…

From the Wright Brothers’ patent filings (source)

… It’s illuminating to point out that all three transformative technologies of the twentieth century – aviation, the automobile, and the digital computer – started off in patent battles and required a voluntary suspension of hostilities (a collective decision to ignore patents) before the technology could truly take hold.

The Wright brothers won every patent case they fought, and it did them absolutely no good. The prospect of a fortune wasn’t what motivated them to build an airplane, but ironically enough they could have made a fortune had they just passed on the litigation. In 1905, the Wrights were five years ahead of any potential competitor, and posessed a priceless body of practical knowledge. Their trade secrets and accumulated experience alone would have made them the leaders in the field, especially if they had teamed up with Curtiss. Instead, they got to watch heavily government-subsidized programs in Europe take the technical lead in airplane design as American aviation stagnated.

If you are someone who believes that the Internet and computer software are a transformative technology on a par with aviation, you may find it interesting to note that there is now a patent cease-fire in effect in the world of software, the occasional high-profile infringement case notwithstanding. The reason for the cease-fire is simple: if companies like IBM, Xerox, and Sun were to begin fully enforcing their patent portfolios, it would mean an apocalypse of litigation for all software developers. Everyone understands that the health and growth of the Internet are contingent on ignoring the patent system as much as possible.

At the same time, more patents are being granted than ever before, for broader claims, and with an almost complete disregard for prior art. Entire companies – and not just legal firms – are basing business models on extracting money from the patent system without actually creating any products. And the boundaries of patent law are expanding. For the first time in history, it’s possible to patent pure mathematical ideas (in the form of software patents), or even biological entities. The SARS virus was patented shortly after being isolated for the first time.

But if the patent system doesn’t even work for the archetypal example – two inventors, working alone, who singlehandedly invent a major new technology – why do we keep it at all? Who really benefits, and who pays?…

Learning from (the unhappy experiences of) the Wright Brothers– Maciej Cegłowski explains why the U.S. patent system is counter-productive: “100 Years of Turbulence.” Eminently worthy of reading in full.

See also, Bruce Perens: “Software Patents vs. Free Software.”

* Bill Gates, Challenges and Strategy Memo, Microsoft, May 16, 1991

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As we apply our intellects to intellectual property, we might recall that it was on this date in 1976 that Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne signed a partnership agreement that established the company that would become Apple Computer, Inc.– a company all about the IP– on January 3, 1977.

Wayne left the partnership eleven days later, relinquishing his ten percent share for $2,300.

Apple in Steve Job’s parents’ home on Crist Drive in Los Altos, California. Although it is widely believed that the company was founded in the house’s garage, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called it “a bit of a myth”. Jobs and Wozniak did, however, move some operations to the garage when the bedroom became too crowded.

source

“A picture is worth a thousand dollars”*…

 

Saval-Good-Design_02

 

In 1958, the American radical sociologist C. Wright Mills was invited to address the International Design Conference, in Aspen. The lecture he gave, “Man in the Middle: The Designer,” criticized a number of its audience members for being willing dupes in the grand illusion that was consumer society. “Wants do not originate in some vague realms of the consumer’s personality,” he said. “They are formed by an elaborate apparatus of jingle and fashion, of persuasion and fraud.” In this sublime hoax, Mills argued, the designer was central. He made people “ashamed of last year’s model”; he tied “self-esteem” with the purchasing of this year’s model; and he “created a panic for status, and hence a panic of self-evaluation” that could be sated only by the “specified commodities” that he designed. This was what came to be known as “retail therapy”—but Mills suggested that, partly thanks to designers, it had become fundamental to the American economy. The result was a perversion not just of economic life but also of culture. As he put it, “The uses of culture are being shaped by men who would turn all objects and qualities, indeed human sensibility itself, into a flow of transient commodities, and these types have now gotten the designer to help them; they have gotten him to turn himself into the ultimate advertising man.”

Whether the conference organizers regretted inviting Mills is not a matter of record—toward the end of his lecture, he softened his attack by suggesting that designers could adopt the intimate, use-value virtues of craftsmen—but I was reminded of his words as I walked around “The Value of Good Design,” a small display of goods currently on show at the Museum of Modern Art. A curious bit of auto-institutional history, as well as a plug for the museum’s wallet-shredding design store, the “Good Design” show looks back at the museum’s attempt to establish canons of taste in postwar America—to play, in other words, the man in the middle between designers and consumers. As in a suburban shopping mall, the center of the exhibit is a whole car: the huggable Fiat 500, one of the most charming symbols of the Italian postwar “economic miracle.” (Unfortunately, there is no contest to win it.) Elsewhere, there is the liquid sheen of Eva Zeisel’s porcelain ware, George Nelson’s exclamatory atomic-age clock, and a Japanese-influenced bamboo-framed chair from Charlotte Perriand. To view these items is to feel immediately the induction of “wants” diagnosed by Mills. This is MoMA’s second show in a decade about its “Good Design” program, and it makes one wonder about both the meaning of those terms and what they are meant to do…

An assessment of MoMA’s “The Value of Good Design” exhibit… and a meditation on the history and role of design more generally: “How ‘Good Design’ Failed Us.”

* Marty Neumeier

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As we curtail commodification, we might recall that it was on this date in 1976 that The Steves– Wozniak and Jobs– released their first product, the Apple I.  Designed and hand-built by Wozniak, the computers were sold wholesale by Jobs (at $500 wholesale, for a retail price of $666.66, the equivalent of $2,800 today).  In 2014, a working Apple-1 sold at auction for $905,000.

