2011 in Review: Tech Luminaries We Lost
No More Mobile Monopoly
October 1922 - October 2011
Motorola CEO Bob Galvin didn't design the first working handheld mobile phone -- one of his researchers, Marty Cooper, did that in 1973. But Galvin broke AT&T's monopoly on mobile-phone service in the U.S. by demonstrating a Motorola phone at the White House in 1981, spurring then-President Ronald Reagan to push the FCC to approve Motorola's proposal for a competing cellular network, just three years after AT&T had lost its long-distance monopoly.
Galvin, whose father and uncle started the business that would become Motorola, took the company's reins in 1956 and led it for more than three decades. During that time, Motorola went from the car radios and walkie-talkies that the company had been making to microprocessors (the early Apple Macintosh's 68000 and Power CPUs), TVs and satellite communication systems.
Galvin also pushed to make Motorola's manufacturing competitive with non-U.S. companies, supporting development of the Six Sigma quality system starting in the 1970s. By the time Galvin retired as Motorola's chairman in 1990, the company dominated the cellphone hardware business.
Gerald A. Lawson
December 1940 - April 2011
The man who created the first home video-game system that used interchangeable game cartridges wasn't a typical Silicon Valley engineer. Jerry Lawson was 6-foot-6, more than 250 lbs. and African-American -- even more of an IT industry rarity in the 1970s than today. Lawson's creation, the Fairchild Channel F, arrived in 1976, a year before Atari's first home game system, and sparked an industry of third-party video games.
That wasn't as simple as it sounds. Lawson, who worked for a succession of government contractors before joining Fairchild Semiconductor, discovered that the biggest challenge with plug-in cartridges was satisfying the FCC's radio-frequency interference requirements. "It was the first microprocessor device of any nature to go through FCC testing," Lawson said in a 2006 interview. "We had to put the whole motherboard in aluminum. We had a metal chute that went over the cartridge adapter to keep radiation in. Each time we made a cartridge, the FCC wanted to see it, and it had to be tested."
The resulting game system was a moderate market success, but its biggest impact was on Lawson's friends at Atari, who rushed their own cartridge-based home system into production. The rise of the video game had begun.