Reid Fleming Quotes

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Scientists and engineers tend to divide their work into two large categories, sometimes described as basic research and directed research. Some of the most crucial inventions and discoveries of the modern world have come about through basic research—that is, work that was not directed toward any particular use. Albert Einstein’s picture of the universe, Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, Niels Bohr’s blueprint of the atomic nucleus, the Watson-Crick “double helix” model of DNA—all these have had enormous practical implications, but they all came out of basic research. There are just as many basic tools of modern life—the electric light, the telephone, vitamin pills, the Internet—that resulted from a clearly focused effort to solve a particular problem. In a sense, this distinction between basic and directed research encompasses the difference between science and engineering. Scientists, on the whole, are driven by the thirst for knowledge; their motivation, as the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman put it, is “the joy of finding things out.” Engineers, in contrast, are solution-driven. Their joy is making things work. The monolithic idea was an engineering solution. It worked around the tyranny of numbers by reducing the numbers to one: a complete circuit would consist of just one part—a single (“monolithic”) block of semiconductor material containing all the components and all the interconnections of the most complex circuit designs. The tangible product of that idea, known to engineers as the monolithic integrated circuit and to the world at large as the semiconductor chip, has changed the world as fundamentally as did the telephone, the light bulb, and the horseless carriage. The integrated circuit is the heart of clocks, computers, cameras, and calculators, of pacemakers and Palm Pilots, of deep-space probes and deep-sea sensors, of toasters, typewriters, cell phones, and Internet servers. The National Academy of Sciences declared the integrated circuit the progenitor of the “Second Industrial Revolution.” The first Industrial Revolution enhanced man’s physical prowess and freed people from the drudgery of backbreaking manual labor; the revolution spawned by the chip enhances our intellectual prowess and frees people from the drudgery of mind-numbing computational labor. A British physicist, Sir Ieuan Madlock, Her Majesty’s Chief Science Advisor, called the integrated circuit “the most remarkable technology ever to hit mankind.” A California businessman, Jerry Sanders, founder of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., offered a more pointed assessment: “Integrated circuits are the crude oil of the eighties.” All
T.R. Reid (The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution)