@cdhmanning, @David Ashton: I certainly agree that the paper trail of patents proves definatively that LD filed one patent (among the dozens he filed with wires inside evacuated envelopes) that has the correct configuration of wires and plates to make a functioning triode, but he also has dozens-1 of completely nonfunctional configurations, as well.
Newton said that if he saw further than most men, it was because he stood on the shoulders giants. Armstrong is the giant here, offering a fundamental advance in understanding that would allow others after him to see further. LD offers future generations nothing.
Who should engineering venerate?
Is there any record of the serial number of the Steve Jobs salary dollar bill? It would be wonderful if it could be retrieved (perhaps through an alert on WheresGeorge.com) and preserved rather than being a random bill that buys a quarter gallon of gasoline.
@Traces...LdF had a PhD apparently, so he could not have been stupid. And he won the court case against Armstrong (though it seems the technical community sided with Armstrong).
It is not disputed that de Forrest "invented" the triode (he called it an Audion) though he did not fully understand how it worked, and Armstrong later did. But how many "inventions" have been only basically used by the inventor and later developed by others? Edison initially used DC for electricity transmission, others later proved that AC was better. Jack Kilby's first germanium IC was really crude, Robert Noyce and others refined it using silicon at Fairchild.
Very few inventors started right from scratch, and most of them had their inventions developed and refined by others. But they laid major milestones along the way and it does them a disservice to detract from that.
No doubt Shallow Alto will continue to see the birth of many new ideas, but there is no magic in the neighborhood per se. The proximity to an excellent university (Stanford) is far more the source of inspiration that makes Silicon Valley what it is.
Indeed nice blog. Is there something special in that square mile? There has been a lot of innovation in that place. Electronics has been a kid which has grown very very fast. But we’re reaching perhaps the limit (Moore’s). so perhaps the electronics development curve will reach a saturation point. Will innovation ever reach a saturation point? Have we’ve come out with the perfect tool (research) to never leave the innovation wagon or, will we reach the limit in which, there’s nothing more to discover… nothing more to invent?
I have not looked into this specific case in any detail, but at the time very few people understood the physics behind many things that "just worked".
The patents covering the crystal set (late 1800s if I remember correctly), talked about microscopic sparks because they didn't understand the quantum mechanics behind semi-conduction.
Lee De Forest? Inventor of the triode? Lee DeForest was, at best, a confidence man, and was proved the fool in court by Armstrong when LD couldn't explain in any fashion how the triode worked.
LD patented many configurations of wires in tubes (including some with the grid outside the plate!) without any idea whatsoever how they worked.
Engineering has no business venerating such a guy.