01593339_first_microprocessor_ted_hoff - Adriana Dumitras...

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[ dsp HISTORY ] Adriana Dumitras and George Moschytz IEEE SIGNAL PROCESSING MAGAZINE [ 77 ] JANUARY 2006 1053-5888/06/$20.00©2006IEEE SPM : In this issue, creative thinking is the main thread of our discussion with Dr. Ted Marcian Hoff, Jr. Welcome! Informally, how would you define a creative person? Dr. Hoff: I believe all humans are inherently creative, but some are dis- couraged from believing in themselves, while others have more opportunity for their creations to be appreciated. Perhaps the best definition would be “a person who is curious about how things work, and then takes action to make things work better.” SPM : You were an imaginative kid: chemistry and electronics were your playground from early years. Would you tell us a bit more about that time? Dr. Hoff: My first love was chemistry. My parents gave me a chemistry set as a gift when I was about nine. My father’s brother, John, who is only 12 years older than me, became a chemical engineer after World War II and gave me many of his chemistry textbooks. I loved the idea of finding out how things worked, and chemistry seemed like magic. When I was about 11, my uncle John gave me a subscription to Popular Science Magazine as a Christmas gift. When I saw an ad for a free Allied Radio catalog, I mailed a request for it thinking that it might be fun to learn how a radio worked. The following Christmas, my parents gave me a short-wave radio kit ordered from that catalog. Throughout high school, I studied both electronics and chemistry, and our high school, although small (about 35 in the graduat- ing class of Churchville, New York), had excellent science teachers who offered an after-school science club. While I contin- ued to study chemistry, my interest in electronics grew, and I mail-ordered a cathode-ray tube from a New York City surplus store. I used that tube to build a fairly simple oscilloscope. SPM : Soon your interest in technology went beyond a simple hobby. What hap- pened next? Dr. Hoff: When it came time to attend college, based on job prospects, my uncle recommended either electrical or chemical engineering. I chose electri- cal engineering. The summer after I graduated high school, my father got me an interview in an electronics lab at the company where he worked: General Railway Signal Company (GRS), in Rochester, New York. They gave me a summer job as a lab technician, wiring up test circuits. (I was told that having built an oscilloscope really helped me get the job.) One of my first projects at GRS involved the design of an audio fre- quency track circuit. The basic concepts of the circuit had already been developed by the engineers I was working for. However, in the course of building a pro- totype, I made some suggestions for improving the reliability and fail-safety of the system. When it came time to patent the system, the engineers insisted that I be included as a named inventor. When I returned to GRS the next summer, it was suggested that I team up with an old-
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01593339_first_microprocessor_ted_hoff - Adriana Dumitras...

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