Speech Processing Pioneer Sadaoki Furui Dies at 77

IEEE also mourns the loss of the designer of the Motorola’s MC68000 processor

6 min read

Sadaoki Furui

Speech processing pioneer
Life Fellow, 77; died 31 July

Furui was a leading speech processing researcher who played an important role in improving communication between humans and machines. Michael N. Geselowitz, senior director of the IEEE History Center, describes him as a “pillar in the speech processing community.”

Furui was best known for investigating human perception of transient sounds in the 1980s as a researcher at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, in Tokyo. His findings led to a better understanding of human hearing and greatly improved the accuracy of speech recognition, speaker identification, and verification systems.

He began his career in 1970 as a researcher at NTT’s Musashino Electrical Communication Labs, also in Tokyo. From 1979 to 1982 he was a senior researcher at NTT Basic Research Labs and was promoted in 1982 to senior staff engineer of the company’s personnel and international affairs. Seven years later he was named director of the Speech and Acoustic Lab at NTT’s Human Informatics Labs. In 1991 he became a research fellow, and he was director of the NTT Furui Research Lab until 1997.

After joining the Tokyo Institute of Technology as a professor of computer science in 1997, he became dean of its graduate school of information science and engineering in 2007. He was named director of the university’s library in 2009 and became director of the Contents Utilization Center in 2011, when he was named professor emeritus.

He left Tokyo in 2013 to become president of the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago and served in that position until 2019. He then was named chair of its board of trustees and held that position for three years.

He authored or coauthored more than 1,000 papers and books on speech recognition, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing. Twenty-six editions of his book Digital Speech Processing, Synthesis, and Recognition were published between 1985 and 2001.

Furui was a member of several IEEE committees and served as general co-chair of this year’s IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing, held in May in Singapore.

From 2001 to 2005, he served as president of the International Speech Communication Association.

Among the awards he received was a 2016 Bunka Korosha (Person of Cultural Merit) Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Japanese government. He received a 2013 Okawa Prize for “pioneering contributions and leadership in the field of computer-based speech recognition and understanding.”

He won a 2012 Broadcast Cultural Award from NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corp., for outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of automatic speech recognition technology, which is now used in NHK’s closed-captioning systems, as well as speaker recognition and multimedia search technology.

He received the 2010 IEEE James L. Flanagan Speech and Audio Processing Award for “contributions to and leadership in the field of speech and speaker recognition toward natural communication between humans and machines.”

Furui was a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and the IEICE.

He earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in mathematical engineering and instrumentation physics from the University of Tokyo in 1968, 1970, and 1978, respectively.

Barry W. Boehm

Systems and software engineer
IEEE Life Fellow, 87; died 20 August

Boehm was chief scientist, principal investigator, and chair of the research council at the Systems Engineering and Research Center at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. The SERC is an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense that leverages the research and expertise of faculty, staff, and student researchers from more than 20 collaborating universities.

Boehm began his career in 1955 as a computer programmer and systems analyst at General Dynamics, an aerospace manufacturer in Reston, Va. He left in 1959 to join the Rand Corp., a nonprofit in Santa Monica, Calif., that provides research and analysis to the U.S. military. He joined as an analyst and was promoted to head of the Information Sciences Department. He left in 1973 to serve as chief scientist of the defense systems group at TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman), an automotive and aerospace company, in Euclid, Ohio. From 1989 to 1992, he served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Information Science and Technology Office.

He left TRW in 1992 to become a professor of software engineering at USC, where he served as founding director of the Center for Systems and Software Engineering. Beginning in 2012, he was chief scientist, principal investigator, and chairman of the research council at the SERC. He was instrumental in the creation of SERC Talks, a webinar series featuring systems engineering experts.

Boehm retired in May.

In his 1981 book, Software Engineering Economics, he documented the constructive cost model, an estimation tool that has become a leading indicator of software changes.

