Philo Farnsworth and the Heroic Age of American Invention

Who invented television, desktop nuclear fusion, and made major contributions to the development of radar, the electron microscope, and numerous other major developments? Scott Locklin profiles Philo T. Farnsworth, whom he characterizes as “the last great American inventor”. I should also point out that Mr. Locklin has a very low opinion of software development as invention.

I think that’s right. Most software is better thought of as literature than invention and, sadly, literature written by someone who’s never read a book.

3 comments… add one
  • jimbino Link

    Software may not be literature, but it is literate in the sense that, if it works right, its grammar must have been perfect. In contrast, bloggers can get away with, “the thing is, is that…,” “data is…,” “to each their own” and numerous grammatical abortions that software engineers have to eliminate from their product if it is to work at all.

  • TastyBits Link

    The software companies want their product to be an invention when it is created, but they want it to be literature when they sell it.

    Many of the patents for software are trivial, and they never should have been granted. Most things require software and hardware to work. I think limiting inventions to strictly mechanical devices is too constrained.

    The transistors on a chip could be done with vacuum tubes, and vacuum tubes could be done with gears. The first computer was the Jacquard loom used punch cards, and the Navy used a geared computer to calculate firing variables.

    Software as a mechanical device would require dedicated hardware for each application. Presently, there are tiny generic components that are reusable for multiple software products.

  • sam Link

    Speaking of literature, math, and programming. I thought I’d share this with folks. I’m going to start the Yale online course on Dante in the near future. The syllabus lists translations of The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, and of the The Nuova Vita as required reading (of course). The books are available at Amazon. However, wanting to save some money, I started looking around the web for alternative translations. I found this extraordinary site, A. S. Klein – Poetry in Translation. The texts are downloadable PDF, Mobi (Kindle, Nexus), EPUB (iPad), WORD, and HTML formats.

    I compared his translations of Dante with those listed in syllabus, and to my eye, they are comparable. So, I’ll be using Klein’s and saving myself some money. My curiosity about Kline was piqued, and I found a short wiki page on him:

    A. S. Kline, known as Tony Kline (born 1947), is a British poet and translator, living in England.

    He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the University of Manchester, and was Chief Information Officer (Systems Director) of a large UK Company before dedicating himself to his literary work and interests. His work consists of translations of poetry; critical works, biographical history with poetry as a central theme; and his own original poetry. He has translated into English from Latin, Ancient Greek, Classical Chinese and European languages. He also maintains a deep interest in developments in mathematics and the sciences.

    Now there’s a polymath, no (and yes I intended it)? Gutenberg has a whole section devoted to his output.

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