Wednesday, March 02, 2005

No end of innovation: dull non-quotes of Duell

Peter Coffee at eWeek wrote:

-->I'd hate to be remembered for a dumb prediction that I didn't even make, but that's the posthumous predicament of Charles Duell. Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1899, Duell never actually said that "everything that can be invented has been invented," notwithstanding 10,000 Web pages claiming that he did.

I'd planned to begin this column by quoting that widely cited misprediction. I wanted to talk about areas of IT that are often said to be near their limits but where likely breakthroughs could disrupt that conventional wisdom.

I quickly discovered, though, that Duell's dictum was a myth. An archivist's study debunked the story in 1940, suggesting that it might have stemmed from an 1843 statement by then-Commissioner of Patents Henry Ellsworth. "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity," Ellsworth said in his report that year to Congress, "and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end."<--

I was surprised that Coffee did not reference a quote by a certain physicist.

Coffee does raise the issue that one can find all sorts of false information on the internet. But one can do the same thing with law reviews.

Coffee mentions other technology:

-->For example, the latest Nikon digital cameras offer "face priority" focusing, using algorithms from the biometrics vendor Identix to spot the faces in a frame and make them sharp. Who would have thought to ask for this until someone offered it? But it will demand more CPU than cameras ever "needed" before.<--

Coffee also mentions HP's crossbar technology:

-->As for any imminent repeal of Moore's Law, silicon transistors aren't the only switches in town. The crossbar latch technology disclosed this month by Hewlett-Packard extends the size of switching devices down to single-digit nanometers, compared with the tens of nanometers where current transistors play. We'll have the CPU cycles that we need.<--

Although there was a recent press release, crossbar technology has been disclosed in HP patents long prior to 2005.


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