AL-apple-0311e source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

“By far, the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it”*…

 

robit writer

 

Recently, OpenAI announced its latest breakthrough, GPT-2, a language model that can write essays to a prompt, answer questions, and summarize longer works… sufficiently successfully that OpenAI has said that it’s too dangerous to release the code (lest it result in “deepfake news” or other misleading mischief).

Scott Alexander contemplates the results.  His conclusion:

a brain running at 5% capacity is about as good as the best AI that the brightest geniuses working in the best-equipped laboratories in the greatest country in the world are able to produce in 2019. But:

We believe this project is the first step in the direction of developing large NLP systems without task-specific training data. That is, we are developing a machine language system in the generative style with no explicit rules for producing text. We hope for future collaborations between computer scientists, linguists, and machine learning researchers.

A boring sentiment from an interesting source: the AI wrote that when asked to describe itself. We live in interesting times.

His complete post, eminently worthy of reading in full: “Do Neural Nets Dream of Electric Hobbits?

[image above, and another account of OpenAI’s creation: “OpenAI says its new robo-writer is too dangerous for public release“]

* Eliezer Yudkowsky

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As we take the Turing Test, we might send elegantly-designed birthday greetings to Steve Jobs; he was born on this date in 1955.  While he is surely well-known to every reader here, let us note for the record that he was was instrumental in developing the Macintosh, the computer that took Apple to unprecedented levels of success.  After leaving the company he started with Steve Wozniak, Jobs continued his personal computer development at his NeXT Inc.  In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple to lead the company into a new era based on NeXT technologies and consumer electronics.  Some of Jobs’ achievements in this new era include the iMac, the iPhone, the iTunes music store, the iPod, and the iPad.  Under Jobs’ leadership Apple was at one time the world’s most valuable company. (And, of course, he bought Pixar from George Lucas, and oversaw both its rise to animation dominance and its sale to Disney– as a product of which Jobs became Disney’s largest single shareholder.)

Jobs source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 24, 2019 at 1:01 am

Finding a higher use for those left-over Easter eggs…

From the always-inspirational Instructables, and user bbstudio (among whose passions is carving that natural geometric marvel, the egg shell, as above):

This was done simply to discover if I could do it. I went though a stage where my goal was to remove as much material from an egg shell as possible while still retaining the shape and image of the egg.

More views of this minimalist marvel here; links to more views of the scrimshaw egg shell, and to other contra-seasonal sensations here.

As we gratefully put away the Rit dye, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Robert Noyce was awarded the patent for the integrated circuit that changed electronics.  Readers may recall that Jack Kilby had (separately and independently) patented the integrated earlier than Noyce— and won a Nobel Prize for it.  But Noyce’s design (rooted in silicon, as opposed to the germanium that Kilby used) was more practical… and paved the way for an altogether new kind of “Easter egg.”

Noyce made his breakthrough at Fairchild Semiconductor, of which he was a founding member.  He went on to co-found Intel, then to serve as the unofficial “Mayor of Silicon Valley,” a mentor to scores to tech entrepreneurs– including Steve Jobs.

Noyce with a print of his integrated circuit (source: BBC)

Pick Up Sticks…

Tim Fort has a fascination with kinetic art…

To the uninitiated, my kinetic gadgets are gnarly chain-reaction devices that collapse and explode in, like, really cool ways; to the discerning aesthete, they’re mechanically-iterative, entropy-generating entities designed to confront the observer’s pre-conceived notions about Newtonian physics and challenge their paradigms for processing reductivistic-mechanistic Weltanschauungen  from a post-modernistic perspective. (Well, not really…)

Much more than mere domino tumbling, my kinetic gadgets use a wide variety of chain-reaction techniques of my own invention and they have Dalíesque names like Experimental Polymodal Slack-Generating Apparatus #9 and Test Detonation of 0.2 Kilostick Boosted-Yield Xyloexplosive Device #1. Not only can my gadgets collapse and explode in many ways, but they can play music tunes and have animation in them.

The video above– 2250 colored tongue depressors woven together, then “detonated”– is Tim’s largest and most recent; see his others here.

Many thanks to reader CE for the tip.

As we marvel that all is in motion, we might remark that the Homebrew Computer Club held its first meeting in Gordon French’s garage in Menlo Park on this date in 1975.  The HCC was a forum devoted to making computers more accessible to folks-at-large, and included members like Bob Marsh, George Morrow, Adam Osborne, Lee Felsenstein, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak. and John “Captain Crunch” Draper– many of whom went on to found (and/or profoundly to influence) personal computer companies.

The first issue of its newsletter was published ten days later, and ran for 21 issues, through 1977.  It was hugely influential in the developing culture of Silicon Valley (e.g., it debuted the concept of the “personal computer”)– and in establishing the battle lines in the industry then still nascent: it published Bill Gates’s Open Letter to Hobbyists, which excoriated enthusiasts of the time for “pirating” commercial software programs, and set the tone for what would become Microsoft’s IP posture.

click image above to enlarge, or here

UPDATE: Further to yesterday’s “The Challenges of Social Media, Part 69…,” from reader KL (a link to reader MKM’s program): “Facebook faux pas for Israeli soldier.”

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