Tag Archives: Colorado Springs

Infographic: tracing the touchscreen back to the future

Just a few decades ago, touchscreen technology could only be found in science fiction books and film. However, touchscreens have become so ubiquitous that, today, most children believe displays lacking touch-based interactivity are broken.

Interestingly, the underlying technology for touchscreens can actually be traced back to the 1940s, although they weren’t even remotely physically feasible until at least 1965 when E.A. Johnson of the United Kingdom came up with what historians generally consider the very first finger-driven touchscreen. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1982 that the first human-controlled multitouch device was developed at the University of Toronto by Nimish Mehta.

It’s worth noting, at this juncture, that as humans, we have a particular fondness for touch.

Touch is apparently the first sense to develop in humans and may also be the last to fade. We’re also highly sensitive creatures, with five million touch receptors in our skin – 3,000 alone in a finger tip.

The infographic below outlines some of the more historic milestones in touchscreen history, along with some of the wackiest. For example, did you know the world’s largest touch screen is 10 meters long and can accept up to 100 multi-touch inputs at one time? No? Well you do now. This particular screen was developed by a group at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Similarly, the “coolest” touchscreen ever made was developed by a Nokia Research Center team in Finland in 2010. Bringing a whole new meaning to “freeze frame,” Nokia created a 6.5 foot by 4.9 foot ice wall of touch.

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Of course Atmel has a few milestones of its own when it comes to touch. The firm snapped up Quantum Research Group Ltd., a developer of capacitive sensing IP, in 2008 and has been making its presence felt in the world of touchscreens ever since.

More recently, Atmel successfully developed, manufactured and shipped XSense, which can best be described as a high-performance, highly flexible touch sensor on extremely bendable, flexible plastic, allowing engineers to design devices with curved surfaces.

What’s the big deal about curves, you ask? Well, aside from them being sexier (ask any woman you know), curved screens actually cause a series of optical effects that result in improved contrast, color accuracy, readability, and overall image quality — especially under ambient light.

Another benefit of a curved screen is privacy, because when content is viewed from an off-center angle the content on screen is less visible.

Atmel’s XSense also allows for super accurate handwriting recognition with a stylus, which is useful if your handwriting is anywhere as bad as mine.

And, best of all, XSense is made right here in the USA; designed and manufactured in California and Colorado Springs.

Oh, and don’t forget, if you have a creative idea about what you’d do with a bendable, flexible touchscreen, why not enter our XSense design contest here for a chance to win $1500.

The home lab of Bo Lojek

I was touring Atmel’s fab in Colorado Springs, so I made a point of contacting Bo Lojek, the author of the great book, the History of Semiconductor Engineering. Although Bo is now a professor at University of Colorado, he worked at Atmel for 15 years. I was honored that he asked me to his home in Colorado Springs. Well, I have a pretty good home lab, but Bo’s lab just blew me away. Bo said he wanted to be an engineer from the time he was 7 years old. It runs in the family, his dad was an engineer too.

