Steve Kirsch

As a junior high kid, he attended the birth of the Internet; in college, he invented the optical mouse; now he's launching a company to sell 'e-commerce in a box'

13 min read

Computer centers were intimidating places in 1969. Machines were huge, locked in air-conditioned rooms, and fed with punched cards. Time on them did not come cheaply and was tightly rationed. And the computer room in Boelter Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), was no exception.

In one corner of the room sat a state-of-the-art Scientific Data Systems Sigma 7 computer. Off limits to the countless engineering students, it was reserved for a small group of researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and busy inventing the technology that would evolve into the Internet.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The Great Ventilator Rush

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, engineers launched extraordinary crash programs that produced scores of ventilator designs. What will happen to them now?

14 min read
Not Rocket Science: Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built a working ventilator prototype in a 37-day period spanning the months of March and April 2020.
Photo: JPL-Caltech/NASA

The projections were horrifying. Experts were forecasting upwards of 100 million people in the United States infected with the novel coronavirus, with 2 percent needing intensive care, and half of those requiring the use of medical ventilators.

In early March, it seemed as if the United States might need a million ventilators to cope with COVID-19—six times as many as hospitals had at the time. The federal government launched a crash purchasing program for 200,000 of the complex devices, but they would take months to arrive and cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less