July 24, 2020 — Bob Frankston’s life is one characterized by innovation and contrarianism.
From an early age, Frankston was fiercely independent and entrepreneurial, traits that were well-suted for coding, he said in an interview with the University of Minnesota.
“It wasn’t just that it was OK to be an entrepreneur; it was, ‘Why work for somebody?’” he said. “…Maybe it’s an ADHD thing, but I think the programming sort of aided and abetted that. You could do things on your own that were significant.”
In high school, Frankston converted IBM software and worked with White Weld & Co., an international financial services company.
After high school and a brief time at Stony Brook University of New York, Frankston received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Following his time at MIT, Frankston decided that “graduate school was not my future… but I still stayed friendly with MIT.” He made friends with Dan Bricklin, a Harvard MBA student with whom Frankston created Software Arts and VisiCalc.
VisiCalc was the first electronic spreadsheet software, laying the groundwork for Microsoft Excel, which is used today by millions of professionals across the world.
“I started working in late November of 1978 on what was the real VisiCalc. Basically, we were sort of working it out as we were doing it,” he said. “…The division of labor was crucial because one thing I realized is [that] having two people whose skills overlap a lot is important. So Dan could experiment with the user interface because he had no stake in the actual code… I was very concerned with usability.”
For many, VisiCalc showed that the personal computer could be a tool for effective business management.
“In the 1930s there was a study saying that by the 1950s everybody would have to be a phone operator for the phone system to work,” he said. “And by the 1950s, indeed, everybody was a phone operator, by making a dial and making it easy. And VisiCalc made everybody a programmer.”
Frankston’s innovative nature is paired with a dose of contrarianism.
In a recent Broadband Breakfast Live Online event, Frankston spoke about the role of municipal versus private broadband networks, arguing that private networks were unnecessary.
“All they do is help packets mosey along,” he said. “…They don’t guarantee that you’re going to get to your destination, they just provide an opportunity.”
This idea runs counter to the prevailing Federal Communications Commission sentiment that dealing out large grants to private networks increases accessibility and affordability of telecom services.
When asked about the future of telecom developments and technology generally, Frankston said that discovery was paramount.
“The best ideas are discovered,” he said. “So we need to create an opportunity for discovery. And by removing paywalls and having open connectivity, we will create the opportunity for the kind of discovery that gave us the web… we need [policies] optimized for discovery.”
Biden Encourages House to Pass Technology Innovation Funding Bill
The United States Innovation and Competition Act would, among other things, plow money into semiconductor research and development.
WASHINGTON, January 25, 2022 – President Joe Biden on Friday encouraged the House of Representatives to push through Senate-passed legislation that would plow more federal money into technological innovation in the country.
The United States Innovation and Competition Act, which was introduced by Chuck Schumer, D-New York and passed the Senate in June by a 68-32 margin, will put billions toward domestic research and development and manufacturing for products including semiconductors and alleviating the supply chain concerns that have hampered critical industries in recent months.
“The Biden-Harris Administration has been working around the clock with Congress, our international allies and partners, and the private sector to expand U.S. chip manufacturing capacity, bring back critical American manufacturing jobs, address the chip shortage, and ensure we are not exposed to these disruptions again,” said a White House statement on Friday, adding chip maker Intel announced a $20 billion factory outside Columbus, Ohio.
“To accelerate this progress, the President is urging Congress to pass legislation to strengthen U.S. research and development and manufacturing for critical supply chains, including semiconductors,” the statement said, adding it “would make generational investments in research and development and advanced manufacturing to help us grow critical industries and win the jobs of the future.”
The legislation, which would leverage $52 billion to entice private companies to invest in technological leadership, will also focus on developing and building new technologies in the United States, including artificial intelligence, computer chips, and lithium batteries for smart devices and electric vehicles.
The House of Representatives has passed alternative legislation, such as NSF for the Future Act and The Department of Energy Sciences for the Future Act, which together would provide funding for semiconductor manufacturing, invest $50 billion over five years in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and National Labs, invest in the development of domestic sciences, and invest in renewable energy and research on emergent technology.
CES 2022: Next Generation of TVs Have Application for Remote Learning, Promoters Say
The new television broadcasting standard brings faster speeds and more opportunities for connecting tele-services.
LAS VEGAS, January 20, 2022 – The next generation of television uses a combination of over-the-air broadcasting and internet broadcasting, which could serve as an opportunity for remote learning, the Consumer Electronics Show heard earlier this month.
