Many Corporations Refused to Finance Semiconductors

FairlchildSemiconductorEightFounders2013-03-08.jpg “Shown in 1960, the eight engineers who founded Fairchild Semiconductor and revolutionized world technology in “Silicon Valley,” an “American Experience” documentary, . . . .” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.

(p. C4) “Silicon Valley” is a deceptively grand title for the new “American Experience” documentary Tuesday night on PBS. “Fairchild Semiconductor” would be more accurate.
. . .
One startling image shows a handwritten list of the many corporations that declined to bankroll the eight pioneers before Fairchild Camera and Instrument said yes. If any of them had possessed more foresight, the silicon chip might have belonged to National Cash Register, Motorola, Philco, BorgWarner, Chrysler, General Mills or United Shoe.

For the full review, see:
MIKE HALE. “Men Who Took Silicon to Silicon Valley.” The New York Times (Tues., February 5, 2013): C4.
(Note: ellipses in caption, and in quoted passage, added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 4, 2013.)

The “Silicon Valley” program first aired on PBS on 2/5/13 and can be viewed at:

Much of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Was Funded Out of Producer’s Own Pocket


Source of book image:

(p. C10) Of all the “Peanuts” television specials ever made, the first–“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965)–was the Charlie Browniest. The 25-minute special was an underdog, just like its hapless protagonist, and barely made it on the air. CBS gave producer Lee Mendelson so minuscule a budget, we learn in Charles Solomon’s “The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation,” that he was forced to fund the rest out of his own pocket–even though Coca-Cola had already guaranteed sponsorship. When “A Charlie Brown Christmas” pulled in sensational ratings, CBS grudgingly asked for follow-ups. “We’re going to order four more,” a network executive told Mr. Mendelson, “though my aunt in New Jersey didn’t like it either”–a line that Schulz might have written.
. . .
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” established the template, mixing morals and gags in a way that made the peachiness seem endearing. The perfectly pitched dialogue, written by Schulz himself, was voiced (at his insistence) by actual children. The expressionist use of line and color was introduced by director Bill Melendez, and the understated yet supremely catchy Latin jazz scores were the work of pianist-composer Vince Guaraldi and his combo. The tune Guaraldi called “Linus and Lucy” came to be synonymous with “Peanuts” for the generations that grew up on the specials.
While the movements of the characters–especially Snoopy–could be antic, Guaraldi’s scores set a cool counterpoint and provided a sense of serenity that was utterly unique. The characters weren’t always moving–sometimes they would stop and simply listen to each other–and Schulz insisted that there be no laugh track. He made the climax of the drama Linus walking to the center of the school stage to recite from the gospel of Luke–a decision daring even in its day, not least because it stopped the action for an extended period to show a hand-drawn character delivering a lisping speech.

For the full review, see:
WILL FRIEDWALD. “BOOKSHELF; Cheers for Chuck.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 22, 2012): C10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 21, 2012.)

Book under review:
Solomon, Charles. The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation: Celebrating Fifty Years of Television Specials. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2012.

The Creation of Consistent, Predictable Dyes and Paints


Source of book image:

(p. C12) Few things seem as eternal as color. Yet as Regina Lee Blaszczyk argues, color has a history, a history largely created by business. In “The Color Revolution,” Ms. Blaszczyk shows how the invention of synthetic organic chemistry in the 1850s allowed chemists to create consistent, predictable colors in dyes and paints. Once a chemical company’s magenta was reliable, manufacturers could select it from a color card, order it by mail, and use it to produce dresses and dishware in exactly the promised hue.

For the full review essay, see:
Marc Levinson. “Boardroom Reading of 2012.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 15, 2012): C12.
(Note: the online version of the review essay has the date December 14, 2012.)

The book under review, is:
Blaszczyk, Regina Lee. The Color Revolution, Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012.

“What Marketing Guys Are: Paid Poseurs”

(p. 152) Jobs had asked Hertzfeld and the gang to prepare a special screen display for Sculley’s amusement. “He’s really smart,” Jobs said. “You wouldn’t believe how smart he is.” The explanation that Sculley might buy a lot of Macintoshes for Pepsi “sounded a little bit fishy to me,” Hertzfeld recalled, but he and Susan Kare created a screen of Pepsi caps and cans that danced around with the Apple logo. Hertzfeld was so excited he began waving his arms around during the demo, but Sculley seemed underwhelmed. “He asked a few questions, but he didn’t seem all that interested,” Hertzfeld recalled. He never ended up warming to Sculley. “He was incredibly phony, a complete poseur,” he later said. “He pretended to be interested in technology, but he wasn’t. He was a marketing guy, and that is what marketing guys are: paid poseurs.”

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

With Low Ratings, Planet Green Is Unsustainable

(p. B3) . . . , Discovery Communications — which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the Science Channel and others — announced in early April that it was shutting down Planet Green, a four-year-old channel that featured environmental programming. The channel floundered with low ratings and what executives said were a lack of entertaining eco-themed shows.

For the full story, see:
BRIAN STELTER. “No Place for Heated Opinions.” The New York Times (Sat., April 21, 2012): B1 & B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: online version of the story is dated April 20, 2012.)

“A123 Systems” Battery Company Is Another Example of Failed Industrial Policy

The YouTube video embedded above was from a CBS Evening News broadcast in June 2012. It illustrates the difficulty of the government successfully selecting the technologies, and companies, that will eventually prove successful. (The doctrine that government can and should do such selection is often called “industrial policy.”)

