It was like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction except without Jeff Beck, Metallica and Run D.M.C. And it wasn’t in Cleveland. It wasn’t telecast on Fuse radio. And the outfits weren’t … well, to be honest it was not at all like that. Earlier this month the National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted its 2009 members at the Computer History Museum in California.
It wasn’t show business. It was a celebration of the people who make show business possible. These hall-of-famers gave us the technology for everything including the ATM, digital camera, digital movie projection, CD/DVD players, cell phones, MP3 players and the integrated circuit among others. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Intel co-founder, Andy Grove. Though it was most likely the gala of the year for the science set, it didn’t receive the usual award show fanfare.
Upon receiving his award, Grove used his speech to reflect on the future of technology. For him the last 50 years were an innovator-friendly era where a crazy idea from R & D could make its way to the marketplace with the inventor as producer. He envisions the climate in the next 50 years to be more like derivatives in mortgage banking as patents become “instruments of investments,” and the inventor is squeezed out.
But the folks at Intel aren’t really shunning the world of business or rock and roll. Grove authored a business book – Only the Paranoid Survive, highlighting how his company fought to maintain its competitive edge when it seemed like Japan would take over the chip business. He believes in the value of paranoia to drive business.
Intel also imagines its geeks as rock stars. One commercial features Ajay Bhatt, Intel engineer and co-inventor of the USB receiving the rock star treatment in the company cafeteria. “Our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars,” the caption proclaims. But the engineer in the spot is not the real Ajay, he’s an actor. Hmm… would they ever hire actors to play Metallica – as geeks?