He helped write the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge, a continuously updated reference for the industry. He served as an assistant editor and contributed content on the core systems engineering approaches and approaches to systems life cycles.

He served on the boards of several scientific journals including the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Computer, and IEEE Software.

Boehm was chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s technical committee on software engineering and the AIAAtechnical committee on computer systems. He also served on the Computer Society’s governing board.

He was Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the AIAA, and the International Council on Systems Engineering. He was also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Boehm’s honors included the 2000 IEEE Harlan D. Mills Award.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1957 and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1961 and 1964—all in mathematics.

Harry L. “Nick” Tredennick

Computer engineer and entrepreneur
Life Fellow, 75; died 26 July

Tredennick founded several startups and was instrumental in the development of the Motorola MC68000 and IBM Micro/370 microprocessors.

He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, in 1968 and 1970.

In the early 1970s, he served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and was a pilot in the C-130 squadron. He returned to school in 1972 but continued to serve as a pilot in the Air Force Reserve.

He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1976 from the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1977 Tredennick joined Motorola in Chicago as a senior design engineer in the integrated circuits division. He worked on the logic design and microcode for the MC68000, which became the CPU for Apple’s Macintosh computer and other workstations.

Two years later he joined the research staff at IBM’s Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where he designed the Micro/370.

He left IBM in 1987 and founded NexGen, a semiconductor company in Milpitas, Calif. NexGen was acquired in 1996 by Advanced Micro Devices.

Also in the mid-1980s, Tredennick transferred from the Air Force Reserve to the Navy Reserve, where he worked as an aerospace engineering duty officer.

He founded Tredennick Inc., based in Los Gatos, Calif., in 1989. The company consulted on microprocessors and programmable logic projects.

From 1993 to 1995 he was chief scientist at Altera (now part of Intel), a semiconductor manufacturing company in Los Gatos.

In 1997 he was promoted to captain and served as commanding officer of a Naval Air Systems Command unit.

He served as president of Jonetix Corp. from 2014 to 2019, when he became chief executive of the Los Gatos–based Internet security company. At the same time, he also advised Silicon Catalyst, an incubator and accelerator in Santa Clara, Calif., focused on semiconductor solutions.

Tredennick was a member of the Army Science Board, which advises the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of science and technology. He served on the board twice, from 1994 to 2000 and again from 2006 to 2010.

For the past 22 years, he was editor and and a contributor for the Gilder Technology Report, a publication for investors about startups in the telecommunications, semiconductor, and computer industries. He wrote Microprocessor Logic Design, a widely used textbook, as well as numerous articles for professional and trade magazines. He also served as a contributing editor of Microprocessor Report, and he was a member of the editorial advisory boards of IEEE Spectrum, Embedded Developer’s Journal, and Microprocessors and Microsystems.

This year he was named an IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor. He gave presentations on IoT security; optimal monitoring and conditioning for the electric grid; Internet security; and the future of Silicon Valley.

He was a member of the honor societies IEEE Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN), Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi.

Charles A. Burrus Jr.

LED researcher
IEEE Life Fellow, 94; died 16 May

Burrus conducted pioneering research on small-area high-radiance semiconductor LEDs. He was a research physicist at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., from 1955 to 1996. He stayed on to join Lucent Bell Laboratories (now Nokia Bell Labs), a Bell Labs spinoff, in Murray Hill, N.J. He worked there until he retired in 2002.

He received a Richardson Medal from the Optical Society of America (now Optica) in 1982. He was recognized for the “development of ingenious laboratory techniques to fabricate microscopic devices such as millimeter-wave diodes, infrared semiconductor lasers, light-emitting diodes and detectors, and single-crystal fiber and film lasers.”

Burress was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, and Optica. He belonged to honor societies including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Sigma Xi. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

He earned three degrees in physics: a bachelor’s in 1950 from Davidson College, a master’s in 1951 from Emory University, and a Ph.D. in 1955 from Duke University.

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