The Obama administration has bet billions of tax dollars on lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles that A123 Systems won $249 million of. But as Sharyl Attkisson reports, expensive recalls and other setbacks have put substantial doubt in the company’s ability to continue.

The text above, and the embedded video clip were published on YouTube on Jun 17, 2012 by CBSNewsOnline at

Hatfields and McCoys Show that Idleness Begets Violence


Kevin Costner as the patriarch of the Hatfield clan on the HBO miniseries. Source of photo:

Kevin Costner plausibly suggests that when the productive activities of capitalism and entrepreneurship are not available or sought, people are more likely to let annoyances lead to violence:

(p. 15) Q. What was the root of the feud?

K.C. It’s fair to say that the economics of the time were the provocateurs in this story. I think there was a moment when Hatfield and McCoy would have laid down their guns. But these young guys didn’t have jobs anymore as we moved toward industrialization. They started to have children, and their families doubled in size, and suddenly they had to feed 26. Young men killing young men — it really has a lot to do with the offspring not having enough to do. Look, you’re talking about alcohol and guns, and you’re talking about unemployment, so there’s a reason for the bitterness.

For the full interview, see:
Kathryn Shattuck, interviewer. “Firing Bullets Across a Border And a Bloodline.” The New York Times, Arts&Leisure Section (Sun., May 27, 2012): 15.
(Note: bold in original.)

“Progress Depended on the Empirical Habit of Thought”

In the passage below from 1984 Orwell presents an underground rebel’s account of why the authoritarian socialist dystopia cannot advance in science and technology.

(p. 155) The world of today is a bare, hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient–a glittering (p. 156) antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete–was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].

By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site:

Home Decorators Are Stockpiling Incandescent Bulbs to Thwart Feds’ Edict


“David Brooks, of Just Bulbs in Manhattan, has a customer who is secretly ordering thousands of incandescent bulbs. “She doesn’t want her husband to know,” he said.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D1) BUNNY WILLIAMS, the no-nonsense decorator known for her lush English-style rooms, is laying in light bulbs like canned goods. Incandescent bulbs, that is — 60 and 75 watters — because she likes a double-cluster lamp with a high- and a low-watt bulb, one for reading, one for mood.

“Every time I go to Costco, I buy more wattage,” Ms. Williams said the other day. She is as green as anybody, she added, but she can’t abide the sickly hue of a twisty compact fluorescent bulb, though she’s tried warming it up with shade liners in creams and pinks. Nor does she care for the cool blue of an LED.
It should be noted that, like most decorators, Ms. Williams is extremely precise about light. The other day, she reported, she spent six hours fine-tuning the lighting plan of a project, tweaking the mix of ambient, directional and overhead light she had designed, and returning to the house after dusk to add wattage and switch out lamps like a chef adjusting the flavors in a complicated bouillabaisse.
She is aware that there is legislation that is going to affect the manufacture of incandescent bulbs, but she’s not clear on the details, and she wants to make sure she has what she needs when she needs it.
. . .
(p. D7) Other hoarders are hiding their behavior. David Brooks, who owns Just Bulbs on East 60th Street, said he has a customer in Tennessee who is buying up 60- and 100-watt soft-pink incandescent bulbs from G.E. and Sylvania for her three houses. Initially, she ordered 432 bulbs for each house, he said. Then she ordered another 1,000.
Mr. Brooks said the customer doesn’t want her husband to find out, and wouldn’t agree to speak to this reporter. The last order is destined, he said, “for a friend’s house that she is helping to redecorate in Alabama. She doesn’t want anyone to know her source.”

For the full story, see:
PENELOPE GREEN. “Light Bulb Saving Time.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 26, 2011): D1 & D7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 25, 2011.)

Serendipitous Invention of Super Glue

(p. 23) Dr. Coover first happened upon the super-sticky adhesive — more formally known as cyanoacrylates — by accident when he was experimenting with acrylates for use in clear plastic gun-sights during World War II. He gave up because they stuck to everything they touched.

In 1951, a researcher named Fred Joyner, who was working with Dr. Coover at Eastman Kodak’s laboratory in Tennessee, was testing hundreds of compounds looking for a temperature-resistant coating for jet cockpits. When Mr. Joyner spread the 910th compound on the list between two lenses on a refractometer to take a reading on the velocity of light through it, he discovered he could not separate the lenses. His initial reaction was panic at the loss of the expensive lab equipment. “He ruined the machine,” Dr. Paul said of the refractometer. “Back in the ’50s, they cost like $3,000, which was huge.”
But Dr. Coover saw an opportunity. Seven years later, the first incarnation of Super Glue, called Eastman 910, hit the market.
In the name of science, Mr. Joyner was not punished for destroying the equipment, Dr. Paul said.
. . .
“I think he got a kick out of being Mr. Super Glue,” she said. “Who doesn’t love Super Glue?”
One of his proudest accomplishments, Dr. Paul added, was that his invention was used to treat injured soldiers during the Vietnam War. Medics, she said, carried bottles of Super Glue in spray form to stop bleeding.
. . .
Super Glue did not make Dr. Coover rich. It did not become a commercial success until the patents had expired, his son-in-law, Dr. Vincent E. Paul, said. “He did very, very well in his career,” Dr. Paul said, “but he did not glean the royalties from Super Glue that you might think.”

For the full obituary, see:
ELIZABETH A. HARRIS. “Harry Coover, 94; Invented Super Glue.” The New York Times (Mon., MARCH 28, 2011): A23.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary is dated March 27, 2011 and had the title “Harry Coover, Super Glue’s Inventor, Dies at 94.”)