So Bo told me that he built his house in Colorado Springs. If one of my Silicon Valley buddies says this he means that he had a custom floor plan home built by a homebuilder. For Bo, it means he had an engineer design the house to his specs, using metal studs, and Bo himself constructed the house, driving all 37,000 self-tapping drywall screws. I think he said it was 3600 square feet. Yes, it’s an engineer’s paradise.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA This is what meets you at the foyer just inside the front door of Bo’s house. Bo said if I came back at daytime I could check out his collection of Dumont scopes in the garage.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Every engineer worth his salt needs a Data General Eclipse computer in the hallway, just for data processing emergencies. Bo has arranged for all his stuff to go to the University of Colorado when he dies. It will be great to keep this museum together. It will also be a great excuse to visit Colorado Springs, other than to meet the space aliens that the Stargate people have inside the NORAD mountain.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Bo has some early computer boards nicely framed on the wall.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Lojek has a huge collection of voltmeters, including this Cubic model V-46A. It uses telephone stepper relays and a handful of transistors to measure voltage. Pretty cool for 1960.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA On Bo Lojek’s bookshelf are propped up some vacuum tube modules from a very early computer.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA And let’s enjoy Bo checking out the whole bookshelf. His house is not only engineer paradise, its college professor paradise.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA While Bo does not have the disorganization of dear departed Bob Pease, he does have a few things littering the floor. I used to use the same Data IO programmers to program the microcontrollers I designed into my consulting work.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA It does not disturb me that Lojek has a stack of early Tektronix mainframe scopes. What bothers me is I have several friends that have the same sort of stack.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA How about these early 2N1302 transistors from honored competitor Texas Instruments?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Lojek has drawer after drawer full of electronic components, including these vacuum tube computer boards.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Bo told me that when Bob Pease visited his house, he could not tear him away from these two analog computers. I should mention that I knew of Bo because Pease told me what a cool guy he was. Bob knew Bo because Bob edited Bo’s book. Since English is Bo’s second language that was a lot of work, but Pease was happy to do it since it was such an important contribution from such a cool guy.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Here is a close-up of the analog computer that so entranced Bob Pease.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA All this cool stuff above is just stacked like cordwood all over the house. This is where we finally got to Bo Lojek’s lab bench.  Bo told me he likes to write or read for a while, but then he has to go to the bench to do some experimentation. It reminds me so much of my mentor Bob Pease, who had an equal love for working with his hands a soldering iron.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Every surface in Bo Lojek’s house is a treasure trove of memorabilia and electronic equipment.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Here is a very early computer board that used “air gap” integrated circuits. Analog Devices’ Barrie Gilbert told me that he got into electronics because surplus WWII magnetrons were so beautiful to look at he had to learn how they worked.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA And how about this, a Bob Widlar business card? I love the title “ROAD AGENT”. Widlar had style.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA And when your engineer friend tells you he has a walk-in closet— this is what he means.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Lojek has an artistic streak. Amongst the pretty glass are a handful over very early galvanometers, some from the 1800s.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA More cool galvos and such. I wonder if the founder of Digi-Key has that same telegraph key? Ronald Stordahl started out Digi-Key by selling electronic telegraph key kits to Ham radio operators.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Here Bo Lojek admires a framed set of Minuteman missile circuit boards. Jim Williams had an interconnected set on his living room. Check the Minuteman missile PCBs and Jim Williams out in this video.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA OK, so I lied. That picture earlier, the one I called Bo Lojek’s lab bench. That was just the emergency downstairs lab bench useful of quick jobs. Here is the real lab bench. Next time I get to his house, I will fire up that big soldering iron and put it down right before the picture, so there will be a wisp of smoke coming off of it, like a Cowboy’s 6-shooter.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA That main bench above has a side bench on another wall.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA And books, boy do college professors love books.

It was a real treat to see Bo. He said he is going to try and make it to the next Analog Aficionados party, so I will remind him so he can be among like-minded souls out here in Silicon Valley. The party will be Feb 8 2014, the Saturday before the IEEE ISSCC conference.

Atmel celebrates July 4th… infographic style

For many, the Fourth of July is all about the festivities and fireworks. Here at Atmel, it’s also a day when we pay tribute to one of the quintessential cornerstones of the nation’s economic engine – manufacturing.

As in other parts of the country, businesses related to manufacturing have always played an important role in Silicon Valley. Throughout most of the 20th century, it was the American manufacturing industry that helped create the foundation for the middle class. It was the engine responsible for propelling the US to global economic prominence, while setting the standard for quality; be it for cars, television sets, or semiconductors.

As manufacturing boomed, industrialization came to change the very fabric of American life, symbiotically.

Today, the semiconductor industry directly employs a quarter of a million people in the U.S. and supports more than one million additional American jobs. In 2012, U.S. semiconductor companies generated $146 billion in sales – helping to make the global trillion dollar electronics industry possible. To be sure, U.S. semiconductor companies currently represent over half the worldwide market and are responsible for one of America’s largest exports.

Even in troubled economic times, the U.S. has managed to add approximately 520,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010 and supports 17.2 million manufacturing jobs as a whole, with post-recession American manufacturing outpacing other nations. Nearly 12 million (about 1 in 10) people in the U.S. are employed directly in manufacturing.

In 2012, U.S. manufacturing contributed to $1.87 trillion to the economy, up from $1.73 in year prior and every $1 of manufacturing activity returns $1.48 to the U.S. economy. In terms of cost savings, U.S. factories’ access to cheap energy equates to cheaper costs than overseas oil and pricey shipping.

Semiconductors – the little microchips controlling all modern electronics – are part and parcel of the American manufacturing landscape. As the building blocks of technology, they’re an integral part of America’s economic strength, national security and global competitiveness. Even more importantly, they’re used to develop the technologies helping us build a better future.

TIME Magazine recently wrote that new “Made in America” economics is centered largely around cutting-edge technologies, like 3D-printing and robotics, two industries near and dear to Atmel’s heart and that of the Maker Movement we support.

Last December, President Obama made his case for a reinvigorated manufacturing base, a vision that is not unachievable. According to Moody’s Economy.com, if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S. made goods, it would create nearly 10,000 new American jobs.

Although Atmel is an international corporation, we’re awfully proud to be headquartered in Silicon Valley, just as we are to operate a major fab in Colorado Springs.

Happy July 4th to one and all!

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