Steve Jobs, the visionary founder of Apple, had sensed an inevitable immediate threat. Cellphones. The mobile technology was evolving rapidly, there was a vast unexplored market and a number of consumer electronic giants were researching in that space. Jobs knew it was only time before someone developed a software and made the phones double as entertainment devices. And if phones could have music – and not only music but games, internet access and camera – of what use would ipods be?
What is an everyday affair now was only a theoretical possibility half a century ago. Remember, there was a time when computers were the size of a large room. The more complex a computer was, the more the space it required to house its vacuum tube circuitry and the lower became the circuit’s reliability. These were the everyday unsolvable problems for the electronics industry. How we departed from the complex maze of the thick, heavy vacuum tubes and arrived at today’s nano-scale integration is the journey that hinges on a single, defining invention: the invention of Integrated Circuits; and guided by a single, ages old adage: necessity is the mother of invention.
In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose – sound engineer, MIT professor and founder of Bose Corporation – was flying from USA to Switzerland when he was offered headphones by the airplane staff to listen to music on flight. But, in the constant drone of the airplane engines, and with no way to escape that drone, he could not enjoy the music. In fact, he could barely hear it. He fetched a paper napkin and began scribbling on it with his pen to see if it was possible to design headphones that could remove this noise. The company claims that the mathematical calculations that began in that flight, thousands of feet above the Atlantic Ocean, gave birth to a new era in the science of noise reduction and cancellation. Excited by his early calculations, as soon as Dr Bose returned from his trip to Europe he formed Noise Reduction Technology Group to work on this technology specifically. This, as they say, was history in the making.