Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Interesting Facts

Krishna Murty Kommajosyula. The author has written six science books published by Pustak Mahal, New Delhi, and an engineering book by Industrial Press, New York. He has contributed several articles to EFY in the past as well

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Here are some interesting facts, incidents, memorable events and little-known facts from the lives of scientists…

Intel Inside

Intel was founded by Robert Noyce, along with Gordon Moore and Andrew Grove. The headquarters building is named ‘Robert Noyce Building.’

While presently almost every PC has at least one Intel chip, Noyce thought ‘it seemed ridiculous’ to build a home computer.

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Noyce later recalled, “Long before Apple, one of our engineers came to me with the suggestion that Intel ought to build a computer for the home. And I asked him, ‘What the heck would anyone want a computer for in his home?’”

Black-market radio

During World War II, the radios used by the forces were heavy and erratic, and not designed for jungle warfare. Kilby wanted to improve the situation and travelled to Kolkata, India, for a truckload of black-market radio parts. Soon, he succeeded in building smaller, more reliable radios for the troops. His invention of integrated circuit stems from this attitude, “If something does not meet your requirements, rebuild.”

First actual bug

While she was working on a Mark II Computer at a US Navy research lab in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1947, a computer problem baffled Grace Murray Hopper and her team. When they opened the machine, they found a moth inside, stuck in a relay. Removing the offending creature, she remarked that they were ‘debugging’ the system. Hopper pasted the creature into her log book and noted, “First actual case of a bug being found!”

The remains of the moth can be found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, USA.

She is credited with the terms ‘bug’ and ‘debug’ for computer errors and how to fix them. Hopper led the team that invented COBOL (common business-oriented language), the first user-friendly business computer software program.

Remains of the moth found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC
Remains of the moth found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, USA (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Silicon transistors? Impossible!

On May 10, 1954, at the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) National Conference on airborne electronics in Dayton, Ohio, there was a serious discussion and the speakers were of the general opinion that the silicon transistor was a long way off or probably impossible. Taking out those tiny little devices from his coat pocket, Teal announced, “Contrary to what my colleagues have told you about the bleak prospects for silicon transistors, I happen to have a few of them here in my pocket.” Gordon Teal and his team created the first commercial silicon transistor by April 14, 1954.

Flight path of bees

When Alan Turing was around the age of seven, the family went on a picnic in Ullapool, Scotland. Thrilled at the honeybees all around, Alan got a brilliant idea of getting honey for their afternoon tea. He intently watched a few bees, plotted their flight paths and calculated the position of the hive. Soon he reached the spot and presented a treat for the family.

Turing is said to have learnt reading only in three weeks, at a very early age.

Alan Turing is regarded as the father of modern computer science and the father of artificial intelligence.

Saintly scientist

In May 1901, a scientist was adding finishing touches for his lecture at the Royal Society, London. A telegram from an industrialist seeking an immediate meeting disturbed him as he had no time to meet anyone, even a multimillionaire. He declined the invitation and received a counter reply from the industrialist informing the scientist that he was coming down to London himself.

As the scientist was about to leave for the lecture, there came Major Stephen Flood Page, the managing director of the Marconi’s Wireless and Telegraph Company, carrying a handful of papers.

The scientist later recalled his conversation with Page, “He made an earnest request not to divulge all valuable research results in today’s lecture.” “There is money in it—let me take out [a] patent for you. You do not know what money you are throwing away,” said Page. Of course, “I will only take half share in the profit—I will finance it,” he said. This multimillionaire was pleading like a beggar.

The scientist refused the offer and delivered his lecture at the Royal Society.

This gentleman was Jagdish Chandra Bose!


‘Ping’ was written by Mike Muuss in December 1983.

From his home page, “I’m the architect of BRL-CAD, a substantial third-generation CSG solid modeling system, available free of charge, which you probably have never heard of, and the author of ping, ttcp and assorted other network goodies. Ping is a little thousand-line hack that I wrote, which practically everyone seems to know about. It’s included in every copy of UNIX and Windows, putting it into nearly every computer on the planet. “

Sadly, Mike was killed in an automobile accident on November 20, 2000. His home page is still available, a testament to his intellect and indomitable spirit.


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