ATSC 3.0, also known as NextGen TV, is said to offer 4K high-definition video quality, better sound, more personalized broadcasts, advertisements, and interactive capabilities by combining over-the-air broadcasting with a home internet connection, according to its promoters.
But it also could be used as a vehicle to deliver learning materials.
Madeleine Noland, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, from which the technology gets its name, said NextGen TVs will enable greater distance learning during school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve learned that broadcast is the most efficient way to get a lot of information to a lot of people. It’s highly scalable,” she said. “Folks solving distance learning problems learned that all information, classes, lectures, and videos could be broadcast. After its broadcast, we can use mom’s cellphone to send the data back.”
Noland said families can take advantage of the opportunity to use the technology in the wake of the pandemic
The discussion about NextGen TV’s features were part of a larger conversation about the future of television and its role in our society during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The television [can be] a portal to social engagement,” said Noland. “In the future we’ll see televisions helping to improve the quality of life,” especially in areas of health and wellness, she added.
Latest technology will need demand for broadcaster adoption
Currently, the only way to get 4K HDR content is through streaming services such as Disney+ and Netflix. The new ATSC standard establishes a new technical framework for how TV signals are created, broadcast, and received.
To deploy the new standard, TV manufacturers work with broadcasters to ensure that the technology can be deployed widely to audiences across the U.S. Although manufacturers have increased their adoption of ATSC 3.0, manufacturers must be able to create demand from consumers for broadcasters to begin using the technology, the conference heard. Consumer technology companies Sony, Samsung, LG, and Hisense announced the implementation of the new TV standard across their TV product lines at CES.
Right now, ATSC 3.0 reaches nearly half of all American viewers, with stations in 46 U.S. markets are offering next generation TV service using ATSC 3.0.
ATSC said in a press release during CES 2022 that the consumer television industry is projected to ship 4.5 million NextGen TV products equipped with ATSC 3.0 this year. The Consumer Technology Association said that 2021 sales of NextGen TV tripled their original forecast: manufacturers shipped 3 million NextGen TV products last year.
ATSC president Madeleine Noland told CES 2022 participants how NextGen TV will upgrade the television experience. “You’re familiar with the emergency notifications that rolls across the screen?” she asked. “It’s going to go even deeper. [Next Gen TV] will show where the evacuation centers are and tell people what to do––it will be available over the air.”
The NextGen TV will also personalize ads based on viewer’s interests, where previously this was limited to internet and online video viewers. “When a consumer doesn’t want an ad, they can be shown something else instead of the one they’re shown, but it would be shown over the internet,” Noland added.
ITIF’s Atkinson Urges Strategic Policies for U.S. Technological Superiority
Panelists argued that the federal government needs to institute policies for growth in strategic technology industries.
WASHINGTON, January 12, 2022 — Panelists on an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event warned Tuesday about China’s rise as a technological superpower that requires the U.S. to step up or get usurped.
Rob Atkinson, president of the ITIF said as other countries like China advance in technology, America becomes more susceptible to falling behind. What’s required, he said, are policies that make space for adequate production and innovation for key industries, like chip manufacturing, inside the country. “Policymakers need to accept that while market forces should continue to guide non-strategic industries, for strategic industries government needs explicit sector-based strategies implemented through industry-led public-private partnerships,” according to a January 3 article by Atkinson on the ITIF website.
Past are the days that the federal government focused almost solely on defense and weapons and now is the time for it to focus on leading in sectors including drones, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, energy storage systems, lasers, optical equipment, space technology, machine tools, shipbuilding, and advanced wireless systems. The article notes the Senate did pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which provides money for technology research over five years, but it now awaits House votes.
Atkinson’s thesis became a point of discussion at an ITIF event on Tuesday.
“We need to make sure these industries are competitive,” said Mike Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit under the Department of Defense. “The US is in the position to have breakthroughs in technology that are going to allow prosperity both economically as well as national security.
“China is using all instruments of national power to allocate capital, determine what industries are strategic and replace us as the technology superpower,” said Brown.
When Erica Fuchs, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested possible collaboration between America’s technology industry and China’s, Atkinson said he was “skeptical of the fact that we ever learn much from China. I think it’s 95% the other way.”
A majority of the panelists agreed that China aims to displace America in the race to technological advancements, and that there will be consequences if they do. “If China does displace us, our standard of living is going down,” Brown said.
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